Reasons to Become a Teacher

2 02 2013

Question: What are three reasons to become a teacher?

Answer:  June, July, and August


This ranks up there with the oldest joke in the book (which in my case is “What time is it when the elephant sits on the fence?  Time to get a new fence.”).  We’ve all heard it, and we’ve all laughed at it, at least the first ten times.  For those not in the teaching profession, it just seems like the perfect job: you work for nine months, in which you get off around 3:00 every day and get lots of holidays thrown in, and then you have three solid months off.  It doesn’t get much easier than this, right?

Then there is reality, which is about to hit you in the face.

1. Myth: Teachers only work six hours a day.

Reality: Teacher PERFORM for six hours a day, during which they scarcely have time to go to the restroom.    Teachers spend much of their non-teaching time preparing.  I know teachers who get up at 4:00 AM to get ready for the day.  Teachers may leave school soon after the bell rings, but it is only to exchange hats for those of wife, mother, and/or chauffeur for a few hours.  As soon as those duties are done and the kids tucked away sweetly in their beds, the piles of papers to be graded and the lesson plan books come out until finally, with bleary eyes, the teacher lies down for a few hours of sleep.  And somewhere in there, the teacher must make parent contacts, either by phone or electronically.  It’s not unusual for a teacher to put in 10-12 hours a day for her job.  Those holidays feel like a sip of water when you are thirsty enough for a whole gallon.

2. Myth: Teachers get three months off in the summer.

Reality: Actually, we get ten weeks off, but let’s not quibble.  What needs to be considered is how teachers use this time.  Although I am sure there are those teachers and those summers when not a thought of school crosses the mind, those teachers/summers are few and far between.  Most teachers spend part of each summer taking classes for recertification or just to stay current.  Even when we are not taking classes, we are working on lessons for the next year.  At my school, on any given day of the summer you will find teachers working in their classrooms, preparing for the coming year.  And those two weeks before teachers have to go back feel like the circus is coming to town: teachers rushing down the hall carrying rolls of freshly laminated materials, the smell of hot glue permeating the building, and the excited chatter of teachers catching up and making plans echoing throughout the empty rooms.

3. Myth:  A few teachers are perfect.  The rest are cohorts of the devil.

Reality: Teachers, like most parents, are human. We try really hard to do our jobs well.  All the teachers I know went into Education because they liked kids and wanted to pass on a love of learning.  It becomes a life-long mission project: instead of going to a third-world country, we teach in public schools.  We love our students and treat them as our own children.  I was reminded of this recently when a fellow teacher related a story of how she fiercely shook her finger in an administrator’s face when the administrator came down unjustly on one of her students.  Yet, like everyone, we have bad days, sometimes even bad years.  Of course we make mistakes.  But please don’t post our sins on Facebook before we have a chance to tell our side of the story, or at least apologize for making a bad decision.  Herding cats is a hard job, but it’s a job we love and try our best at.


I feel sorry for those who work in business or for large corporations.  For the most part, they don’t get to feel that they make a difference in people’s lives every day.  Last week, I watched a former student of mine now in tenth grade lead about 75 adults in a praise dance at my church, wowing them all with her poise and passion.  Afterward, her mother came up to me, held both my hands, and with tears in her eyes thanked me for helping to turn her daughter around after a rough patch some six years earlier.   The funny thing is, I really don’t remember doing anything in particular, but that year must have made a difference for her.  Last week in a grade level meeting, one of our teachers shared a bag of Hershey’s Kisses with us that a former student’s mother had given her.  Apparently, that mother keeps this teacher supplied with Kisses, although it’s been a couple years since the child was in her class.

Teachers make a difference, and that’s the reason I keep teaching.  That, and summer break.