Home >> Prof. Development >> Prof. Development >> Prof. Development >> Teaching Isn't for Losers

Search form

Teaching Isn't for Losers

Share

We all know who the bad teachers are: the teachers who chose the field because they expected five-hour days and long, lazy summers. They are the teachers who publicly whine about the work they do. They are the teachers who give all teachers a bad name.

An advice columnist published a letter recently from an elementary school teacher proposing a new TV reality show. "Drop three businessmen and three businesswomen into an elementary school classroom for six weeks," the teacher said. "The winner will be allowed to return to his or her [original] job." The writer went on to document the obstacles the contestants would face:

"Each class will have five learning-disabled children, three with attention deficit disorder, one gifted child, two who speak limited English, and three labeled as having severe behavioral problems. Each contestant must complete lesson plans at least three days in advance with curriculum objectives and modify, organize, and create materials to match. [Contestants] will be required to teach students, handle misconduct, implement technology, document attendance, write referrals, correct homework, make bulletin boards, compute grades, complete report cards, communicate with parents, and arrange conferences. They must also supervise recess, monitor the hallways, and complete drills in case of fires, tornadoes, or shooting attacks. They must attend workshops, faculty meetings, union meetings, and curriculum-development meetings. They must also tutor students who are behind. ... They must maintain discipline and provide an academically stimulating environment at all times."
Join Discussion
Look What She
Starr-ted!

If you had it to do all over again, would you become a teacher? Share your thoughts on the StarrPoints message board.

Linda Starr, a former teacher and the mother of four children, has been an education writer for nearly two decades. Starr is the curriculum and technology editor for Education World.


More StarrPoints
That letter made me cringe -- not because it pointed out that teachers work hard but because the tone of the letter implied that teachers resent most of the work they do. Now, I know a lot of teachers -- a lot of good teachers -- and I don't believe the attitude of that letter writer represents their feelings. I think the millions of people who read that column ought to know that

  • Good teachers don't see difficult children as an obstacle to teaching; they see them as a challenge.
  • Good teachers don't approach lesson-plan writing with dread; they approach it with enthusiasm and creativity.
  • Good teachers don't object to integrating technology or incorporating any other instructional tools into their curricula; they know that diverse instructional strategies increase the odds that all students will learn.
  • Good teachers don't complain about the paperwork needed to communicate with office staff, specialists, and administrators; they value the support that paperwork elicits.
  • Good teachers don't object to the need to communicate with parents; they know the importance of parental involvement in a child's education.
  • Good teachers don't see extra-curricular duties as an imposition; they see them as an opportunity to get to know their students better.
  • Good teachers don't see meetings as time lost; they see them as avenues for personal and professional development.
  • Good teachers don't mind establishing an atmosphere conducive to learning, whether that involves creating attractive bulletin boards, setting high expectations, or maintaining a positive attitude. They know that all those things make a difference.
  • Good teachers don't count minutes and hours; they count the children whose lives they affect.
  • Good teachers don't complain about problems; they solve them.

Yes, even good teachers resent the low salaries, the lack of public support, and the working conditions that make their jobs more difficult, but they never -- ever -- resent doing the work that they do.

We all know who the bad teachers are: the teachers who chose the field because they expected five-hour days and long, lazy summers. They are the teachers who publicly whine about the work they do. They are the teachers who use the difficulty of the work as an excuse for not doing it well. They are the teachers who give all teachers a bad name. They are, I think, a good part of the reason that good teachers continue to struggle for professional recognition and professional salaries. Dropping them on a remote island has a lot of appeal. Getting them out of the profession makes a lot of sense.