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By Kristin Anderson

When some says “teacher,” what do you think? Do you picture someone who cuts and pastes for a living? Do you picture someone who works from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. and has summers off? Many folks out there might agree with these stereotypes, but there is so much more to it than that!

Time, There’s Never Enough

It’s true that our contracts might pay us for 185 - 200 days of work and 7 ½ hours a day. However, if we only worked our contracted times, we would NEVER get our work done. More than 80% of that time, we are with students, and that’s if we don’t meet with students during our lunch or prep times. When we are in the presence of students, they are our main focus. That means no grading papers, no entering data into the computer, no calling parents, no parent emails, no lesson planning, and no preparing lessons. All of that needs to be done on our time. Most schools offer their teachers anywhere from 30 – 60 minutes as a prep time to accomplish things like grading, planning, and parent contact. Think that’s enough time? It’s not. Most teachers I know come in early, stay late, AND take work home with them. Not to mention coming in on the weekends and school vacations

You have to be everything to Students

Teachers wear many hats during the school day. We’re teachers, counselors, mediators, parents, policewomen, nurses, and spirit-boosters. When you are working with children, issues come up throughout the day that require intervention. You as the adult are the one to take charge. Fights will erupt, feelings will be hurt, manners will be forgotten or ignored, and self-esteem will be low. As the teacher, you will need to address these needs. Sometimes all it will take is a smile and a, “There you go!” to get the job done. Sometimes it will take a little ingenuity to get the 5’4” third grader who’s having a meltdown off the floor and out from underneath that pile of winter coats. (Don’t laugh, that really happened to me!)

Keep Your Eye on the Real Prize

There is a wave of educational reform sweeping the nation. Mandates of accountability are being placed on educators left and right by individuals who have never stepped foot in a classroom. Yet they know enough about education, supposedly, to tell us how to do our jobs and how our students should learn. That means more and more high stakes testing, more standardized testing, and the need for teachers to provide stacks of data to prove students are learning. With this, comes heightened anxiety for educators and, unfortunately, students. As a teacher, it is also my job to be a protector of my students. Although I can’t shield them from what they may hear at home, I can certainly protect them within the walls of my classroom. Learning is not about high test scores. Learning doesn’t happen simply by sitting at a desk and completing a worksheet. Learning comes from interacting with others, hands-on activities, and enjoying what you are doing. As a teacher, you need to take the brunt of the high stakes testing and let your students get excited about what they are learning. You’d be surprised at how much they will want to learn then.

Teaching is tough, but it is highly rewarding. When I think of all the other things I could be doing instead of teaching, I’m so glad that I chose education as my career.