I truly believe that a big part of the reason we teachers are not rewarded with the respect or pay that we deserve for the job we do day in and day out is that the majority of people do not understand what teachers do and how many roles we play in a given day. Yes, I know that there are tons of politics, money, and stigmatized parties to blame as well. And I certainly know that we will have to jump through all those hoops when there is a plan in place to build this respect that teachers need (foreshadowing to a future post on the RESPECT initiative which I am very excited about). But before we can devise a plan, we must also know where public perception lies. Because without general knowledge of the behind the scenes of the teaching profession, those who are in charge of our government with no teaching experience and those voting on laws with no teaching experience will certainly not make educated decisions about education.
Teachers are counselors, mentors, nurses, parents, friends, presenters, managers, data analyzers, collaborators, and character developers. Most Americans think about teachers only through the eyes of their own teachers when they went through school, but there are very important things they are missing:
1. You don’t see everything as a student. Even if you try to think back to your own schooling, you will only remember the times when you were around your teacher, which definitely is the most important interaction and learning time for a student, but much has gone on behind the scenes for a teacher to plan that valued time he/she has with you!
2. In order for that instructional time to be used as effectively as possible for students, teachers need to well-planned (long-term planned, unit planned, and lesson planned), data needs to be analyzed as to which students do/don’t need the lesson, content needs to be mastered by the teacher, materials need to be created and ready, differentiated plans may need to be created for those students who need lower/higher skill set level within the lesson…This is all for one lesson. Let’s take a step back and also think about how this needs to be done for every class a teacher teaches. For Elementary teachers, that means a lesson in Reading, Writing, Math, Science, and possibly Social Studies and Grammar needs to be ready for each day. For Middle and High School Teachers, that may mean different sections of the same class, different grade levels of the same subject, or different subject with the same grade level.
3. Behind the scenes: Like the circle graph above shows, teachers wear an extreme number of hats in a given day/week. Would you want your child in a class with no parent communication, no field trips, no school events, no tutoring/after school activities, and nothing up on the walls? Behind the scenes of actually presenting content, teachers are doing all of these things, and normally don’t ask for credit for any of them because we do it for the good of students and the good of the school. How many other professions and people would work for free for the cause they believe in?
All of us know it’s not a 9-5 job. You take your work home with you. You’re always thinking about your students and your next lesson. BUT, how far should compassion go? Weekends turn into grading days. “Vacation” weeks turn into professional development days. You get the picture. I know many other professions are like this too, MANY. At the risk of sounding complain-y, I wanted to paint a picture for you of a teacher’s responsibilities and perspectives on the job from the inside. Public perception of what a teacher does needs to evolve with what teachers do in 2012 in the classroom. Government officials and voters should make sure that this fall, they go into classrooms of today and talk to teachers. If we can get more people advocating for the respect of the teaching profession, we can get more talented people into and staying in the profession, and we can begin to revolutionize our education system for our students. It may just start with public perception!