The Teachers

by Sarah Blaine

We all know what teachers do, right? After all, we were all students. Each one of us, each product of public education, we each sat through class after class for thirteen years. We encountered dozens of teachers. We had our kindergarten teachers and our first grade teachers and our fifth grade teachers and our gym teachers and our art teachers and our music teachers. We had our science teachers and our social studies teachers and our English teachers and our math teachers. If we were lucky, we might even have had our Latin teachers or our Spanish teachers or our physics teachers or our psychology teachers. Heck, I even had a seventh grade “Communications Skills” teacher. We had our guidance counselors and our principals and some of us had our special education teachers and our study hall monitors.

So we know teachers. We get teachers. We know what happens in classrooms, and we know what teachers do. We know which teachers are effective, we know which teachers left lasting impressions, we know which teachers changed our lives, and we know which teachers sucked.  

We know.  We know which teachers changed lives for the better.  We know which teachers changed lives for the worse.

Teaching as a profession has no mystery. It has no mystique. It has no respect.

We were students, and therefore we know teachers. We denigrate teachers. We criticize teachers. We can do better than teachers. After all: We do. They teach.

We are wrong.

We need to honor teachers. We need to respect teachers. We need to listen to teachers. We need to stop reducing teachers to arbitrary measurements of student growth on so-called objective exams.

Most of all, we need to stop thinking that we know anything about teaching merely by virtue of having once been students.

We don’t know.

I spent a little over a year earning a master of arts in teaching degree. Then I spent two years teaching English Language Arts in a rural public high school. And I learned that my 13 years as a public school student, my 4 years as a college student at a highly selective college, and even a great deal of my year as a masters degree student in the education school of a flagship public university hadn’t taught me how to manage a classroom, how to reach students, how to inspire a love of learning, how to teach. Eighteen years as a student (and a year of preschool before that), and I didn’t know shit about teaching. Only years of practicing my skills and honing my skills would have rendered me a true professional. An expert. Someone who knows about the business of inspiring children. Of reaching students. Of making a difference. Of teaching.

I didn’t stay. I copped out. I left. I went home to suburban New Jersey, and a year later I enrolled in law school.

I passed the bar. I began to practice law at a prestigious large law firm. Three years as a law student had no more prepared me for the practice of law than 18 years of experience as a student had previously prepared me to teach. But even in my first year as a practicing attorney, I earned five times what a first year teacher made in the district where I’d taught.
I worked hard in my first year of practicing law. But I didn’t work five times harder than I’d worked in my first year of teaching. In fact, I didn’t work any harder. Maybe I worked a little less.

But I continued to practice. I continued to learn. Nine years after my law school graduation, I think I have some idea of how to litigate a case. But I am not a perfect lawyer. There is still more I could learn, more I could do, better legal instincts I could develop over time. I could hone my strategic sense. I could do better, be better. Learn more law. Learn more procedure. But law is a practice, law is a profession. Lawyers are expected to evolve over the course of their careers. Lawyers are given more responsibility as they earn it.

New teachers take on full responsibility the day they set foot in their first classrooms.

The people I encounter out in the world now respect me as a lawyer, as a professional, in part because the vast majority of them have absolutely no idea what I really do.

All of you former students who are not teachers and not lawyers, you have no more idea of what it is to teach than you do of what it is to practice law.

All of you former students: you did not design curricula, plan lessons, attend faculty meetings, assess papers, design rubrics, create exams, prepare report cards, and monitor attendance. You did not tutor students, review rough drafts, and create study questions. You did not assign homework. You did not write daily lesson objectives on the white board. You did not write poems of the week on the white board. You did not write homework on the white board. You did not learn to write legibly on the white board while simultaneously making sure that none of your students threw a chair out a window. 

You did not design lessons that succeeded. You did not design lessons that failed. 

You did not learn to keep your students quiet during lock down drills.

