What is a teacher?

People just don't understand 

For whatever reason lately, I've come to a clear understanding that people (who aren't teachers) really have no clue about what a teacher is. When I tell people I'm a teacher, the response I almost always get is

"That's so cute!!!"

If I hear this one more time about being a teacher.... Yes, the kids are cute (sometimes). Yes, they say cute things (sometimes). But for the most part, I wouldn't use "cute" as the first word to describe a teacher's job. Maybe amazing, or incredible (not to brag or anything), or even neat would be okay.  When I think of things that are cute, I think of puppies. Or babies. Or fonts. But I don't think of my profession as cute. I work extremely hard. I'm well educated. I have two degrees, a Masters, and two teaching credentials. I can multitask like no other, and I leave work everyday feeling exhausted and fulfilled. Cute just seems, well, not right. Not enough.

Then I had this question just the other day: 

"You don't feel like you do more work than you get paid for, do you Sandy?"

Okay. Really? Does anyone (in any profession) really feel like they get paid enough for the amount of work they do? Teaching is interesting though, because it's clearly not a 9-5 type job. It's a 24 hours a day, 7 days a week kinda job. We never stop thinking about our students. And our classrooms. And our lessons. (Even over the summer.) And how we can reach that one kid. And how to tweak things to make it better. How to give our students amazing learning experiences (usually using supplies we purchase with our own $$$)... Bringing stacks and stacks and stacks of work home to grade and cut and laminate and prep and plan which cuts into our family time. It's not like any teacher I know leaves at 3:00 everyday and is done for the day. Not even close.  On top of that, if I could come to school at 7:00, and say, just worry about, ya know, teaching, that might be nice. But teaching is so much more than that.................. 

We do all of this because we love them. (The kids- not the meetings). And when I say love, I really mean love them- the kids. Over the course of the school year they become our family and we would do anything for them, just like we would our own family.

So we bear through the meetings, the report cards, the paperwork, the angry parents, the recess duty, the new curriculum, all the extra stuff that comes with teaching. Because at the heart of it all, it's the kids. Do I get paid enough? In light bulb moments and sloppy hugs and silly smiles, yes.

And then there was this question at my hubby's work party: 

"What do you actually really have to teach them?" 

Hmmmmmmm. Now there's a loaded question. 

Yes, we teach reading, writing, math, social studies, science, P.E., art, and spelling. But it's so much more than that. Most  days I feel like a teacher plus a counselor, a doctor, a therapist, and a cat herder (and usually all at the same time.) 

In Philip Done's book "Close Encounters of the Third-Grade Kind," he starts the chapter titled 'What is a Teacher?' like this: 

"Mark Twain once wrote that teaching is like trying to hold thirty-five corks underwater all at once. But What I'd like to know is- who drank those thirty five bottles of wine in the first place? My bet's on the teacher." 

He goes on to say "Teachers are like puppeteers. We keep the show in motion. When he help children discover abilities that they don't know they have, we are like talent scouts. When we herd kids off the play structure at the end of recess, we are like shepherds." 

He compares teachers to conductors, waiters, a tree trunk, a bee keepers, doctors, actors, and so many other things that will ring so incredibly true to anyone in the teaching profession. 

But he adds (and this is my all time, favorite passage from any teacher-book I've ever read...) "Teachers are memory makers, too. We know the stories, paintings, and plaster of paris handprints that children make at school will someday become family treasures. Each day we create experiences in our classroom that our students will someday look back on and laugh over and talk about and perhaps even try to re-create in their own children's lives. We understand that kids are like wet canvases. We help paint the background." 

You can find Done's book here if you're interested: 

And the next time someone tells me my profession is cute, I'll smile and nod. Because I know it's so much more than that. 


  1. I get where you're coming from but I honestly rarely get comments like that. And when I do, I don't take them personally. People always think they work harder than others...teachers included ha. I really feel that I am well compensated for my job and I cannot begrudge the time that has to be put in grading papers, lesson planning, and so on. Don't worry too much about what other people think of being a teacher; I think it's one of those things that people couldn't understand unless they've done it or personally know a teacher.

  2. I love this post!!!! And that line... "Teachers are memory makers." So, so true!!! Actually I love that whole part you have in bold at the end! I think that may be my new all time favorite teacher passage as well now!! I think that it is so amazing what a huge impact teachers have on their students! It is incredible how a lot of people don't even know what goes into being a teacher, let alone being a great one!! I think it is so important that teachers share pictures and stories of all the positive things they are doing in their classrooms on a daily basis so people see all the amazing things that are going on in classrooms thanks to wonderful teachers around the world!! That is one of the reasons I love teacher blogs so much! Thanks for sharing this post! I think it is so important for people to hear (read)!!!

  3. Thank you :) You are awesome! And have I mention...I LOVE YOUR NEW DESIGN!

  4. I love this post!! I feel like I've read so many blogs of tired teachers who lament that we don't get paid enough, have too many responsibilities, and don't get taken seriously enough. I love how you managed to talk about the things that make teaching hard at times without sounding like you hate it. This post is exactly how I feel and I'm so glad you wrote it!