If you are anything like me, you have run into a lot of people who tell you that teaching must be easy. They say things like, “I’ve thought about teaching, after I’m done working” or “How hard can it be?” or “I don’t know why you’re so busy all the time; you’re just a teacher.”
Can we just be honest with our collective teaching selves? Teaching is hard, time-consuming, and, all too often, downright brutal. It’s not for the weak of spirit, and there is a reason that 50% of new teachers do not make it through the first five years on the job. While I’d like to believe that those 50% fall into the category of going into teaching thinking it was an easy gig, there has to be a better way to keep new teachers in the profession.
The reason people who have never taught a day in a classroom think teaching is so easy is most likely they have had master teachers themselves who took this trade and made it look easy and natural. Nothing could be further from the truth: The first five years of teaching are awkward, require countless hours, and can make any teaching initiate feel inadequately prepared to face each day.
But what is worse than those who are merely ignorant is that we often cut ourselves short. We do not admit to each other how tired and overworked we feel. We put unlimited effort into making sure the students are learning, that they feel supported, that they feel welcomed in our classroom. But shouldn’t we be doing that for each other as well?
There is a lot of stated, and unstated, pressure on those of us in the teaching profession. We have to be everything and anything to our students — teacher, mentor, leader, sometimes parent, sometimes disciplinarian. We have to fulfill the requirements of our sites, our districts, and even our government. We collect date, we test, we write summaries and self assessments. We spend our weekends grading and writing lesson plans that are completely aligned with the the curriculum and the standards. We are expected to serve all of our students and to meet each of their individual special needs, attend all meetings, and keep records of everything that happens in and outside of our classes.
There are few moments to stop, to take stock of what we are doing, and to give ourselves much-needed self-care. It should be no wonder that new teachers burn out at a rate of one in two. We need to be honest with each other and with ourselves. We are a community, brothers and sisters of education, and we owe it to each other to step back and assess how we can better support each other. We owe it to ourselves to take care of our colleagues.
So, the next time a friend suggests that teaching is so easy, anyone could do it, hit them with one of these suggestions:
Try holding 35 corks under water. At one time.
Have 100 balls thrown at you all at one time. Catch them all.
Nail jello to a wall.
Take up cat herding; it’s easier than teaching.