You did not learn that your 15 year old students were pregnant from their answers to vocabulary quizzes. You did not learn how to teach functionally illiterate high school students to appreciate Shakespeare. You did not design lessons to teach students close reading skills by starting with the lyrics to pop songs. You did not miserably fail your honors level students at least in part because you had no books to give them. You did not struggle to teach your students how to develop a thesis for their essays, and bask in the joy of having taught a successful lesson, of having gotten through to them, even for five minutes. You did not struggle with trying to make SAT-level vocabulary relevant to students who did not have a single college in their county. You did not laugh — because you so desperately wanted to cry — when you read some of the absurdities on their final exams. You did not struggle to reach students who proudly announced that they only came to school so that their mom’s food stamps didn’t get reduced.

You did not spend all of New Years’ Day crying five years after you’d left the classroom because you reviewed the New York Times’ graphic of soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan and learned that one of your very favorite students had been killed in Iraq two years before. And you didn’t know. Because you copped out and left. So you cried, helplessly, and the next day you returned to the practice of law.

You did not. And you don’t know. You observed. Maybe you learned. But you didn’t teach.

The problem with teaching as a profession is that every single adult citizen of this country thinks that they know what teachers do. And they don’t. So they prescribe solutions, and they develop public policy, and they editorialize, and they politicize. And they don’t listen to those who do know. Those who could teach. The teachers. 

240 thoughts on “The Teachers

    1. This article is B/S. Home schooled children score 15-30% higher than public school children and go on and do better in college. It has nothing to do with a teaching degree..

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      1. This is not a comparison between home schooling and public schooling. It is merely an observation that teaching is harder than most people think it is. Home schooling and public schooling are completely different concepts, and while both result in student learning, home schooling is one-on-one and does not require attention to be spent on the myriad other thingsschool-based teachers are asked to do/consider/conform to/etc. I am a HS English teacher, and I don’t for a second assume I am smarter and better equipped to teach a student than anyone else, but I know I am better prepared to deal with the struggles of teaching 25-35 kids at a time in a school environment. It’s not a shock that homeschooled kids may score higher. So do students who have tutors. Unfortunately, not all students have the luxury of one-on-one education, and we teachers are doing the best that we can.

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      2. This a truly obtuse comment. What you’re claiming here about home schooled kids is specious and very misleading.

        Well-prepared research studies, with peer review show results that are quite different from the very dubious

        You’re (deliberately?) confusing hoary anecdotes that compare a well-educated parent who has the time, the ability, the inclination and the economic circumstances to teach usually 1 to 3 of their own sons or daughters in a home that is adequate for such purposes—with a teacher who has the responsibility for 25 to 35 children of various abilities and backgrounds.

        And that’s just part of what is wrong with this profoundly mendacious post of yours. It would take hours that I don’t have to specify all of the many things you’ve gotten wrong here.

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      3. Your comment shows a lack of understanding, to be sure. I know a number of children who were home schooled for a range of years (from 3 to 8 years) who then entered the public school system. The parents took their work home schooling very seriously. Both the parents and the children in each of the families were happy with their public school years and the children did extremely well. I also know of children who were home schooled through the 12th grade and couldn’t write the high school graduation exam successfully. Each situation is different. But, for you to say the article has no merit (I’m refusing to use your terminology here) shows your ignorance.

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      4. Your point is irrelevant to this discussion. Furthermore, it only proves Sarah’s thesis in that you have no idea what teachers do. So, thanks for doing that, dumbass.

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      5. I am a college professor and have watched the public school system crumble for the last 40 years. Recently, I picked up a friend’s children from a public school and observed – five teachers, seven aids, a secretary and a principle in a middle school building with five classrooms. Teachers are overworked with a teacher’s aid by their side???? Grief….It has become commonplace for teachers to whine and bellyache. Graduating public school seniors cannot fill out a simple college application or job application..I won’t even mention math. I teach because I love it. I don’ complain about the room being to cold or to hot. I don’t care if a Dean breathes down my neck…..I teach….Complaints, I have done. I love what I do.

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      6. Home school kids have a GREAT student to teacher ratio! I’d take that anyday, THEN watch how high my kids would soar! You are comparing oranges to apples!

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      7. Home schooling is no schooling. It’s a prescription for ignorance and prejudice. If you home-schooled your children I feel sorry for them. They should divorce you for immoral separation from society.

