Lately it feels like I have heard many opinions about teachers with schools being closed due to COVID-19 and the plans for reopening in September recently coming out. Opinions on what it takes to become a teacher, how hard/easy our job is, how much money we make. Opinions from politicians, parents, random people – many coming from those who are not actual teachers. So I thought I would put together a list to clear up five common misconceptions about teaching that I regularly hear and read about.
Myth #1: Teachers don’t make any money.
I hear this phrase or some form of it all the time, “Why would you ever want to become a teacher? Teachers don’t make any money.” First, there are endless reasons why I became a teacher. Check out my blog on 10 Reasons Why I Love Being A Teacher if you’re curious about this. Second, this myth depends on so many factors. Where do you live? What district do you teach in? How many credits to you have? Do you have your Master’s Degree? Do you have your PhD? How many years have you been teaching? Do you have your National Boards? All these factor in with how much money a teacher makes. I’m very fortunate to work in a district where teachers are highly valued compared to other districts in the country and our pay reflects that. Starting salary for a first year teacher with a bachelors degree in Washington State (in my school district) is about $58,000 a year. After teaching for 14 years the salary jumps to about $124,000 (this does not include all stipends). I know $124,000 isn’t much compared to an Amazon or tech employee, but I feel many can live happily and comfortably off this salary.
Regardless though, the teachers I know don’t teach for the money. So please stop asking teachers, “Why would you ever want to become one since you don’t make any money?” Instead, try asking teachers what they love about their job or what drew them to the profession.
Myth #2: Teachers constantly work every weekend and at home each night.
Sure, this was true for me with my first year teaching. I spent hours working at home after school. Many times I would go to my classroom on the weekend, creating resources and making sure I was prepared for the following week. Designing, laminating, cutting. I was fresh out of college, learning what I needed for my students and was learning what I needed from myself. Now, eight years later I don’t need to go to my school after hours. I try to leave at 4 pm each day (our designed time) and I don’t take home unnecessary work. Over the years I’ve learned how to successfully manage my time throughout the day so that I can feel accomplished while I’m at school. It’s all about time management. This being said, who knows what this year will bring since teaching and learning will take on a whole new environment with at-home learning. Bring on the challenge!
Myth #3: Once teachers have their degree, they don’t need to learn anything new.
Getting a teaching degree is the first step to becoming a teacher but it is certainly not the last. In Washington State, once you earn your degree and pass your tests, you are awarded with a residency certificate that is valid for 3 years. During that time, the goal is to earn a continuing contract where you then renew your residency certificate every 5 years. In order to renew your certificate, teachers must have at least 100 clock hours and complete the STEM renewal requirements. Clock hours are earned through professional development trainings, seminars, online workshops, etc. Clock hours also help teachers earn credits and move up on the pay scale. This means that teachers are consistently taking classes, participating in book studies, attending trainings, etc., to further develop their knowledge and teaching practices. Many teachers are in this profession because they enjoy learning and enjoy growing. And think about it – in March teachers were required to drop everything they knew and were comfortable with and learn how to teach kids remotely in a matter of days. If this isn’t resilience I don’t know what is.
Myth #4: Teaching is easy because teachers just teach the same thing each year.
To me, one of the most amazing things about being a teacher is that each year is so different. Different kids. Different families. Different learning styles. Different behaviors. Different strengths. Different struggles. No two years are ever alike. One year I had a student who came into 2nd grade not knowing his letters and sounds. The following year I had a student reading at a 5th grade reading level. Another year I had a student who didn’t speak English and a different year I had a student who didn’t speak at all (selective mutism). These are only a few of the many examples of how each year is so very different (just think about Spring 2019 to Spring 2020 – WOW!). Teachers are constantly adjusting their practice and their instruction to meet the direct needs of their students for that particular year. This skill is far from easy.
Myth #5: Anyone can become a teacher.
This one really causes me to pause. Anyone can become a teacher? Anyone? I hear people say this all the time. Or there’s that other saying, ‘Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach.’ In my experience, those who say this have never actually been in a classroom before and have no idea what it is like. To me, it’s not just about the what you are teaching. Sure, many people could teach a child how to add numbers – But what if that child has a learning disability? Or has a hard home life and can’t concentrate at school? What do you do if the child recently lost a family member and is acting out in the classroom? It’s not just about the what you are teaching but more importantly it’s about the how. How you interact with your students. How you model the behaviors that you want the kids to exhibit. How you teach young 7 and 8 years old to collaborate. To communicate. To have empathy. To show generosity. To demonstrate teamwork. To show kindness to one another. Anyone can spew out facts, but few can be called a teacher.
Teaching isn’t just a job, it’s a lifestyle – a calling. And those of us who do it and do it well can’t imagine doing anything else!