Teaching is hard, no doubt about it.
We’ve got to make a zillion decisions each day (see The Best Research On How Many Decisions A Teacher Makes Each Day).
We are often made responsible for impacting 100 percent of student learning when, in fact, we can only affect one-third of it (see The Best Places To Learn What Impact A Teacher (& Outside Factors) Have On Student Achievement).
We have be mental health para-professionals on a daily basis, work regularly to shield our students from the bad decisions made by our central offices, and constantly have to pay for needed supplies out of our own pockets (see The Best Data On How Much Money Teachers Pay Out Of Their Own Pocket – What Do You Spend?).
Many have to be concerned about attacks on our teaching from parents and community members, like this teacher who had a police report filed on her for sharing an LGBTQ-themed book to her class earlier this week.
Since practically everyone has spent twelve years in school as a student (researcher Mary Kennedy estimates it totals up to 12,000 hours in a classroom), many nonteachers believe they are experts in what we do, which can make our jobs even more difficult.
All these challenges can get to many of us, including me, after awhile.
For some of us, they can lead to burn-out.
For others, to organizing for better conditions and compensation.
Sometimes, it can lead to hyperbole.
Like when the Teach For America former scientist wrote about Teaching Isn’t Rocket Science. It’s Harder.
Or, take this quote from the very respected educational psychologist Lee Shulman, included in British educator Peps Mccrea’s recent top-notch newsletter that provided a very insightful summary of why teaching looks easy to so many non-teachers:
“After some 30 years… I have concluded that classroom teaching is the most demanding, subtle, nuanced, and frightening activity that our species has ever invented… the only time medicine ever approaches the complexity of an average day for a classroom teacher is in an emergency room during a natural disaster.”
Teaching is, indeed, hard.
I just don’t think it serves people in any profession, including ours, when they claim that their profession is the hardest, or most-demanding, job out there.
I think it’s better, instead, to lead with humility about our work (while demanding adequate support and compensation for it), lead with acknowledgment of the challenges faced – and strengths exhibited – by our students and their families, and lead with an unrelenting focus to fight in support of our communities.
Listening to the challenges faced by parents of my students, including a Hmong flute-maker, a migrant farmworker, a refugee parent of nine children, an emergency room nurse, and many more, lead me to believe that their work is equally hard, if not far more difficult, than mine.
Larry, I have to agree with you. Leading with humility is our best defense. Thank you for your countless hours helping us improve our work in a fulfilling profession.