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  1. sometimes in life, you leave a profession, you are not ready for, maybe someday in the future you will reconsider on another level and come back. thank you for writing about our profession, i am sick of listening to idiot politicians dissecting us as if are some special bug type or union addicts. I am sick of the press treating us like we are either saints or slaves. thanks.

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      1. My wife and I met each other when we were completing out education. Myself in law school, she finishing up her teaching degree. So I guess you could say we are living mirror lives. Now both teachers, our conversations around the dinner table no longer involve me trying to explain the Rule Against Perpetuities, but rather our frustration with standardized testing. We now teach internationally in China at an expat private school. What a world of difference.

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      2. Like David Murff (below February 24, 2014), my wife and I taught in an international school in the Middle East for three years. What a refreshing change to be out of the country and away from the pressures of being a public school teacher in the States at that time. Much to our chagrin, the demands expected of public school teachers today have worsened since our return. Yet we still enjoy our students.

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  2. Beautiful piece.
    Thank you so much for taking the time to write this. I’m still a student and you do know what you are talking about. I was just like the bumptious student you described.

    For now and then I want to learn how to truly ach. Thank you.

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  3. I teach fifth grade. I have been teaching for 20 years. Thank you for sharing. I really appreciate your comments. It is wonderful to know that someone knows.

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  4. Sarah, I loved this so much. My first job was at a boarding school, but being a graduate of one didn’t prepare me AT ALL for working at one. I’m thrilled this post is going viral.

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  5. I taught for 10 years before throwing in the towel. Went back to school and after 4 1/2 grueling years graduated with my D.C. degree. Went into practice and stayed nine years before returning to the ranks of the poor. Yes, I returned to teaching and haven’t looked back. That was 20 years ago. I became eligible to retire last year, but will probably stay for another five or six, hoping to give one or two more students the love of sciences that I have.

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    1. Actually, not all teachers are unionized. Most urban areas, like Chicago, are unionized. I teach in Missouri, and we are not unionized. We do have tenure, but, without a union, that just means we have the right to a hearing with the school board before we are fired. Not every school is like the schools in “Waiting for Superman.” Where I teach, there are no teachers that can’t be fired, and we have no union representation at all.

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  6. I’m sort of the opposite. Went to law school. Passed the bar. Recieved a short term clerkship at local courts for $ 36,000 per year little benefits.Then couldn’nt find job in law field for three years. Waited tables, starbucks, bartended, even painted houses. WAS about $65,0000 in debt. Finally went back to school got my teaching credentials and teach in public schools and coach. Love it. Not getting rich, but do allright and paying down debt and working jobs in summertime and can still utilizie my law degree for quick consults. Currently making about $48,000 better than law clerking and I get better benefits and … a pension. Some teachers in my district make almost $80,000 and are doing quite well. Some are married teachers making about $120 to 150,000 household and get the same days and summers off as their kids… not a bad gig. Teaching can be hard but I guess if you love it like I do, its not that hard, it beats working the 3 jobs I had to hold down and paiting and roofing in summer, now that’s hard thankless backbreaking mental numbness and pressured work that pays squat. We should all be greatful of our professional jobs and not whine or complain or expect anymore than a paycheck and the fact that hopefully we can make a difference.

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    1. Thank you so much for sharing your story, TeacherJD. Neither teaching nor law are easy professions, and I was very fortunate to graduate from law school at a time and with the grades to land a well-compensated legal position. Many, many of my law school classmates were not nearly so fortunate; and I can’t even imagine what would have happened if I’d graduated a few years later…

