As we celebrate Teacher Appreciation Week, educators around the globe will be honored for the hard work they do all year.
The extent of that hard work, however, isn't widely known to most people outside of the profession. It isn't just monitoring kids while they color and preventing food fights in the cafeteria; teaching is much more a lifestyle than merely a profession.
A Plus reached out to a number of teachers and asked them all one simple question: "What do you wish the parents of your students knew about your job?"
The answers came flooding in from teachers of every stripe: Pre-K, middle school art, high school math, a 1st-3rd grade Montessori teacher, a before-and after-school care provider, and almost everything in between. Some of the teachers worked in small, affluent schools, while others worked in rural settings, and yet others hail from over-crowded, under-funded urban schools.
Despite their diverse specialties, their responses were strikingly similar. We've sorted them into 10 main themes that capture what they wish the parents of their students knew about their job.
1. They seriously love your children as much as their own.
"Sometimes I feel like I put more effort into my students than my own kids. That's a hard thing to admit!"
"I'm so passionate about the kiddos that I find myself crying because I'm proud that this child finally wrote his name after struggling for months, or when the child who has constant behavior issues finally has a day where he controlled his body and didn't hurt his friends. Sounds cheesy, but I sometimes feel like they're all my own children and I am beaming when they achieve a goal, or defeated when we hit a rough patch."
"I pray for your kids in the evening while I'm praying for my own."
"I don't think they realize that we're not only their teacher but also their "mom" away from home. We comfort them when they're sad, hurt or sick. We praise them when they make good choices, but also have to discipline them for the not so good choices."
"I care about and love them as if they were my own children."
"I wish parents knew how much I care about their kiddos. It's all-consuming sometimes and as much as I try not to on the weekends or when I'm "out of work," they're always there."
"I really do love all the kids in my class. From the super sweet ones to the ones that test me every single day. I spend so much time thinking about what I can do better the next day/week/year. "
2. Teachers sometimes have to deal with unspeakable horrors with the kids they love so much.
"I've spent many nights crying myself to sleep over one of the little girls that was in my room. 8 years old, has been raped, given an STD, and then placed in a verbally abusive and demeaning foster home. She was recently removed from that foster home, along with her three younger brothers. They are now living with an aunt and uncle, but I'd give anything to take away her pain."
3. Their school day is longer than you'd think.
"Although the work day with students is from 8:30-3:45 it is normally 7:30-5:30 then an hour or more of grading or planning in the evening at home."
"Like most teachers, I put in above and beyond 40 hours, staying late and working weekends."
"I get to school 2 hours before my contract says I'm supposed to and leave well into the evening, after my contract states that I can leave."
"Even though I have nights, weekends, and summers "off", you can usually still find me at school or involved in professional development so that the students in my room get the best from me that they possibly can."
"As a new teacher, I would spend more than 20 hours a week preparing lessons and setting up my classroom (I got hired mid year) to give the kids a better learning experience. Now, as a veteran, I give up 10 or more hours of time per week to extra duty things, and still feel like I'm not doing enough to provide their kids with an adequate education."
4. They wish success for ALL of their students.
"When you complain about that other kid, you don't know how hard it is for me to smile and navigate through the conversation, so that I'm honoring the child whose presence is not there while at the same time giving you peace of mind. I know know KNOW that this child struggles. I know the other kids don't like it. I don't like it. And I love that kid just as much as I love every other child in my care."
"When I say your kid is awesome it's because I believe it. When I call you to talk about their behavior or effort at school it's because I believe in them that they can improve."
"I often question whether I'm good enough for the job, because I feel like the worst teacher in the world if even one kid doesn't understand my lesson."
"I give [students] assessments to find where they struggle and see what techniques might work best for each student."
5. It isn't even about the paycheck, which is good because they don't get paid a lot.
"If you work for yourself [instead of the students] there is no point in being a teacher. "
"I used to work in healthcare and was paid considerably more to do so, but the first time I stepped in a classroom I knew this was where I'm supposed to be."
"I wish [parents knew] that it is just as hard to become [a middle school art] teacher as any other teacher. I have an elementary general ed degree, an art credit, and a Master's, and could be in a much higher paying job."
6. What they do make, they put right back into the classroom.
"I'd love to [answer your question]! Let me think about it while I make this 8:30 run to the craft store so I can buy supplies for the children's Mother's Day crafts with my own money!"
"When we do cool projects, it's usually me that provides the materials."
"I've never had a paycheck that hadn't had part of it put toward my class."
7. Teachers are not the enemy of the parents. They need you on their team to help every student succeed.
"I wish parents knew that we recognize that they are doing the best that they can. If your child is struggling and there's a real issue, sensory processing for example, coming together to strategize for them is not an attack on your parenting; it's an effort to help your child get the attention, help, and skills that he needs."
"I get it that parents can't always do homework (trust me, I have kids too -I've been tempted to tell them we don't have to do their math page just that one time...). Just please please please don't skip the reading! I really CAN tell the kids who read at home from those who don't. Their growth and abilities are seriously connected to learning all those new words."
"I wish parents would understand that I do not give homework just to be a bad person [or] I want the kids to suffer; I give homework to keep them practicing their skills, and to make improvements to help them have a better future."
"I just wish parents would sit down and work with the child when they are trying to read and help them just for 15 minutes a night. Sometimes I would get messages saying that I give too much homework, and they get lots of work from other teachers, and mine is not important. [Students] working on their reading skills will help them to understand their work in other classes."
"Something that bugs me to no end is the lack of parent involvement, and then if they child does not do well, it's our fault. We cannot be around the kids all the time. We are a tag team. The parents have to help in the educational upbringing of the students, too."
8. They think of your child's well-being beyond their own classroom.
"Sometimes I think parents/guardians think in preschool we play all day and that anyone could do that job. I'd say they're wrong; playing is only a fraction of our day. We do a lot of play-based things, sure, but I'm helping to develop social skills that (I hope) will impact them in the long run.
My goal is to get kiddos excited about school and learning so that when they get to the older grades they can still find the excitement in learning instead of feeling bored and like it's a waste of time."
"I wish that parents would teach the kids that teachers are there not to make money, but to help the next generation."
9. They put the needs of your children above their own.
"I put off taking care of myself, because I know that my kids need me. There is so much [going on personally], but I can't allow myself to fall apart because I wouldn't be able to be there for the kids in my room who depend on me. They don't have anyone else in their lives that they can trust."
10. In spite of all of the challenges, they do the job because they love it.
"Teaching has to be one of the most heart breaking professions. I would also argue one of the most rewarding as well...not in monetary measurements, but in every other way that truly matters."
"I love [teaching Kindergarten]! Those kids are like my own, and they are so funny!"
"I spend almost every waking moment doing something for or thinking about school/my students."
It's okay if you can't give your child's teacher a day at the spa or some other extravagant gift, but please reach out to them and let he or she know how much you appreciate their hard work as they help raise your child.
[Header image credit: Klobetime]