PAULA WILLIAMS: Summers off? Out by 3 p.m.? Hah! Addressing some common misconceptions about teachers

Sep. 19, 2013 @ 04:15 PM

     It seems everyone has an opinion about teachers and their profession these days and most of them aren’t teachers.  I was shocked when a gentleman recently wrote a letter to the editor expressing that he had “almost shed a tear for those poor teachers.” That is, until he realized that we are well-compensated for what we do and work 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. with summers off!

     Unless you are a teacher, are married to a teacher, or have a teacher in your family, you just do not understand the profession.  That’s why I was so happy to read the letter in this past Sunday’s paper from Mr. Don Schoppe who teaches at High Point Central High and who is a retired U.S. Marine Corps major.  I don’t know Mr. Schoppe, but his commitment to making this world a better place through teaching was obvious in his letter.

     So let me address some of the common misconceptions that are currently being tossed about regarding teaching.  Mr. Schoppe addressed some of them, but I would like to speak to them, as well.

     First is the idea that a teacher’s day ends at 3 p.m.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Elementary school children begin arriving at school each day around 7:20 a.m.!  That means I have to arrive by 7 if not earlier to be ready for the day.  Then when students leave at 2:30, I either have meetings or must work on planning which often puts me home no earlier than 5 p.m.  That’s a 10-hour day with barely 30 minutes to quickly eat lunch.

     Then there is the idea that teachers have summers off.  I wish I had a nickel for every time someone has said to me, “It must be nice having a job where you get your summers off.”  The truth is that teachers are unemployed for those 2 months!  Summers off are not a perk of the job.  Summers are two unpaid months for teachers.

     Another misconception about the teaching profession is that “Those who can’t, teach.”  In other words, teaching is an easy job that anyone can do, and people who choose the teaching profession have no skills for any other job.  After 25 years of teaching, I can tell you that teachers must be more highly-qualified than ever in order to teach, and ongoing professional development is required.  Teachers are the hardest working “multi-taskers” I know and most are truly amazing at what they do.

     Mr. Schoppe is right---the fact that you are even able to read this column means you should sit back and thank a teacher. It is easy to criticize when you have not seen on a personal level what goes into teaching. But I want to thank Mr. Schoppe for choosing the teaching profession after his career in the Marines not with the idea of getting rich but with the calling to affect the future of young men and women and change the world in doing so.  My hat is off to you and to all teachers. We may be misunderstood, but that’s OK. We stand committed to making a difference in students’ lives on a daily basis, and that is a tremendous reward in itself.

Paula Gulledge Williams lives in High Point and teaches at Pilot Elementary School in Greensboro. Her columns appear on this page every other Friday. Representations of fact and opinions are solely those of the author.