The image that often comes to mind when people think of the word "teacher" is that of a person who is lecturing to a class of engaged listeners. In reality, teaching involves far more than actual instruction, and people who teach children and teens may find it increasingly difficult to gain and hold their students' attention. Teaching remains a fulfilling career for many, however. The important thing is that potential teachers understand the reality of teaching in today's schools.
A popular myth is that teachers get paid summers off. In actuality, teachers are often paid for nine months with the option to have their salary spread over a 12 month period. As of 2010, the median salary for a high school teacher was $53,230, while the median salary for an elementary school teacher was $51,380. Teachers often boost their salaries by volunteering to teach in positions that are difficult to fill, such as bilingual education. Teachers also earn extra money by coaching and teaching summer school.
Not all teachers have their own classrooms. Because of overcrowding, some teachers must float, teaching classes in other teachers' classrooms when those teachers have their conference period. Many special education teachers also go from classroom to classroom, rather than having their own.
Regardless of whether or not a teacher has her own classroom, a controlled environment is paramount to learning. New teachers may feel surprised at the amount of time they must dedicate to teaching classroom routines and behavior expectations.
A teacher's job is rarely over at the sound of the last bell. Teachers often work long hours. For example, after students leave, a teacher may attend a mandatory meeting, work on lesson plans and grade papers. Some teachers work until late in the evening coaching students and attending extracurricular events or meeting with parents. It is not uncommon for a teacher to spend a weekend attending a workshop or grading tests.
Blame and Praise
Students in the United States are ranked 16th in reading and even lower in mathematics, notes Charles Kenny, in an August 2012 article in "Businessweek." Consequently, teachers face significant pressure to increase student achievement. The public, including parents, is apt to blame teachers for student failure, often neglecting to look at factors such as lack of literacy in the home and the popularity of passive forms of media. Teachers do not enjoy the support from parents that they did in the past, and must often defend their teaching strategies and standards for accountability to parents and administrators.
Elise Wile has been a writer since 2003. Holding a master's degree in curriculum and Instruction, she has written training materials for three school districts. Her expertise includes mentoring, serving at-risk students and corporate training.