The Work of Teachers
Did you know World Teachers’ Day is today?
Teaching is one of the most ubiquitous and perhaps most misunderstood jobs. We spend our days with other people’s kids. Sometimes we have a lot of fun. Sometimes we don’t.
We get a winter break a spring break AND usually a summer break.
Teachers have a unique relationship with their students. We can be a friend or an enemy. We are sometime parents. We challenge, bore, entertain, exhaust and hopefully somewhere in there, someone learns something.
At the current point in time, in this country, at least, teachers are struggling against a poor public image after years of job action and infighting between the government and unions. Teachers (and students, and families) are in the middle. Last year we had job action for several months, culminating in a 2 week late start to the beginning of the year. The strike ended, but I don’t think anybody won.
What Teachers Really Do:
I was brought to tears recently, in a pub. It was a going away party for some friends. I met another teacher, 4th grade. Because I am also a teacher, and we had just met, she showed me photos from her classroom (this is what teachers talk about on a Saturday night – it is September, after all). Because she is a primary teacher, her classroom is perfect. I don’t know what it is about K – 7 teachers, but their classrooms are orderly and immaculate. Somewhere around 8th grade classrooms seem to lapse into chaos.
My maps and posters are crooked. I don’t want to talk about what my desk looks like.
Back to 4th grade. She had put together a library for her students. “Did you buy all those books yourself?” I asked. I knew the answer. “Yep”. At this particular school, the Parent Advisory Council, the school and a church down the street had decided to fund a breakfast program for students. Not everyone was coming to school with a full tummy. You can’t learn to read if you haven’t had any breakfast.
However, because of that, there was no more funding for anything else. No supplies. Parents are often sent a list at the beginning of the school year to send supplies with their kids – everything from paper, to pencils to kleenex. But if your family is struggling to put breakfast on the table, there likely isn’t enough left over for school supplies.
So the school had to choose. Breakfast or books.
My new friend, the teacher, had supplied her classroom herself. She’d gone to Ikea, she’d gone to the secret special teacher poster stores, she’d ordered books online. Her classroom was a great place to learn because she had made it that way. Out of her own pocket.
And it’s not like she was complaining. Every teacher I know does this. I can’t help myself either – I just bought 10 books for my classroom. I get after my mom for buying things for her pre school classes. It’s something that most people don’t realise, unless you are a friend or family of a teacher, and it can be isolating outside of those people that care about us. The investment for teachers often goes beyond emotional, mental and physical, it is financial as well. There is definitely an element of selflessness in teaching – why?
Because teachers care. Teachers want kids to learn. Most teachers will do just about anything if they thought it would help their students learn and grow. If you get into this profession for summers off and a pension, you truly don’t last very long.
So, on World Teachers Day, celebrate by talking to a teacher and asking them about what they do at school all day. Increasing understanding might help us to fix the cracks in the system.
And you might really (really) make a teacher’s day by learning a thing or two.
And on the brighter side of education, an amazing collection of classrooms from around the world.