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  7. To teacherjd. We need more teachers like you that like there job and don’t whine about it. I respect most teachers but not all, as in most professions including business, law, even healthcare and even doctors. I think you are more representative of law students – in debt and can’t find a job @and unlike the author Sarah exteacher turn lawyer do not make five times um here in Michigan that would be about $200,000 per year first year. Unless you wre a Harvard Law or Top 14 tier and top of your class, and 70 hour work weeks under the gun 52 weeks out of the year not realistic, not typical at law. And 3 years of law school at a decent school is way the heck more longer intense and expensive than 36 credit hours of teaching masters. Everyone teacher gets in and never met one that hasnt, and hasnt passed and received their masters unlike a JD degree at a even semi selective Tier 1 school. Teachers do not have it that bad and most retire quite confortably. I have a neighbor Tulane Law still paying student loans after being here 8 years and doesnt make anymore at his small law firm than my husband who works on tool and die about $65,000 with some overtime. Someday Im sure he will but sounds like an awful job andd abuse to chase that carrot dangle for jr. partner that probably end up with the senior partrtners fresh out of law school getting it instead. I’d rather be a teacher with a pension and all those days off than playing corporate games or always worrying about being laid off and no pension.

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    1. It’s my experience that there are pros and cons to both fields, and I was very fortunate to graduate from law school at a time and with the grades to obtain a terrific job straight out of law school. It is certainly true that many of my classmates were not nearly so lucky — and we graduated at the start of the last boom (and before the legal profession tanked along with the economy).

      You also do make a good point about the relative salaries: certainly the salary I was paid in rural Maine was very low compared to starting salaries for teachers in many other parts of the country; it makes for good rhetoric, but it is true that I moved from a very low cost of living community to a very high cost of living community, and that is reflected in the 5 times number (which is an accurate number).

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  8. I see the pont you are trying to make but yiu have to realize that teachers are not the only one’s that teach. Parents teach. Many employers teach. Hospitals teach. Like you said blog, after all that learning in school about teaching you still didn’t know in your classy words “sh*t”. Which was taught by guess who, high education teachers. And many of these after high school and college employers can’t believe how little these graduates know and either have their work cut out or perhaps they are not cut out for that particular job. Not to mention dealing with those same lot you described with the low testing scores. As a private industry worker and as a community college part-time educator, I think its short sighted that only k -12 public school teachers know what its about and a teacher is not the only ones who deal with the pain and suffering of a young student or young employee or exmployee that has greived for an enlisted ccasualty or had to deal and offer aid and support to their families. Even in your current law profession many do pro bono work or help less fortunate clients and victims of crimes. Its all how you approach your life ij how you approach your job.

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    1. I appreciate your comments, and hope to address some of them in future posts. Although I am of course thrilled with and thankful for all of the exposure this piece has gotten, it is unfortunate that it came out before I had the time to write some other pieces: I think there is a lot of nuance out there (far more than I could convey in this one piece). But thank you for taking the time to comment.

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  9. Here here!!!!! Well said. My husband is a special Ed teacher. Like all great teachers, he is a teacher for many reasons. Money not being one of them. I believe teaching is a calling, much like becoming a priest. I happen to be a nurse in a Neonatal ICU. I feel the same way about my career. I would not change my career. I don’t think my husband would either given the chance. Despite all the negatives, the positives far out way the neg. you know who you are. God bless teachers

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  10. When I entered the teaching profession 30 years ago I had dreams of being the Senior Pilot of a classroom, inspiring my students to ever higher vistas. Now, 30 years later, I realize I’d just been the baggage handler.

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  11. I absolutely loved how you put it. I just have a little something to add. Don’t you think that if a teacher manages to experience the joy of teaching, the joy of imparting something, as a passion, the students would eventually come around. I am a student too. I am an engineer and everyone here has an extremely high aptitude for learning, but the teachers here seem to be way too laid back to actually permeate the lecture hall with their joy of actually imparting something. The result. The students end up judging the teachers and talking trash about them. I am from India and the majority of the teachers here have no passion for imparting knowledge whatsoever. My point being, it is a little subjective, no?
    The generalization that students could never know what it’s like to be a teacher?
    I have tutored too, for extra pocket money and I’ve never had a single student who has ever left because they felt I wasn’t really teaching.

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  12. I would like for each legislator to read this. They hold our lives in their hands and don’t consider how much they impact the lives of the largest tax base in the state!

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  13. Thank you for publicizing what I have said for years. I left after 30 years in the classroom and more mentoring teachers. My statement to new teachers, “remember everyone has been to school so they think they know what you do. You have too many bosses and wear too many hats to listen to everyone so pick your advisors carefully.” I have inspired as well as upset students and done all the things you listed above.

