By Erin D’Addio
When people ask me what I do for a living I usually get one of two responses. The first response is usually like, “Oh you’re a teacher! Teachers do so much and they deserve much more in pay!” or “My mom was a teacher, she worked so hard, but loved every minute of it!” The first response usually develops into a wonderful conversation about my students and the demands of the job. These people get it and I don’t have to explain how difficult my job is. The second response I get goes something like, “Ohhhh, better you than me!” Or “That’s nice! You have it made, summers and holidays off, plus all you do is hang out with kids all day.” These are the people I’d like to invite into my classroom for a week. These are the people that usually vote against anything educational during election time. These are the people that are holding us back as a country.
I am in my classroom most days at 6:30 AM. It’s not because I have to be but because I want to be. I need that time to get ready for my students. There are activities to prepare, desks to straighten and sanitize, papers to grade, copies to make, and books to select. I unload a bag that I bring home every night–a bag that has the same magical and mysterious elements as Mary Poppins’ bag. Inside holds all the work I did at home the night before. Yes, that’s right, I said night! I get paid for 8 hours of work, but I put 12 hours each day into my job. When the students arrive at 7:30, I’m still putting the finishing touches together for the day. I stop what I’m doing, greet my students and attend to all issues that may have come up between the time they left me the day before till now. I am checking their homework, putting in their new homework, checking their reading log, giving them a reading test, explaining the morning work, and usually solving an issue for my grade level. Oh, I forgot to tell you, I’m also the team leader for all first grade teachers at my school. This all occurs before 8AM! The rest of my day is filled with reading, writing, math, science, social studies, assessments, behavior management, filling out paperwork for a student who may or may not qualify for special services, answering phone calls from parents, conferencing with administration or other teachers, checking emails, meeting with evaluators who come into the classroom to evaluate me, finding resources to share with my teachers for the meeting after school, putting data into a computer program, planning for the next day or next week….this list could go on and on, but I hope you get the idea. All of this and more go into being a teacher.
Teaching is not a job, it’s a lifestyle. I put all of the time and effort into it because I love to teach and think it is one of the most important professions someone can have. Somewhere, in my 10 years of teaching, I realized that I will always be cutting out a pattern for an art project while watching CSI or reading an article on the next biggest thing to come out of educational research while on the beach. I have also learned to put down the scissors and educational magazines to enjoy time with my friends and family. That pattern will get cut out, that article will get read, but balancing my life is important as well. Oh, and to that man or woman out there who still think teaching is a cake walk, let me know when you’d like to come in for a visit!
P.S. Teachers do not get paid during the summer,winter break, Thanksgiving break, or Spring Break. It is one of the only professions out there that does not provide its full-time employees with a paid vacation. In fact, teachers who choose to have their pay divided up over 12 months (where money is held for distribution over the summer months) are essentially giving an interest free loan to their county. They do not receive any of the interest earned in escrow.