One of the many signs I’m getting old is that students I taught in preschool and kindergarten are now starting high school and college. Some of them have even decided to go into the teaching profession.
I figured I would cover some of the lesser known aspects of my profession that don’t get discussed in the college classroom before our first year inductees are savagely thrown to the wolves.
5. You have mannerisms and ticks that you exhibit all the time, but have never been aware of.
Once I began teaching, a plethora of strange mannerisms I had not yet become aware of were brought to my attention. The fact that I’m a preschool teacher and I end up having many of the same students for three years only made their observations even more accurately damning.
The first one was that I often will touch the back of my head when trying to make a decision. It’s not anything to be embarrassed about, but when a group of 6th grade girls asks why you do it, something in their inherently mocking tone can suddenly make you feel very self conscious and hyper-aware of whenever it happens.
I have also been told that I occasionally do a quick scratch under my armpit about two or three times per class period (which even grossed me out), I start almost every class by loudly saying “Alright”, and that I can often times look at an entire room of people without ever making eye contact with anyone (I apparently look like I’m staring at everyone’s foreheads).
4. It’s not the pay that really sucks; it’s all the extra hours you’ll spend at school (physically and mentally).
No matter what Fox News says, teachers (for the most part) are not overpaid. Sure, there may be rare odd/terrible situations like the rubber rooms in New York (where teachers who have been put on disciplinary leave wait years for a hearing while collecting their full salaries), but the overwhelming majority of teachers in this country work their butts off under conditions in which most other folks would have long since quit their profession and moved on.
But while teacher salaries are definitely lower than other professions with comparable education requirements, it’s not like we’re making anywhere close to minimum wage, either. Factor in the full benefits and you still have a decent (albeit not very good) salary on which to live.
One of the studies that says teachers are paid too much, however, made the laughable assertion that the average educator works 36.5 hours a week. Even the teachers I know who try to make a point of getting out of school as fast as possible to get home to their families easily blow by that number…and most of us are lucky to slide in at under 50 hours if there aren’t too many after school meetings during that particular week.After school help/tutoring, rehearsals, grading papers, inputting grades, writing lesson plans, and a long list of other factors will often times keep you in the building well before or after the final bell rings.
3. The school’s principal may be your boss, but the school’s secretary owns your soul.
This goes double if you are a teacher like me who has lots of after school activities. Permission forms, money collected, PAYCHECKS, and all that lovely paperwork (that you’ll inevitably forget to turn when you were supposed to) goes through them.
They may not be the ones teaching the children, but he/she might very well be the hardest working person at your school. Make sure to be nice to them…and bring them gifts once in a while.
2. School lunch food is okay, but school breakfast food is awesome
It doesn’t matter that the scrambled eggs are served from an ice cream scoop; it’s still delicious. Just make sure to put butter on the grits. If you don’t, they taste like death.
Also, you haven’t truly lived until you’ve eaten square breakfast pizza. It may look disgusting, but it tastes heavenly.
1. Do not base your future in the teaching profession on your first year in the classroom.
While it might be entirely possible to have a good first year teaching, most people will describe an experience that makes the nine rings of hell seem like a water slide.
Much of this will be due to factors that you cannot control. When you peak your head out from the warm fuzziness that came with being the “cool student teacher” and become the person in charge, it can bring a lot of unexpected pressure and anxiety.
It also doesn’t help that students can smell fear and uncertainty in an adult authority figure. Even if you confidently do everything the way you’re supposed to, your nervousness is going to be picked up on by the boy who models himself after the O’doyle family or the girl who makes Veruca Salt seem like a well adjusted child….along with the posse of kids who hangs close to them so that they won’t become a target themselves. That’s not to say that they should be able win, by the way. Don’t give kids like that an inch; they make school terrible for the other students and completely disrupt the learning environment. But after your first year, you’ll gain an aura that silently proclaims “I know what I’m doing.” That alone will help diffuse a large portion of the classroom control problems that arose from a few kids trying to test their limits against you.
You’ll also be ready for all the curve balls from last year and better prepared for the new ones that will come your way. Your mind will be able to focus how to become a better and more effective teacher rather than surviving from day to day. I have talked to some teachers that really did enjoy their first year in the classroom, but even they say that things got much easier from the second year onward. Just hang in there and realize that despite all the horror stories you will hear, the various cliched accounts of how amazingly rewarding the job can be never do it justice.
Knowing that you have made a difference in a kids’ life by teaching them a skill or how to better understand the world around them is one of the most amazing feelings in the world.