“It’s a part-time job! Their job is done at 2:30 in the afternoon and they don’t work summers ... Oh please, my mom was a teacher and I was shopping with her at 3:00.” —Fox Business panelist, as shown on The Daily Show, 2/28/11
Everyone thinks they know what it takes to be a teacher. Nearly all Americans have had first-hand experience being in a classroom for many years—as students. But teaching is so much more than what the public sees (or thinks they see).
Our time with students may officially end at 3 p.m., but our jobs do not:
Teaching is spending a weekend afternoon escorting students and parents to a youth concert so they can participate in an amazing musical experience … even when you received a pink slip the week before.
Teaching is completing the last lap of a yearlong “marathon” with students on a hot Saturday afternoon and watching them beam with joy as they receive medals at the finish line.
Teaching is collaborating with parents and administrators for hours after school to come up with a budget that will provide the services and materials students need to be successful in the coming year.
Teaching is opening your classroom doors before and after school to provide a safe and supportive environment for students to complete their homework.
Teaching is spending countless hours writing grants and seeking donations to provide memorable learning experiences.
Teaching is accepting invitations to birthday parties, first communions, soccer games, and dance recitals because you know that it would mean the world to your students.
Teaching is spending your summer “vacation” attending workshops, completing reading institutes, or conducting research so that you can become a more effective educator.
Teaching is missing your own child’s Back to School Night because your school’s Back to School Night is scheduled for the same time.
Teaching is emailing, calling, and writing to parents outside of school hours to ensure their children are receiving the support they need to succeed.
Teaching is planning and leading workshops on your own time to help educate, empower, and provide strategies for parents to help support their child’s academic growth.
Teaching is arriving an hour before school or staying until 6:00 p.m. in your classroom to meet with a working parent who cannot attend any other time.
Teaching is ensuring that a few shirts and extra pair of socks make their way into the backpack of a child who needs them.
Teaching is spending hours, days, weeks throughout the school year planning unforgettable lessons, changing bulletin boards, and creating a classroom environment that inspires our students.
Teaching is learning to love snails, worms, spiders, and snakes because your students do.
Teaching is taking the time to get to know each child as an individual, so that you can build on all students’ strengths and take them beyond where they think they can go.
Teaching is passing along one’s love of learning with skill and careful planning. It is personal enthusiasm backed by professional knowledge.
Teaching is inspiring children to make the world a better place.
Teaching is a wonderful opportunity to make a HUGE impact on MANY people’s lives.
Teaching is receiving unexpected emails from former 6-year-olds that read like this one:
It took some googling to find a way to contact you, but first and foremost I wanted to say thank you for everything you did while I was under you. I don’t have any other teacher engraved in my head the way I do you. I still remember all the times we spent outside of class together and I still love those memories. I kept my end of the bargain. I go to UCLA now and I am majoring in biochem. I’m about a year and a half away from taking the MCAT for med school and yup, a lot of that is credited to the foundation you laid down so many, many years ago.
That’s all we need to remind us that what we have chosen to do with our lives is important.
Teaching cannot be characterized by our contracted daily work hours. It is more than a test score listed after a student’s name or the dollars on a paycheck. Teaching is not glamorous or lucrative, but it is a profession that allows us to witness incredible moments of discovery. It is the one profession that continually impacts all other professions.
It’s a tough time to be a teacher. We are asked to do more with less and often don’t have the resources we need to do our job. But still we continue to move forward, focusing on what is most important to every committed teacher: educating our students. Real teaching is not a part-time job. It’s a full-time commitment to students, fueled by commitment, passion, and love.