Educators, teachers specifically, have a serious perception problem. No doubt many teachers recognize this but in the last month or two this has become painfully clear to me.
The other day I was asked, as I’m sure most teachers are, “why did you want to become a teacher?” I explained a few of the reasons and then they asked me if I had siblings and what they did. I told them that I had one brother and that he works at IBM. I jokingly said that he frequently reminds me that “he could get me a job working there” so if they bugged me enough I might not show up on Monday.
Student: “Wait, Mr. Cresswell, you could work for IBM??”
Me: “Well, yeah, probably. There’s a lot of other things I could be doing besides teaching.”
Shock came over the student. I would choose teaching over other careers that other math majors pursue.
One more anecdote. Today a student asked me if I was going to teach for thirty years to which I said I wasn’t sure but that I could see myself teaching that long. From there he said, “Nah Mr. Cresswell you could do something great.”
Hey, damn it, I thought I was doing something great.
The public’s perception (at least a fair amount of the public) of the teaching profession is kind of garbage. I understand that it’s not all of the public but I think a lot of people think to themselves, “yeah teaching is probably tough but I could probably do a decent job at it. I mean I did spend twelve years in school…” I would argue that this perception contributes to a lot of the top down decisions that frustrate us the most.
Teaching well is an incredibly difficult pursuit. It takes years to become a high-quality teacher and that’s only if the years are spent in deliberate, reflective practice. With this, students, parents, administrators, and laws are constantly changing, creating a state of near constant flux. We do enjoy some benefits, such as summers and holidays off. However, I’ve yet to take a summer off (conferences, grad school, odd jobs, etc.) and holiday breaks are nearly always partially occupied by hours of work (planning, grading, etc.). This is not to complain, but merely to point out a reality true for most educators. The expertise it takes to ensure knowledge is somehow attained by another individual is too frequently taken for granted.
Lest we forget that if we, as teachers, do our job well then we help mold generations of critical, creative thinkers.
And that, I believe, makes teaching a worthy and, dare I say, great profession.
Unfortunately the notion that teaching is easy or that “those who can’t do, teach” is a permeating misconception and it hurts our profession in multiple ways, with the lack of trust and respect being the worst symptom.