Parents love teachers. Even the most well-seasoned of them can’t help but feel some relief when, at the end of summer, they turn over the care of their most valued possession into the hands of an enthusiastic and competent grade school teacher. Sure, parents are ever-thankful for this sharing of such a great responsibility, for the 6+ hours of daily peace and order in their households, and for the onus being on someone else to teach their child the concept of fractions. But do they ever REALLY appreciate the full spectrum of that teacher’s participation in the lives of their children? Here are a few things parents might not have considered…
1. They do things they don’t get paid for
Even though planning, teaching, and evaluating is a full-time job in itself, there’s not a teacher out there who doesn’t volunteer to coach a sport, supervise a committee, or sit on a board. What people don’t know is that these positions are entirely unpaid and yet completely expected of teachers.
2. They pay for things out of their pocket
“Whenever I have a class party planned,” says Ontario Grade 2 teacher, Joan, “I always hit up the dollar store for a few extra things to make it personal for my students.” Often times, there is no money budgeted for teachers to provide these kinds of ‘extras.’
3. They feed people
When I got home after work one afternoon last June, I was horrified to discover my son’s lunch still sitting in the fridge. After he got off the bus, I enquired as to what he’d eaten and he said, “Madame gave me her sandwich.” When I expressed my disbelief, he said, “It’s not a big deal, Mom. She does it all the time.”
4. They keep extras of school supplies
Dani, a Saskatchewan Grade 8 teacher, says she buys extra of all the school supplies on her list for the kids who show up without adequate materials.
5. They dress your kids
Coast to coast, Canadian winters can be pretty unforgiving. Whether it’s because they left a mitten on the bus or that a storm brewed up during the day, students don’t always arrive at school with the appropriate outerwear. Teachers think nothing of digging through the lost and found or their own personal stash of ‘emergency extras’ whenever this situation arises.
6. They fix stuff
Broken glasses, dismembered dolls, broken Lego creations, chains that have fallen off bicycles, zippers on backpacks, corrupted craft projects, you name it… Teachers fix it!
7. They fuss over your child
If it’s school picture day or, say, there’s a performance at the Remembrance Day ceremony, teachers want your child to put their best foot forward as much as you do. If this means straightening a pig tail, reminding them to tuck in their shirt, or some last-minute stain removal, so be it!
8. They settle petty disputes
I’ll never forget, my son came home from Kindergarten in tears one day because an older student had taken his best Pokemon card in what he called an ‘unfair trade.’ I felt so bad for him but just considered that this was a hard lesson he would have to learn from. Lo and behold, two weeks later he comes home with the card! When I asked how he got it back, I got a long-winded story about how his friend told the Kindergarten teacher and how she told the Grade 3 teacher and how that teacher tracked the card down. Marvelous and above the call of duty for sure!
9. They juggle
Whether it be the biddings of difficult parents against their own better judgement, the division of their time between twenty-five needy 5-year olds or the delicate balancing act between the demands of their professional and personal lives, teachers are master jugglers. Unfortunately, this circus act can take its toll. Dave, a retired high-school science teacher says, “The rest of the world calls them ‘summer holidays.’ I call it ‘recovery.’”
10. They play doctor, dentist, janitor, jailer, social worker, counsellor, and everything in between
Parenting is a lifetime commitment to meeting a wide range of a child’s complex needs, whether they be physical, social, psychological or otherwise. These needs do not cease when children enter the school doors, and, out of necessity, teachers become pros at dealing with everything from head lice and bathroom accidents to grief, social issues, and outbursts of aggression.
11. They are buried in paperwork
When people consider the daily activities of a teacher, perhaps they think of lectures and lessons and guidance through a new skill or project, but teachers do a lot of paperwork too. They plan, they evaluate, they confer with other professionals, they write newsletters, do marking, and conduct regular correspondences with parents.
12. They love your kids
This is the one thing teachers do that there is simply no monetary or even earthly compensation for. Aside from the obvious—the ‘teaching’ that they do and the extras that go along with the general care of children—teachers come to know and love our kids much the same way parents do. They identify strengths, nurture shortcomings, and seek to set students on a path toward lifelong success. “We make such a deep connection and come to know these kids almost more than they know themselves,” says Grade 8 teacher Dani, “and when it’s all done, we have to let go and let grow.”