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  14. Sarah, I loved your essay, which I stumbled across on the Washington Post “Answer Sheet” column. I’m in my 4th year teaching and you have perfectly summed up that all the things teachers do have nothing to do with what people think they do. Ask me why last fall was tough and I won’t worry about tests or curricula, but the full weeks I taught with a child sobbing in a chair because a family member was dying. Ask me why projects aren’t graded and I *won’t* tell you about the slew of confidential meetings I’ve used my planning periods for, to help assess struggling students. Everyone says they value teachers; administrators repeatedly say, “We know all you’re doing…” But, at the end of the day, there are literally only so many hours, and it is astounding the insurmountable responsibilities teachers push through every single day. Before this, I was a trainer in the courts (I worked with judges), I was a freelance writer (sometimes pulling all-nighters to deliver client projects or sweating marketing for my next gig), I was briefly a stay-at-home mom. There is no job I’ve worked so hard for, fought so hard to keep, and made so little for. Thanks for your post. I’ll share a link to it on my blog.

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  15. I taught for 10 years before throwing in the towel. Went back to school and after 4 1/2 grueling years graduated with my D.C. degree. Went into practice and stayed nine years before returning to the ranks of the poor. Yes....
    , I returned to teaching and haven’t looked back. That was 20 years ago. I became eligible to retire last year, but will probably stay for another five or six, hoping to give one or two more students the love of sciences that I have……

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  16. I have the utmost respect for teachers, especially now as I watch my children advance through the school system (now in 8th and 5th grades) in Montgomery County, MD. I cannot begin to envision what they must do to prepare for daily class, let alone for 180-184 days of the school year!

    My mother was a teacher, and her mother before her. I used to go with her to her school in NYC when my school was closed and it was always interesting to watch her teach. I still don’t know how she found time to prepare for those classes when she was shuttling my sisters and myself to our various activities! Then again it was during the 80s, so well before all this Common Core “advancements”.

    My heartfelt gratitude to all teachers, past, present, and future for taking on the challenge to teach our future leaders and citizens.

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  17. Great piece! I did the total opposite. Practiced as a trial attorney for almost 10 years, then closed out all my files, got my alternative certification, and began teaching elementary school. As an attorney, I felt used by my clients and vilified by opposing counsel and their clients. Today? Hugs all around. Every day is still a struggle, as you suggest, but I am making a difference. I know it!

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  18. Sarah, my husband just shared your great essay with me and I found my head nodding like a bobble head doll. I have not done much blogging in the past but I had to stop and say a huge THANK YOU for the fabulous words you have shared. I have been a secondary teacher for over 20 years and your words really touched my heart. I have recently written and self-published a book in hopes of giving others a glimpse into the classified life of a certified teacher. Your words have given me hope. Be well.

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  19. Great Reality story!!

    So True, so sad. My daughter is a 2nd grade teacher thru TFA in one of the worst schools in St. Louis.

    She is a natural, difficult situations are her specialty.
    She is extremely bright, will fight for any child without abandon. Is involved with the parents, or (whoever is the adult at these kids homes for the day).

    The feeling she gets when she reaches just one student…gives her the HOPE that in spite of the lack of everything…..She can make a difference.

    She is making a differnce in these childrens lives…

    At what cost….The constant stress from the daily frustrations… She is the teacher that can & will make a difference….

    But, she is burning out….

    What is the answer? She has never quit on anyone or anything in her 22 Years, of continued success….

    Your passion is obvious… I am impressed, and I look at my Daughters situation with a lot more clarity….

    Thank you!

