Tips for Teachers: Love Your Job

The staff of the Pod is thrilled to start bringing our readership a new series on tips for teachers, new and old. It has to be argued that it is impossible to be a good teacher (much less a "great one," whatever that metric) without loving the job.  Primarily, a love of one's profession is necessary in order to make one want to work at it, and few are the good teachers who don't want to work at it constantly.  Secondarily, a love of the gig is needed to enable the teacher to deal with the myriad of piddling bullshit (e.g. paperwork, administrative druthers, "classroom management", cafeteria duty, cleaning up after laboratories) that accompany the job without coming to finally resent the entire occupation.

The first justification is largely self-evident.  In much the same way that a lack of love for my job prevented me from ever being a great movie-monkey when I worked at the local theater in my youth, so too I have to imagine that any teacher who doesn't love the work will never particularly care how well they do the work.  And there is a lot of work to be done.

What is probably less accessible to the novice teacher (though certainly quite apparent to the veteran) is the second justification.  There is so much in the job description of the modern American schoolteacher unrelated to actual teaching, that the only thing that will carry the educator through the swamp is a deep and abiding love of the real work.  Consider a typical day for this educator:

Five periods of teaching (that's the good stuff).  One "duty" period (I have a hall duty in an untraveled nook of my building--a relatively inoffensive thing, especially when compared to colleagues who have a study hall or the dreaded cafeteria duty).  One period reserved for "professional development," wherein my administration gives the staff mandatory training about how to use computer systems and other such administrative tasks.  One preparatory period to do the things required to put on five quality periods of instruction.  One lunch period.

Outside of my five periods of teaching, all of the following must be accomplished in the other four periods of my day:  grading, rectification of any disciplinary issues, making sure all materials are ready to go for future lessons (lab supplies and equipment, photocopying, etc.), meetings/contact with parents, meetings/contact with administrators, meetings/contact with colleagues, extra help (sometimes held before or after school) and paperwork (seemingly without end).

This is to say nothing of the various, ever present, tasks of the teacher.  Making sure that rules are followed (your own, and administration's).  Extra curricular activities (this weekend finds me working both the junior prom and holding a food drive).  The preparatory weekend work for another successful school week.

The Bottom Line:  I would estimate that 25% of the time spent on my work actually teaching science to students.  The other 75% of the time is spent on "other."  If I didn't love this job, how would it ever be possible?