For non-teachers, having a teacher friend is like being friends with a mythical creature. They’re rare and elusive (because we’re so busy all the time) and a bit of a mystery because our work is so far removed from the traditional run-of-the-mill office job. So, for those non-teachers out there… here are the answers to a few questions you might have…
No, we don’t leave at 3pm.
The long-standing myth that teachers leave at 3pm and thus done for the day stands the test of time despite the fact that it’s, well, untrue. Teachers may very well be as close to miracle-workers as a human can get, even we cannot bent the rules of space and time. If you think that we all clock off at 3pm, who do you think does the marking, the assessments and the planning for the week? Of all the things you can say to a teacher, this is perhaps the biggest sin of them all.
Even weekends aren’t always our own!
Perhaps a lesser-known myth, but a myth nevertheless. Those aware of the plight of the late nights during the week respond by saying ‘but it must be great to finally relax at the weekend, right?’ and that’s where most of us bite our tongue, take a moment and of course calmly explain that the weekends are often an utter blur of Word, PowerPoint and marking books. Sometimes, if we fancy a treat, there’s wine too.
Teaching is often portrayed poorly in TV and film.
Teaching is never given a fair shot in TV shows or films. Usually, the scene begins with a teacher mid-sentence as a bell rings and the students file out without even being dismissed with a frantic teacher, who proceeds to shout over the rabble trying to remind them that their homework assignment is due on Monday.
A few things wrong with this, I’m afraid. Teachers are merciless clock-watchers. We’d never get caught out by a bell explaining what is effectively a starter activity or a new concept. That stuff is done at the beginning of the lesson. The biggest sin here, however, is the fact that most classes file out of their own volition. Some myths are true and it’s very much a case of ‘that bell isn’t for you, it’s for me’.
This leads me quite nicely into my next point, come to think of it…
Teaching isn’t just talking for an hour
It might come as a surprise, because the TV does such a good job of enforcing the stereotype, but teachers don’t just stand at the front of the class and speak non-stop for an hour. Lessons are meticulously planned routines that would put an Olympic figure skater to shame. We need to think about the ability of our students, their behaviour, what activities are most effective and how to make a lesson actually flow. Life would be easier standing at the front and asking students to copy from a book but that just won’t fly.
The six-week holiday isn’t as relaxing as you think
Teaching is intense. Like, really intense. It’s late weeknights, short weekends and sparse time littered between. The reason teachers look forward to the six-week holiday isn’t because we’ve got a month on a tropical beach lined up, it’s because we need to actually recharge. The first week is spent getting over any colds or gross illnesses we’ve been fighting for weeks, weeks two and three are prime holiday time where we can actually relax and forget what day it is and the final three weeks are spent telling ourselves ‘I should probably get some planning done’ before leaving it until the last weekend and getting angry at past-you for not getting it done sooner.