My local newspaper has a blog on its web site that is all about education. Every time I look at the comment section, I see the ignorance of the general public. They think this job is easy. We get summers off. We get breaks. We don't have to produce results. Its hard to get fired. Honestly, there is a sliver of truth to some of those. (For example, it is hard to get fired) In reality though, this is one of the hardest jobs there is.
The business world is hard, but when you compare it directly to teaching high school, I think many would choose the business world. Let's start with something somewhat positive. As a high school teacher, you do get to see the highest of highs. You get to see kids achieve, and work towards there dream, but most of the time you only get to see it for a few short months. It's also tough to get the full story when you can teach almost 200 kids a year. If you are a manger in the business world, you get to see people achieve there dream, but for the most part you get to spend more than 8 months with them. You get that satisfaction that you made a difference in that person's life. To get that satisfaction as a high school teacher, you have to depend on students coming back to talk with you and share their success. While I have had plenty of students do that over the years, a brief conversation does not supplement the hands on experience and view of a business leader.
Now, lets debunk a huge myth, GOOD TEACHERS DO NOT TAKE SUMMERS OFF! A master teacher is always trying to improve, and that includes the summer. Good teachers are partaking in professional development opportunities and starting to plan for the next school year. This has become even more of a must as the use of technology becomes more prevalent. Technology always needs legwork. You can not start a school year without any plans, and the one week of pre-planning we get at the beginning of the school year is a farce. It's filled with meetings and other things with very little time for planning. Are there teachers that take the whole summer off? Yes, but they are usually the ones that stink. If you think of this in business terms, they just call our planning and improvement stage a "break" while the business world calls it work.
While there are always exceptions to the rule, people who work in the business world also have better hours for better pay. In an office setting, many work 9-5. As a teacher, you are always working. There is no leaving this job at the office. You are constantly planning and assessing assignments outside of the classroom, because in reality you only have an hour and a half each day to do the most labor intensive part of the job. You also never work a true 9-5. You get to school by 7:30, and if you coach, you don't leave the school till past 6. On nights of games or matches, you could leave the school as late as 9 or 10. You do all of this because it's the job, not because the pay is any good. I probably would get paid more if I worked in cubicle, and my coaching supplement works out to pennies on the dollar.
This is also an incredibly results driven business, and those results are judged by a bunch of test that don't ever tell the full story. Think about it this way. It would be like someone in business being judged by the results a person got from buying their product. In many ways, businesses are judged in this manner, but they always take in to account external factors such as the consumer using the product incorrectly. Our business never takes those factors in to account. Our students come in with all sorts of issues, that really need to be addressed by a professional therapist. I am not trained to handle issues such as neglect, abuse, and the multitude of drug problems I see every day. Those factors are not factored in with our results.
This also leads me to the point of someone in business can fire some one if they are not doing what they should be doing. I can't fire a student. So if I can't fire someone, I have to deal with problems that many in business don't. I have to try to teach kids on drugs. I have to try to teach kids who don't care. I have to try to teach kids that are only in school because its a part of their probation. I have had kids pulled out of my class and hauled off to jail. I have even taught murderers. Sound easy now?
You also have everyone and his brother interested in the results you produce, and almost all of them have a say. Think about the number of people who really have a say in what goes on in a single teachers classroom. They include the president and federal government who can withhold funding without results, state legislatures and the governor who can do the same, school boards, superintendents, administrators, parents, and even the students themselves. (in Ga students take surveys on teachers) That's a bunch of masters to answer to, and there is no real chain of command structure. These masters all have there own opinion and own programs. Many times these programs are counterproductive and put in place by politicians who have not been in classroom since they were a student many, many years ago. Would you want every stage of the government buracracy involved in your buisness decisions?
I don't want this piece to be taken as a complaint. I chose to go into this profession. I thought it would be different. I did not like the idea of sitting in an office of cubicle all day. If I had to do it all over again though, I think I would try to teach elementary school. Those kids still have their innocence. You can really change a kid's life before they get to be to far gone. The reality of it is, that by time many students get to high school they have been exposed to so much that they really need professional therapy to succeed. I can only do so much.
There will always be great kids that do awesome things, but in reality success in school starts at home. Many of the kids that succeed come from two parent households that truly care about their child's education. Many that don't come from one parent households, that are so busy trying to make ends meet that their children can get mixed up in the many negative things they are exposed to. If we really want to change the conversation we have to have an answer for this. We have to have ways to get kids with major problems professional help easily. We have to have safe places for kids to go at every age level. We can not leave this all on the teacher. We can not leave it all on a single parent who is doing there very best to make it Really, if there is anything I want you to get out of this piece, it is to quit blaming all of the education systems problems on the teacher and get us help.