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5 Things Teachers Want You To Know About Their Job That Might Surprise You

Topics: Career Profiles

National Teacher Day is Tuesday, May 8. Teachers deserve this day of celebration and appreciation now more than ever.

Teacher teaching class
Image Credit: Pexels / nappy

For several months, teacher strikes have been sweeping the nation. American public school teachers have been demanding better conditions for themselves and their students with smaller class sizes and fairer pay topping their lists of demands. Although these groups have found some success, issues around stagnant funding for public education continue to slow progress. Appreciation and understanding for the work of educators is crucial for real and lasting change to take root. So in honor of our nation’s teachers, and in celebration of National Teacher Day, here are a few things you should know about the job.

1. Teachers are underpaid

Teachers are terribly underpaid when compared with other professionals with similar levels of education, training and experience. American teachers earn 60 percent less than similarly educated professionals earn, on average. And things are only getting worse. Eductaors’ salaries have fallen 1.6 percent over the course of the last two decades, when figures are adjusted for inflation. Teachers in the US are among the worst paid in the developed world. In order to make ends meet, many take on second or even third jobs.

Teachers want you to know that poor funding for education impacts their students in a big way. Large class sizes deprive students of individualized support, and textbooks and other materials are old and outdated, just to give a few examples. Our educators deserve the opportunity to do their jobs without having to get other work in order to pay their bills. Still, they want you to know that the students, who are the future of this country, are the ones who ultimately pay the biggest price when education is underfunded.

2. They’re on all the time

Teaching isn’t like other jobs. When a teacher is at work, they’re always on. There’s no time for goofing off with coworkers, checking personal emails, or even just taking a quick break to grab a cup of tea. Most professions enjoy some ebb and flow to their workdays. Not teachers. Their days are beyond busy. And it’s not as if they’re able to take much of a break in the evenings. Many work additional jobs to makes ends meet. But even beyond that there are lessons to plan and papers to grade. Plus, they think about their students day and night. It isn’t a nine-to-five kind of job.

3. Teachers don’t really get summers off

There are so many myths and misunderstandings about the job of teaching. One of the biggest misconceptions is that educators get summers off. The bottom line is, they really don’t. First and foremost, it’s essential to understand that teachers aren’t compensated for summer months. Imagine if your job ran just nine months a year and you were paid 25 percent less than you’re being paid now. Pretty inconvenient, right?

No matter how you cut it, teachers really don’t get summers off. In addition to working summer jobs, teachers have to meet other expectations during the summer. They’re expected to further their education and training during these months. Many also do a tremendous amount of curriculum work and lesson planning in between school years.

4. They want, and deserve, to be treated like professionals

Teachers deserve respect. Too often though, they don’t receive it. They are certified experts in their field, just like anyone else. Still, they don’t receive the autonomy other professionals might.

“The data consistently show us that a big issue is how much voice, how much say, do teachers have collectively in the school-wide decisions that affect their jobs?” Richard Ingersoll of the University of Pennsylvania told neaToday. “Teachers are micromanaged. They have been saying for a long time that one size doesn’t fit all, all students are different. But they’re told to stick to the scripted curriculum, which might work for a weaker teacher but it drives good teachers nuts.”

Their prestige and professionalism is undermined further by all the talk of incentives, or using test scores to determine whether or not teachers are properly doing their jobs. You don’t see the same kinds of measures being used to critique and evaluate lawyers, doctors, or accountants. Teachers are the experts in their field. It’s time they be treated as such.

5. They are on your team

Finally, teachers want you to know that they are on your team. Whether you are a student, parent, or just a member of a community, teachers want to help make the world a better place for their students and for you.

Teachers want to work with parents to better understand students and help them thrive. They also want to partner with administrators, and even the local community, to design programs that meet their students needs and further their learning in profound ways. However, these kinds of partnerships aren’t possible when teachers aren’t regarded as professionals or treated with the respect they deserve.

Teachers want you to work with them not against them. They shouldn’t be treated like their the enemy when they’re just the opposite. Teachers want to be regarded and respected as a valuable part of the team that’s working tirelessly to prepare future generations for success. They’ve earned that, and they deserve it.

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