    Slim Daddy

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  20. Hello,

    I want you to know that I have tremendous respect for you. People have no idea what it takes to be a school teacher and you tried it, realized it wasn’t for you, and moved on to something else. I have more respect for people that admit it is the wrong job for them and leave then I do for those who stay and complain everyday about their job.
    I’m a teacher. And I could not imagine being anywhere else but in my elementary classroom. Yes, there are days that I say I’m going to find a new job, but inevitably this is where my heart calls me.
    I used to sit in my college classes and listen to people say they chose teaching because they weren’t sure what else to do with their lives. Those people inevitably faded out when they began to do Internships and observations. But many stayed, only to realize that teaching is not the walk in the park they imagined it would be.
    Again, I just wanted to say I respect you for making the choice to leave the profession. I hope you take no offense to that. Teaching is not a profession that we do for the salary or the benefits, because frankly they just suck. Teaching is something that comes from the heart. It takes passion, frustration, anger, counseling, and love.
    I wish you all the best.

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    1. “this is where my heart calls me”–I was a teacher right out of college for four years, and I left for something easier. But my heart called me back, and I’ve been at it now for 17 years (21 total). I get up every morning and I look forward to my day. I fall into bed exhausted every night. Each and every day, I work with students (teenagers) who challenge me (in good and bad ways), break my heart, succeed against all odds, “get it” for the first time, are the first in their families to graduate and go to college, and so much more. I work 10 to 12 hours every day planning, teaching, grading, counseling, encouraging, working on the weekend and during summers, supervising activities (unpaid) chaperoning activities and trips on my own time (unpaid), taking continuing education at great personal expense, and making myself available to meet with parents when they can meet in their schedules. I do everything I do because it is the right thing to do for my students.

      I get frustrated with the misleading messages in the public about what I do, and the fact that I am grossly overpaid for doing it. I hate the politization of my profession, and the idea that the complexity of my job, my vocation, can be determined on a standardized test. Much of what occurs in my classroom or interactions with my students will never appear on a standardized exam, in a one-size-fits-all curriculum, or in a piece of legislation written by someone who would not be able for a week to do what I have now done for 21 years. I think about other things, but I cannot imagine what else I would do that would be so personally and professionaly satisfying. I certainly don’t teach for the money; I do it because I absolutely love the students with whom I’m entrusted, and the chance I have to make a difference in someone else’s life.

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  21. Hi,

    While I understand the proposition your article attempts to make, I cannot help but disagree. You make the distinction between a teacher and a lawyer, that one is given respect because the public at large has no idea at what one does, and that if we really knew what teachers did we would ourselves garner teachers with the same respect.

    In my mind you are creating a logical fallacy with this, the beautiful thing about the human race is that we do not need to experience in order to know. I am not a mechanical engineer, but because my father is, I have a good idea about what they do. I am not a wildlife biologist, but because I have observed them for a long period of time I have a deep understanding of what they do. To say that one can not learn by observation is rubbish.

    Otherwise this was beautifully written and full of emotion.

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  22. Sarah, thank you so much for this compelling articulation of the disconnect between common perceptions of teaching and what teachers must actually know and be able to do. I’ve heard it called the “13,000 hour problem”: most high school graduates have spent ~13K hours in a K-12 classroom as students and therefore think we are experts on teaching and learning! Your integration of your career experience in law was also quite apt here. I think these kinds of comparisons help people to understand what it means to advance teaching *as a profession*.

    I work for a national nonprofit based in NC, the Center for Teaching Quality (http://www.teachingquality.org). We connect, ready, and mobilize teachers as leaders to transform their schools and the teaching profession to benefit all kids. Our virtual community, the CTQ Collaboratory, is open to all who value teacher leadership… including engaged citizens and parents like you! We need all the help we can get to transform the public narrative about teachers and teaching in the US.

    Sarah, I hope you’ll consider joining the Collaboratory. (Others reading this comment are MORE than welcome, too! We need your voices, solutions-focused ideas, and energy to elevate teachers as experts!) I’d love to toss around some other ideas with you too, so please email me if you’re interested in chatting (bwelborn@teachingquality.org).

    Thanks! Again–LOVED this blog post. (I just received an email from a teacher that said, “THIS IS THE BEST ARTICLE EVER!!!!!!!!!”)

    Braden Welborn (bwelborn@teachingquality.org)
    Center for Teaching Quality
    http://www.teachingquality.org
    @teachingquality

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  23. Let me paraphrase: you know nothing about teaching so keep your opinions to yourself.

