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Are You a Real Teacher?


In this week's StarrPoints, columnist Linda Starr shares her observations on the supposedly "cushy" lives of real teachers.

In a few weeks, 3 million K-12 educators will welcome more than 50,000,000 students to our nation's classrooms. About 200,000 of those educators will be first-year teachers.

If history is any indicator -- and why else teach it? -- 10 percent of next year's crop of new teachers will remain in the classroom for no longer than a year; 20 percent will leave within three years; 50 percent will quit within five years. Even the 100,000 who survive will spend many hours wondering whether the job is worth it, if they're really cut out to be teachers.

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Look What She Starr-ted!

In today's StarrPoints, columnist Linda Starr reflects on the real lives of real teachers. Do you know teachers like the ones Starr describes? Are you one of those teachers? If so, are the sacrifices worth the rewards? Share your reflections 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.

To help prospective teachers make the decision of whether whether or not they're really cut out for the job, I decided to take a look at the real teachers I know. Based on my observations -- and on too much time spent correcting papers in front of Letterman -- I've created this list.


  • Real teachers eat lunch standing up -- even on weekends and holidays.
  • Real teachers can't resist giving "teacher looks" -- and occasional verbal reprimands -- to ill-behaved children everywhere.
  • Real teachers arrive late for garage sales, haggle over the junk no one else wanted, then pay for it with their own money.
  • Real teachers collect cardboard circles from pizza boxes, used wrapping paper and frayed ribbon, abandoned birds' nests and beehives, carpet and wallpaper samples, day-old newspapers and out-of-date magazines, empty paper towel rolls, mismatched buttons, stirrers from fast food restaurants, and absolutely anything else that's free. (You never know what might come in handy.)
  • Real teachers speak to everyone -- including family, friends, professional contacts, and visiting dignitaries -- in simple declarative sentences.
  • Real teachers repeat each simple declarative sentence they utter -- twice. Real teachers repeat each simple declarative sentence they utter -- twice.
  • Real teachers dress in layers, wear sensible shoes, and never leave the house without extra tissues, headache remedies, pencils, breath freshener, and a plan book.
  • Outside the classroom, real teachers can be found at state college campuses studying for advanced degrees, at continuing education centers pursuing professional development opportunities, at community libraries searching for enrichment materials, at flea markets and discount stores shopping for cheap supplies, at school sporting events cheering for the home team, and at their students' bar mitzvahs, confirmations, and dance recitals. Real teachers are seldom seen at BMW dealerships, luxury hotels, or fancy health clubs.
  • Real teachers correct homework in faculty meetings and freeway traffic jams, at their own children's dance recitals and baseball games, and in hospital examining rooms while awaiting the results of a CAT scan.
  • Real teachers give more than they have to, demand less than they're entitled to, and smile wearily when "comics" with expense accounts and travel allowances point out what "cushy" lives teachers lead.