This is more work than in my previous life. I thought it would be easier.
— Donald Trump
So said President Trump in his reflections upon his hundredth day in office.
What a twat!!
Honestly … what did he think being president involved?
His comment got me thinking though — how often are our own perceptions about the actual reality of jobs 100% correct?
Chefs just get to cook food, don’t they?
Public servants just sit on their bums all day in front of a computer and take long lunches, don’t they?
Authors, musicians and artists — none of them are actually working, are they?
And teachers? Well … teachers just babysit kids all day. And they only work from nine till three. And they get all those school holidays.
Over the course of the last 20 years or so, I have educated most of my family and friends about what teaching is really like. On the odd occasion, someone does slip up and make some comment about ‘bludging’ or ‘holidays’; clearly though I have developed a facial expression that shuts this down super quick, because I don’t even need to say anything to cause a hasty change of topic.
I don’t know what this expression looks like, but I suspect it is a variation of the ‘teacher eye’.
In social situations, particularly when you don’t know everyone, a common topic for discussion is jobs. What do you do? What does that involve? Blah … blah … blah …
The husband of a friend of mine was a dentist. If she is to be believed, telling people at a social gathering that you are a dentist is an absolute conversation stopper. Worse than saying you are a teacher. When you reveal you are a teacher, some people like to ask about the job, or get advice on their own children … or make some stupid joke about the amount of free time we must have; but who wants to know about what a dentist sees and does during the day?
Compared to when I first started teaching, people in general are a lot more knowledgeable about the ins and outs of teaching. They are aware teachers don’t actually go home when the children do. They know many of us spend a large proportion of our ‘holidays’ assessing and preparing work for the next term. They realise that the actual ‘in class’ part of the job is only a small proportion of the other roles of the teacher.
However, there are still people out there who don’t get it. These are the people who think teachers ‘have it easy’. The people who like to quote, ‘Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach.’ The people who think they can tell us how to do our jobs because, even though they don’t have an education degree, they went to school and know all about it.
It is not only the non-teachers who have a distorted perception about the reality of teaching.
When I was in my first year of university … during one of my first tutorials I think … we were asked to reflect on, and then share, the reasons why we had enrolled in the Bachelor of Education degree.
When it was my turn I gave the stock standard answer: I love working with children. Teaching is something I had wanted to do ever since I was 8-years old. I enjoy the challenge of helping other people learn.
Similar answers to many of my peers in the group that day.
Then came the eye-openers:
You get great holidays.
It’s primary school. They don’t really do much except art and P.E.
I couldn’t get in to what I wanted to do, so I decided to do this instead.
I kid you not.
These answers flowed from a large proportion of my peers. I was flabbergasted … mortified … and pissed off.
But then came a doozy of a slap-in-the-face from our lecturer:
I’ve been in this job for a number of years and what I’ve noticed is this … by this time next semester, around 60% of you will have dropped out. This is going to be harder than you think.
And … she was right.
Right about the 60% dropout rate, which thankfully scooped up all the responders who came into teaching for the holidays. (Although part of me wishes they had stayed, and that I could have been around to see their reaction when they realised exactly what teachers do during the ‘holidays’.)
Right about it being harder than any of us thought too.
Teaching is hard work. You really have to be passionate about it because goodness knows there is little incentive to keep us there, and we certainly don’t do it for the money!
One of my favourite books was Freaky Friday (by Mary Rodgers). You know the one (it was made into a movie … the book was better) … mother and daughter don’t understand each other’s lives, then weirdly wake up in the other’s body for a day. Sometimes I wish I could orchestrate that for people who don’t believe me when I say teaching is not easy: SHAZAM! Here, live a week in my shoes. (If I’m honest, I also wish I could do the same for executive teachers who clearly demonstrate they have forgotten what it is like to be in the classroom.)
In general, I do think we should all refrain from commenting on the ‘ease’ of any job if we haven’t actually been at the coal face ourselves. By all means ask questions, be interested … but don’t pass a judgement comment unless you really know what it’s like.
And … be careful what you wish for.