Tag Archives: work of teachers

You think you know what teachers do. Right? Wrong.

I (Clare) was sent this article from a friend and it truly captures the complexity of teaching and the misconceptions about teaching. All parent, politicians, and journalists should have to read it. A shout out to all teachers! Here is the link to the article from the Washington Post: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2014/02/22/you-think-you-know-what-teachers-do-right-wrong/

By Valerie Strauss February 22, 2014


You went to school so you think you know what teachers do, right? You are wrong. Here’s a piece explaining all of this from Sarah Blaine, a mom, former teacher and full-time practicing attorney in New Jersey who writes at her parentingthecore blog, where this first appeared.

By Sarah Blaine

We all know what teachers do, right? After all, we were all students. Each one of us, each product of public education, we each sat through class after class for thirteen years. We encountered dozens of teachers. We had our kindergarten teachers and our first grade teachers and our fifth grade teachers and our gym teachers and our art teachers and our music teachers. We had our science teachers and our social studies teachers and our English teachers and our math teachers. If we were lucky, we might even have had our Latin teachers or our Spanish teachers or our physics teachers or our psychology teachers. Heck, I even had a seventh grade “Communications Skills” teacher. We had our guidance counselors and our principals and some of us had our special education teachers and our study hall monitors.

So we know teachers. We get teachers. We know what happens in classrooms, and we know what teachers do. We know which teachers are effective, we know which teachers left lasting impressions, we know which teachers changed our lives, and we know which teachers sucked.

We know. We know which teachers changed lives for the better. We know which teachers changed lives for the worse.

Teaching as a profession has no mystery. It has no mystique. It has no respect.

We were students, and therefore we know teachers. We denigrate teachers. We criticize teachers. We can do better than teachers. After all: We do. They teach.

We are wrong.

We need to honor teachers. We need to respect teachers. We need to listen to teachers. We need to stop reducing teachers to arbitrary measurements of student growth on so-called objective exams.

Most of all, we need to stop thinking that we know anything about teaching merely by virtue of having once been students.

We don’t know.

I spent a little over a year earning a master of arts in teaching degree. Then I spent two years teaching English Language Arts in a rural public high school. And I learned that my 13 years as a public school student, my 4 years as a college student at a highly selective college, and even a great deal of my year as a master’s degree student in the education school of a flagship public university hadn’t taught me how to manage a classroom, how to reach students, how to inspire a love of learning, how to teach. Eighteen years as a student (and a year of preschool before that), and I didn’t know anything about teaching. Only years of practicing my skills and honing my skills would have rendered me a true professional. An expert. Someone who knows about the business of inspiring children. Of reaching students. Of making a difference. Of teaching.

I didn’t stay. I copped out. I left. I went home to suburban New Jersey, and a year later I enrolled in law school.

I passed the bar. I began to practice law at a prestigious large law firm. Three years as a law student had no more prepared me for the practice of law than 18 years of experience as a student had previously prepared me to teach. But even in my first year as a practicing attorney, I earned five times what a first-year teacher made in the district where I’d taught.

I worked hard in my first year of practicing law. But I didn’t work five times harder than I’d worked in my first year of teaching. In fact, I didn’t work any harder. Maybe I worked a little less.

But I continued to practice. I continued to learn. Nine years after my law school graduation, I think I have some idea of how to litigate a case. But I am not a perfect lawyer. There is still more I could learn, more I could do, better legal instincts I could develop over time. I could hone my strategic sense. I could do better, be better. Learn more law. Learn more procedure. But law is a practice, law is a profession. Lawyers are expected to evolve over the course of their careers. Lawyers are given more responsibility as they earn it.

New teachers take on full responsibility the day they set foot in their first classrooms.

The people I encounter out in the world now respect me as a lawyer, as a professional, in part because the vast majority of them have absolutely no idea what I really do.

All of you former students who are not teachers and not lawyers, you have no more idea of what it is to teach than you do of what it is to practice law.

All of you former students: you did not design curricula, plan lessons, attend faculty meetings, assess papers, design rubrics, create exams, prepare report cards, and monitor attendance. You did not tutor students, review rough drafts, and create study questions. You did not assign homework. You did not write daily lesson objectives on the white board. You did not write poems of the week on the white board. You did not write homework on the white board. You did not learn to write legibly on the white board while simultaneously making sure that none of your students threw a chair out a window.

You did not design lessons that succeeded. You did not design lessons that failed.

You did not learn to keep your students quiet during lock down drills.

You did not learn that your 15-year-old students were pregnant from their answers to vocabulary quizzes. You did not learn how to teach functionally illiterate high school students to appreciate Shakespeare. You did not design lessons to teach students close reading skills by starting with the lyrics to pop songs. You did not miserably fail your honors level students at least in part because you had no books to give them. You did not struggle to teach your students how to develop a thesis for their essays, and bask in the joy of having taught a successful lesson, of having gotten through to them, even for five minutes. You did not struggle with trying to make SAT-level vocabulary relevant to students who did not have a single college in their county. You did not laugh — because you so desperately wanted to cry — when you read some of the absurdities on their final exams. You did not struggle to reach students who proudly announced that they only came to school so that their mom’s food stamps didn’t get reduced.

