When I tell people I’m a teacher, more often than not, I get the same basic response: “I admire teachers. I could never do what you do. But how nice it is that you get vacations and summers off.”
The tone in which this is said is slightly condescending. As if my job is rewarded with summer days reading in the park and springs breaks in Puhket.
It’s time to decode the myths about teaching.
I work at a charter school in the Bronx. Our last day of school is July 17th. We start up again in mid-August. Still a month off, right? Well, I work from 7 – 4 (awake at 5:30), a nine-hour workday. Add up those hours and there goes my “summers off”. And then there’s the work we do outside the classroom: lesson planning, grading, and following up with parents.
Sure, I work at a charter school, which has longer hours than most educational institutions. Yet teachers in public and private schools are just as underpaid. Few people can live comfortably on a teacher’s salary. So what do they do? They teach summer school. They tutor. This is how they spend their vacations and summers.
The misconception is more than a skewed notion of time off from work. Teachers don’t teach for money or for summers off. If money is the goal, there are far better jobs for that. Some are artists, writers, and musicians, trying to find a sustainable way to pursue their art while spreading their passion. Those teachers who teach for life are dedicated individuals, unyielding and relentless when it comes to their commitment to education.
The true educator’s reward comes from his or her students. From passing on knowledge for students to absorb and carry with them for the rest of their lives. It’s a tremendous responsibility, an inconceivable obligation. Our reward is the spark in a child’s eye when he learns something new.
Jonah Kruvant blogs about his teaching experiences at a school in the Bronx, along with other New York musings.