Most people think the job of teachers is to pass on knowledge and skills to the next generation. And this is, in the strictest sense, the definition of teaching (and from the entry on Wikipedia). But in reality, teachers aren’t just teachers.
Teachers are politicians. We work in all branches of the government. We create laws for our classrooms – the rules. Some teachers rule like dictators and others run democracies, but there cannot be anarchy. We must keep our country safe.
Teachers are police. The laws we create we must enforce as unbendingly as a policeman (or more commonly, policewoman). Each class has its own rules and students must follow them like citizens abiding the laws of a nation. We cannot let students be harmed by other students, and in the aftermath of Sandy Hook, we are more vigilant than ever when unfamiliar adults lurk through the building.
Teachers are psychologists. Students come to school with so many psychological and behavioral issues that it’s no wonder one of the core classes in any Masters of Teaching program is Behavioral Psych. Students with issues at home come to their teachers when there is no one else to talk to about their problems. Just as we must protect students from harming each other physically (as police), we must also protect them from damaging each other emotionally.
Teachers are performers. Every moment you are in front of your students, you are on stage. Everyone has a work persona, but with teachers, it’s twofold, because kids watch your every facial expression, action, and reaction. Teachers should not lose their temper at a child – but they may act angry from time to time. We need to know when to utilize enthusiasm to motivate and when to keep a straight face. Teachers have a live audience every day and receive instant reviews.
Teachers are writers. Lesson plans are mapped out like outlines for stories, essays, or screenplays, with a solid structure and a clear message (a lesson plan’s aim/objective). Many of us write worksheets, and the best of us prepare high-order thinking questions, guiding students from easy to more complex material like a character moving toward the climax.
Ultimately, teachers are teachers. We hold education in the utmost esteem. But we play many other essential roles as well. Oh, did I mention stand-up comedian? That one’s optional.