Thursday, April 11, 2013

Teaching is hard

Over the past couple of days, a few articles have shown up on my newsfeed on Facebook from the Huffington Post telling young people that they should not go into teaching. The articles can be found here and here. If you don’t feel like reading the articles, I will summarize them briefly here: Dear Young Person, don’t go into teaching. Waah waah standardized teaching, I am not paid enough, administrators and parents make my life difficult, and I don’t feel appreciated. Each of these complaints deserve a complete blog post, but here I will give quick service to each of them.
Somebody call the waaaahhhhmmmmbulance. Teaching is haaaarrrrdddd.

Now, as a disclaimer, I have had the privilege of working with either great teachers (Emil Davis), or with great teachers at a good school (Jamestown and Piedmont High Schools). Each school presented their own sets of issues, but I am sure not as severe as some issues schools have. I have also only been teaching for ~3 years. I do not have a wealth of experience, so these are just my thoughts.

Now, most people do not go into teaching to become millionaires, to be able to afford bottle service every weekend, or to have the money to buy a Porsche. Most people go into teaching because they believe they can make a difference in the lives of students. Each author of the articles linked above has legitimate complaints. The question is-do the complaints of these teachers prevent them from improving the lot of the students in their classroom?
My dream car. One day...

The answer to that riddle is a simple no. I am a firm believer in not complaining, for complaining does not solve the issues that you have. The more that you complain, the less people will listen. Choose your moments to address the problems that you have, and make sure that the problems get solved before you complain about the next one. 

Let’s take a standard school year-180 days. Of these days, there are probably ~10 days of standardized testing for statewide testing (not counting AP). That makes up….a whopping 5.5% of the total time in the year. You can do whatever you like with your students for the rest of the 94.5% year. Now, that time gets cut into for a ton of reasons, but complaining about losing at most 5.5% of the year due to testing is ridiculous. There are some legitimate reasons to complain about standardized testing (which will get its own blog post), but lost time due to direct testing is not one of them.

Now, a standard complaint within the teaching profession is that we are not paid enough, and outside of the teaching community, that we should be appreciative of how much we make because we only work 9 months of the year. The topic of teacher pay will be addressed more completely in a future post, and only briefly here. In regards to the complaint- you will rarely find people within any profession who say, “You know what? I think I am paid enough”. This attitude is also true within the teaching community.

People usually assign greater value to their own contributions, and devalue the contributions of others. I am not immune to this-I would love to be paid more. That Porsche that I mentioned above would be mine, and I am sure that it would come with a complimentary beautiful woman like the one displayed in most car ads. Or maybe the extra money I would be given would get the ladies. Or the bottle service. Or something.
Beer is cheaper.

Pressure from administrators and parents adds up. The parents only can gain from complaining-there is no consequence of their complaints. Eventually, either the teacher or administrator will bend to the complaint. There is no avoiding this fact. Complaining about the complaining does not solve your problem. Address as best you can the complaint, and if you can’t, be a grown up about it.

Not feeling appreciated? Who is going to appreciate you? Do you need a pat on the back every time you write a lesson or grade a paper? More recognition would be nice. But you have a job to do, and the satisfaction in teaching comes from having your students learn, and knowing that you were a part of it.

Teaching is not an easy job. Everyone wants to be paid more. There is pressure from your bosses. Your clients and their associates can cause problems and make your every day difficult. These problems are not unique to the teaching. The benefits to teaching are enormous and far outweigh these minor issues.  Teach and realize that if you are doing it right, you are having an immediate impact on the students’ lives.

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