Saturday, July 01, 2017

Why do you respect teachers?

An attempt to stimulate a re-examination of why you appreciate and respect teachers....

It's not your fault- you just don't know... I didn't know- when I was in secondary school, when I was in college, even as a first year teacher- the art of teaching is grossly underestimated. I remember respecting teachers and their profession- they manage 20+ kids all day long while imparting as much knowledge to them as possible- and they try to make it fun. Yes- this sounds noble and worthy of respect and this is why most people will tell you that they support teachers... but what they don't understand is that this barely scratches the surface. 

Stop for a moment to consider the amount of money a "decent" public speaker charges. Imagine that this person speaks for about an hour and uses some form of a slide show as visual aids. 

A good teacher "speaks" to a group multiple times throughout the day - but not for too long at one time because research shows that attention spans are lower in children- not to mention, we consider that even within one age group, children have different capabilities of paying attention. A good teacher also takes into account that speaking to a group is only one way to disseminate information. Many teachers prepare by creating videos of themselves so students can watch the video at their own pace and stop and rewind if they need to. Some teachers create some form of a "hyperdoc" ( to guide students through the content of the lesson- with embedded links to other websites and videos. Collecting these resources and designing them in a way that is meaningful to students is very time consuming. 

In addition to planning, designing and preparing the presentation of content, good teachers find engaging, fun and challenging ways for students to manipulate the content- writing assignments, projects, hands-on manipulatives- all of these, and many more, are carefully considered- which of these activities will enable my students to be most successful? We also like to give our students choice because the same activity won't be best for every student... and we have to consider that our students are each on different levels of understanding with each specific objective, and we attempt to scaffold our activities so our kids can work at a level that is just challenging enough without making them feel defeated before they begin. Choosing, designing and creating these manipulatives take time. 

Next, it is important that we assess our students to determine if they are able to master objectives based on the way we designed and presented the content. A good teacher spends a lot of time designing the assessment as well. Writing assessment questions is an art in itself. A true/false answer gives a student a 50% chance of guessing it right- this may not be the best way for me to determine if the student really understands the content. Questions and performance-based tasks are carefully crafted to give us the most accurate picture of what our kids understand and what they can do. 

Then, we must determine if something needs to be re-taught and why students didn't learn it the first time. This requires teachers to be humble. We have to accept that somewhere in our carefully crafted plans, there is something that we missed or something that didn't work, and we have to redesign a piece of the lesson. 


Most people are unaware of the amount of time teachers spend working behind the scene of the classroom. It is possible to work on some of this while my students are working independently and yes- sometimes I have to do that because I've fallen behind... but when I do, it robs my students of valuable individual time with me that will make the biggest impact on their success. 

I wrote all of this just to inform the average person of the unseen challenges of this profession. I know that most appreciate that I manage large classes of (in my case) high school students, that I am patient with them, that I attempt to teach them life lessons and all of that other truly important stuff, but many people aren't aware of what goes on behind the scenes. 

My job is very challenging and I love it. Designing and prepping lessons, materials and assessments requires creativity and high level thinking from me. I love the kids I teach and they motivate me to give them my best. I know most people respect teachers... I just want to add to WHY they are respected. 

And... in an effort to also address other stigmas or stereotypes ... I am an art teacher.