    This editorial, in a nutshell, covers all that I think are broken with education in the united states today. Either parents and policy makers are too involved and need to let teachers do their jobs or teachers know the students better than their own parents who are not involved enough.

    As a health care provider I have always shared a few words of wisdom with all whom I have mentored. “You must treat the head before you treat the body.” I believe the same is true of education in a sense. As a professional, my job is to know all that I can about my specialty and the human body. However, each person is an individual and as such I have to adapt treatment plans to each and I do so based in part on current researched based best practices and in part on experience. In order to do that I have to evaluate and listen to the individual and their care giver and treat the physical needs as well as the emotional needs of both.

    Based on personal experience with teachers and this editorial, we as parents and students don’t know what our educational needs are and teachers are the only ones who can tell us. That would be in essence treating the body and not the mind. It all boils down to this. Communication goes both ways. We as parents and policy makers essentially have two sides to listen too. The Teachers, who are saying, “teachers know more about teaching than anyone else because we are in the classrooms” or the Researchers who come into the classrooms, talk to the teachers, hold classes in laboratory research environments and develop new methodology and technique based on quantitative analysis and evidence based results.

    As a parent and a professional I am going to have to go with the evidence based practices.

    I do agree as a profession, teachers have gotten the shaft. But why do you think that is? Where there is smoke there is probably fire. So rather than continuing to defend current teacher positions it would probably be more productive to correct that which has caused, what could be called, a lack of confidence. Health care professionals make mistakes and collaborate with peers and non clinical researchers all the time in order to constantly improve knowledge and technique. My experience with many educators has been to use parents, policy makers, research and researchers as a punching bag or a punch line while mostly listening to other teacher’s antic-dotes and applying lessons learned on a global scale.

    Embracing change, communication and collaboration while accepting that there are few experts and absolutes in the classroom is our future. To say you know nothing about teaching so keep your opinions to yourself is a bit presumptuous. This is not to say that educators are wrong and policy makers and parents are correct. But until we accept that none are the expert and at least try to get on the same page, our current system of struggle will continue.

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  24. Sarah: my sister, a retired teacher, just posted this. I will repost it. Thank you for saying what all teachers know and what many others don’t know. No one becomes a teacher for the salary. All teachers do it for the love of their students. ~From a retired teacher turned principal

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  25. Thank you for writing this. There are several teachers in my family – generations of them, in fact. And I teach as well, although not in the school classroom. You’ve described teaching so well, especially the joys of reaching a student, and the heartbreak of not doing so. It sounds to me like you’ve learned a lot and kept doing so. And maybe you could be a teacher again some day – in the class room as well as this valuable lesson you’ve taught in your blog.

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  26. While I have been subbing for 4 years…this is my first full time job as a High School English teacher. I can honestly say…I’m treading water with the amount of work to do…worry over things I cannot change and things I can….and I’m constantly trying to connect with my students so that they might flip the switch and take an interest in their own education. I have been in the business world…the insurance world….financial planning….and more and I haven’t found a job more satisfying and more frustrating or one that I love more than teaching! Thank you for enlightening those in the dark! Much appreciated 🙂

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  27. Sarah, thank you. I just forwarded this to every teacher I know. I started my MAT program last fall after leaving college in 1977(!) and working for 30+ years in the government and the private sector, and I am sure this will be the hardest job (other than parent) I ever have. I said to someone the other day, if teachers were paid commensurate with their importance and impact on our society, they would be paid like NBA players.

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  28. they really don’t know – I had a parent insist on a meeting with me and my administrator during which she furiously said “there is no reason that it should take 3 weeks to grade a lab report” I had tears in my eyes as I explained that my dad (who lived with me) died (under hospice care in my home) and then was buried during those 3 weeks. I had only missed one week of school because I didn’t want my students falling behind. In what other profession would this happen? Here is the thing – I remember the meeting vividly (and it still hurts) and and the parent doesn’t have a clue. I had her youngest child two years later – who asked me for a letter of recommendation – which I wrote. Her child told me she was accepted to all of the colleges she applied to.
    I did not know that when I became a teacher the world would stop looking at me as a person.

