Top 8 Reasons Non-Teachers Can Never Understand Our Job

Or, Why Nobody Enters Teaching Just for the Vacations

Teacher with papers
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Believe it or not, I once had an older family member approach me at a party and say, “Oh, I want my son to talk to you about teaching because he wants a career that’s easy and not stressful.” I don’t even remember my response to this illogical and bizarre comment, but obviously this lady’s cluelessness made a major impression on me. I’m still confounded by this idea even ten years after the incident occurred.

You may have been on the receiving end of similar comments, such as:

  • You’re so lucky to have so much vacation time, especially summers off. Teachers have it so easy!
  • You only have 20 students in your class. That’s not so bad!
  • It must be so easy to teach elementary school. The children don’t have attitudes when they’re so young.

All of these ignorant and annoying comments just go to show that people who aren’t in education simply can’t understand all of the work that goes into being a classroom teacher. Even many administrators seem to have forgotten about all of the trials and tribulations we face on the front lines of education.

Summers Aren’t Enough Recovery Time

I do believe that every teacher appreciates our vacation times. However, I know from experience that a summer vacation isn’t nearly enough time to recover (emotionally and physically) from the rigors of a typical school year. Similar to childbirth and moving houses, only time away can offer the necessary respite (and memory failure) that allows us to gather the strength and optimism required to attempt teaching anew in the fall.

Besides, summers are shrinking and many teachers use this valuable time to earn advanced degrees and attend training courses.

In the Primary Grades, We Deal With Gross Bathroom-related Issues

Even a high school teacher could never understand some of the crises related to bodily functions that a typical K-3 teacher has to deal with on a regular basis.

Potty accidents (and more instances too disgusting to reiterate here) are something that we can’t shy away from. I’ve had third grade students who still wear diapers and let me tell you – it’s stinky. Is there any amount of money or vacation time worth cleaning up vomit from the classroom floor with your own two hands?

We’re Not Just Teachers

The word “teacher” just doesn’t cover it. We’re also nurses, psychologists, recess monitors, social workers, parental counselors, secretaries, copy machine mechanics, and almost literally parents, in some instances, to our students. If you’re in a corporate setting, you can say, “That’s not in my job description.” When you’re a teacher, you have to be ready for everything and anything to be thrown at you on a given day.

And there’s no turning it down.

Everything’s Always Our Fault

Parents, principals, and society in general blame teachers for every problem under the sun. We pour our hearts and souls into teaching and 99.99% of teachers are the most generous, ethical, and competent workers you can find. We have the best of intentions in a messed-up education system. But somehow we still get the blame. But we keep teaching and trying to make a difference.

Our Job is Really Serious 

When there’s a mistake or a problem, it’s often heart-breaking and important. In the corporate world, a glitch might mean a spreadsheet needs to be redone or a little money was wasted. But in education, the problems go much deeper: a child lost on a field trip, students lamenting parents in jail, a little girl sexually assaulted on the walk home from school, a boy being raised by his great-grandmother because everyone else in his life abandoned him.

These are true stories that I’ve had to witness. The pure human pain gets to you after awhile, especially if you’re a teacher out to fix everything. We can’t fix everything and that makes the problems we witness hurt all the more.

Work Outside the School Day

Sure, school only lasts 5-6 hours per day. But that’s all we’re paid for and the job is constant. Our homes are cluttered with work and we stay up til all hours grading papers and preparing for future lessons. Many of us take phone calls and emails from parents during our “personal” time. The problems of the day weigh heavy on our minds all night and all weekend.

Zero Flexibility When You’re a Classroom Teacher

When you work in an office, you can simply call in sick when you wake up unexpectedly ill on a given morning. But, it’s extremely hard to be absent from work when you are a teacher, especially if it happens without notice or at the last minute.

It can take several hours to prepare the lesson plans for a substitute teacher which hardly seems worth it when you’re only going to be absent for five or six hours of classroom time. You might as well just go teach the class yourself, right?

And don't forget the last one...

Teaching is Physically and Emotionally Taxing

To put it bluntly: Since bathroom breaks are hard to come by, it’s said that teachers have the highest incidences of urinary and colon problems. There are also issues with varicose veins from having to stand all day. Plus, all of the above difficulty factors, combined with the isolated nature of being the only adult in a self-contained classroom, make the job especially grueling over the long term.

So for all you non-teachers out there, keep these factors in mind the next time you envy a teacher for her summers off or feel the urge to say something about teachers having it easy. There are some things about the profession that only teachers can understand, but hopefully this little gripe session has shed some light on the true nature of the job!

And now that we’ve got most of the complaints out of the way, keep an eye out for a future article that will celebrate the positive side of teaching!

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Lewis, Beth. "Top 8 Reasons Non-Teachers Can Never Understand Our Job." ThoughtCo, May. 16, 2017, thoughtco.com/reasons-why-people-dont-understand-teachers-2081540. Lewis, Beth. (2017, May 16). Top 8 Reasons Non-Teachers Can Never Understand Our Job. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/reasons-why-people-dont-understand-teachers-2081540 Lewis, Beth. "Top 8 Reasons Non-Teachers Can Never Understand Our Job." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/reasons-why-people-dont-understand-teachers-2081540 (accessed December 13, 2017).