Teachers today have it pretty easy. Their students are typically all in the same grade level, and they get to teach with more support and tools than ever before. They even get to teach in the air conditioning and in buildings with decent heating (in most schools), which is something teachers a few decades ago could only dream about. The technical and logistical aspects of a teacher’s day seem better than they were years ago, but there are still some significant challenges that you might not see from the outside looking in.
First, teachers’ can’t go to the restroom whenever they want. You can’t just leave your classroom of twenty or more kids unattended when you need to make use of the facilities. You have to get on the walkie-talkie, or intercom, cell phone, or whatever device you have to use to call administration or a nice teacher’s aide to watch your class for you for a few minutes. Then you have to wait for someone to actually be available and come to your classroom. . .
Additionally, classrooms can be crowded, and then they can be overcrowded. You don’t always have the right number of textbooks, desks, or the proper number of personal square feet for each one. Having that many students just highlights the fact that they are on levels for each subject. There are also different learning styles, preferences, reading levels, English language learner support, intervention support schedules and tools, individualized education plan meetings and paperwork. . .
Teaching isn’t all about reading, writing, and arithmetic. It’s about juggling before- and after-school meetings, planning times, time to scarf down lunch, grading that follows you home, coaching after-school clubs, and dealing with a whole host of problems that parents and the wider community may not see.
So the next time you see a teacher you know, you might ask how you could help. Could you come in and read with a struggling reader one day, cut out lamination at home for the teacher, make some phone calls to other parents to organize a field trip? Some help would probably be really appreciated and help the whole class of students succeed.
L. Hughes-Page, M.Ed.
L. Hughes Page is a Field Supervisor to student teachers in the Graduate Department of Education at Gwynedd Mercy University.