You did not spend all of New Years’ Day crying five years after you’d left the classroom because you reviewed The New York Times’ graphic of soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan and learned that one of your very favorite students had been killed in Iraq two years before. And you didn’t know. Because you copped out and left. So you cried, helplessly, and the next day you returned to the practice of law.

You did not. And you don’t know. You observed. Maybe you learned. But you didn’t teach.

The problem with teaching as a profession is that every single adult citizen of this country thinks that they know what teachers do. And they don’t. So they prescribe solutions, and they develop public policy, and they editorialize, and they politicize. And they don’t listen to those who do know. Those who could teach. The teachers.


Let’s Not Forget About the Teachers

I (Clare) read this tribute to teachers in the Huffington Post. Lindsay Henry got it right. If you have a minute please send to this a teacher you know – I know that I would not be where I am today if it not for the many teachers who cared about me and worked tirelessly. I bolded a few lines in Henry’s original text.  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lindsay-henry/this-ones-for-the-teacher_b_7555134.html

This One Is for the Teachers By: Lindsay Henry

It’s graduation season. A time where we focus our eyes and spotlights and applause on the students who successfully pushed through the exams, the essays, the sports games, the drama, to walk across a stage and receive that diploma. To graduate. Finally.


So we celebrate. We honor the graduates with parties and families and photos and cake. Lots of cake (preferably with heaps of frosting and rosettes and plastic graduation caps.) We write “Congratulations” on cards and give “How to Succeed in the Real World” books and write “Top 10 Things I Learned When…” blog posts. Of course the graduates deserve the praise and recognition and celebrations and cake and blog posts.

But this post isn’t for the students.

This one’s for the teachers.

This one is for the teachers who stand in front of the students every day, writing on white boards and planning lessons and doing all they can to prepare youth for the rest of their lives. This one’s for the teachers who are full of nerves and anxiety on that first day of class in the fall, then bittersweet sadness as they say goodbye in the spring. The Silent Heroes who put in the work day in and day out, sometimes viewed as the antagonist by the students for assigning those group projects, required readings, difficult tests.

But teachers face their own tests, too. So this one’s for them.

This one is for the teachers who made it through another year full of hurdles. The long days and worrisome nights, the frustrated parents, the conferences. The detentions. The decisions. The reviews. The observations.

This one’s for the teachers that blur the lines because you care so much for these students, as if they are an extension of your own family. The ones that make sure the kids have full bellies and open minds. The ones that are the only constant in some of their students’ lives, filling the void as a caretaker or pseudo parent. The ones that use their own money to pour back into the classroom with materials and books and supplies.

This one’s for the teachers that are so much more than teachers. The ones that are fighters, advocators, listeners, healers, all to reach one more.

This one is for the hard days. The days that are long and the nights are longer, your mind racing and running. The days where teachers feels unsure of themselves, the ones that go home and wonder if they are making a difference, if the lessons are sticking, if they should just pack up the apples on their desks and stop trying.

You matter. The lessons stick. Trust me.

My high school days are long behind me, but the lessons live on and those who taught me. So this one’s for them, too.

This one’s for Mrs. Kochendorfer, my first-grade teacher at Patterson Elementary in St. Charles, Michigan, who’s proud, grinning face is still etched in my memory when I read her “The Rainbow Fish,” just a shy 6-year-old back then with Keds shoes and blunt bangs.

This one’s for Miss Bell, with her huge heart and booming voice shouting throughout my high school hallways: “Practice abstinence!” We laughed with her and loved her because she laughed and loved us first.

This one’s for Mr. Brownlie, with his easy-going manner and button-down shirts and soft-spoken voice. He retired this year, and his dedication and love for his students poured back to him as his former students created a hard covered book thick with pages full stories of how he impacted their lives.

This one’s for the future teachers, the college students in classrooms of their own right now, balancing the act of being a teacher and a student, observing and soaking it all in so they are ready to change lives.

Because that’s what teachers do. They do more than teach. They shape us. They lead us….until we reach the finish line and throw our caps into the hair, grinning at the idea of the future, unsure of what’s next.

But teachers know what’s next: another school year. And so they begin another season of preparation and books and lessons and worries centered around fresh faces sitting in desks.

In this season of mortar caps and gold tassels, Dr. Seuss and “Oh The Places You Go!” lines are repeated as we stare at the backs of the graduates running forward into the so-called real world. But let’s pause for a moment and thank the teachers that helped get them to this point. Because without them — sorry Dr. Seuss — we wouldn’t have a lot of places to go. We would all be a little lost.

Congratulations, students. And congratulations, teachers. You did it. All of you