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    1. I am so sorry this happened. Not all parents are like that, but it opens our eyes to the way we are treated as some kind of non-entity. In our state, our education system is supposed to be funded fully by the state and it isn’t. We have to pass a levy every 2 years to keep going. Luckily, we have more parents that are NOT like the one you describe who vote for the levy. We also have not received a COLA in 6 years, which means I have lost out on about $60,000 with all the years I have in teaching and my retirement is affected. Is the Washing State doing anything about this? No. We are not considered important enough. Yet the government puts more and more responsibility on us. Your feelings and circumstances were not even taken into account in this situation. How cold. It would be interesting to see what kind of future citizens this woman is raising. We are in big trouble if they decide to run for office!

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      1. My underlying belief is that all people are good and mean well – it is just that we often speak out of ignorance. That mom was ignorant (and perhaps lacking in compassion as her tone in the meeting changed only slightly after I spoke). I spent 10 years in industry prior to teaching and personally held all of the “they get their summers off” attitudes. I was truly ignorant. Summers for me as a teacher are like being at the beach knowing there is a tsunami approaching.

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  29. Ms Blaine….As a fellow teacher and someone who did come enter the profession right out of college to only leave it for deep personal reasons…..but to come back because I missed it so much. …..I salute you. Please contact me when you are available.

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  30. This is one of the best things I have read about teachers. Right now, in Missouri, there is an effort being made for schools with low test scores to be taken over by the state…..and one of them, Normandy, has a Superintendent who started last July, just three weeks after a court ruled that his school has to pay tuition for students who want to transfer to another school. People make comments along the lines…..”they need to blow up the whole thing, get rid of the people in charge, and start over.” They get standing ovations (huge numbers of likes) when they post such things. As is often the case in state takeovers, the mostly black voters have chosen people to make changes which they recognize need to be made. Here are a couple paragraphs about the person their new Normandy superintendent hired as curriculum coordinator, J.Carrie Launius: “Carrie is an outstanding member, as she is always willing to share her expertise with colleagues,” Granger said. “She is very knowledgeable, dynamic and creative in her approach to science education. She is the kind of teacher and administrator that you would like your children to have.”

    Launius has received a number of awards and honors during her career. She was named “Most Inspirational Teacher” three times in the Lindbergh district. In 2000, she was named “Outstanding Teacher for Students with Disabilities.” The Lindbergh Board of Education honored her in 2004 for “Outstanding Leadership in Science Education.”

    She was included in “Who’s Who Among American Teachers” three times, named a STAR Teacher by the St. Louis Science Center twice, and selected as a Teacher Fellow in 2007 by St. Louis-based pharmaceutical giant Pfizer Inc. In 2008, she was named to the National Science Teachers Association/Children’s Book Council National Book Council Selection Committee.
    Not that many people know who she is….she is not even as well known as some in St. Louis who belligerently complain….the people in charge have failed….blow it all up and start over.

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  31. Sarah, I was a teacher for 21 of the best years of my life. 1968 was my first year, 1971 was my second….after I returned from being drafted and sent to Vietnam. I taught 6th grade, and featured such things as a duck, who left his perch if you said the secret word, and a requirement to make a copy in their own cursive handwriting of the first amendment. The creamed pie fights, (shaving cream on tacos) were memorable, and so were the O’Henry stories and the Pogo cartoons. I stopped teaching in 1991…immediately resenting the new standardized testing from the state….not so much the tests, just the emphasis and time required for preparation. In spite of the financial impact on my retirement…it was the right call for me. I cannot tell you why I still have such an intense interest in st. Louis schools, but I do…it is practically encyclopedic….I raised many questions to a columnist at the post dispatch a couple days ago…..I wonder if what he told me about the murder of Tim Bacon….he got angry when I posted it for all to see….he learned it from his “sources” in homicide…..I wonder if someone should be in trouble if they gave him information which was denied to Tim”s father. My God, what I wouldn’t give for a lawyer’s opinion……http://www.stltoday.com/news/local/columns/bill-mcclellan/article_429a433c-a6b1-5fc8-892b-b5832719897e.html?mode=comments

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