Recently posted on Quora
I'm in the middle of my 9th year teaching and as my career has progressed I've been slowly coming to the realization of the following:
Overall that sounds great, but when you take a look at how much money, time, and effort we allocate towards educating our students, it feels disheartening. Even more so when we look at our comparisons to other countries. (PISA Results) When teachers see results like this, we feel responsible for the failures of our students and feel like we are letting our nation down. We know there is improvement, but it is slow and some times hard to quantify. When I worked in construction, the job was done when the roof was complete and you could see tangible results. With teaching, you often wonder regardless of test scores and projects whether you really taught your students anything.
As to point number two, I have found that the most difficult part of my day is the number of instructional hours I have with my students compared to my counterparts in other countries. There are different statistics about the amount of time, here is the most recent critique of the common statistic being thrown around of 30–65%, saying we have about 10–15% more instructional hours on average, but I would be a better teacher if I only taught 4 classes instead of 6. It’s very difficult to hit a home run 6 class periods in a row. I’m not, and most of my colleagues are not capable of doing so.
I could then use that time to analyze student work, plan lessons, provide feedback to students, and to observe other teachers in the classroom to gain insight on how to improve my practice.
To point number 3, there are so many factors that affect student learning outside of my personal control and some times is very frustrating. On a daily basis, the entire session of my 7th period class can be impacted by whether or not Josh got enough sleep, is fed, and did not have any altercations with fellow classmates during PE from the period before.
I use this anecdotally to display how schools are made of students who are people who have real lives, emotions, and behaviors. Motivating a person and incentivizing them to do well is difficult to do with individuals from diverse backgrounds and life experiences. What works for one student may not for another. Students have effects on their peers and the environment around them. I do not control any of those factors, but must maintain my professionalism and teach the students as they are in my classroom.
Finally, it is a very difficult profession and we need highly motivated and intelligent people to join the ranks and get in the classroom. I presume it is has many challenges similar to other professions and you’ll have to weigh the advantages and disadvantages if you are looking to enter the profession. That being said, it definitely has its perks. Teaching is challenging, fun, eye-opening, engaging, meaningful and with purpose. Not to mention, I’m writing this from my couch sipping coffee because of Winter Break. Happy Holidays!