Teachers for Teachers | Slice of Life: It Started as a Game… #SOL19
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Slice of Life: It Started as a Game… #SOL19

I admit it.  For years I  played a “cocktail party” (could also be a baseball field or school fundraiser or spouse’s work event) game.  Whenever I am in a situation of meeting a lot of people for the first time and small talk is in order, I play this game.  When the moment of truth happens, when the person finally asks THE question… I play the game.

So… what do you do?

Fifty percent of the time I reply: ” I’m an elementary school teacher” and the other fifty percent of the time I answer “I’m an educational consultant.”

The game started because for a long time I was both.  I continue the game because I find the difference in response baffling.

When I reply educational consultant here is the response:

  • That is so interesting. Tell me more.
  • Explain exactly what you do.
  • Are you with one school or several schools?
  • What does that entail?
  • Do you have an area of specialty?

When I reply elementary school teacher, the most common and almost always first response is:

  • That must be so much fun.

Followed by:

  • I wish I had a relaxing job.
  • It must be great to have summers off.
  • So cute!

I am not joking.  It is not everyone, but there is a definite pattern.  To make it worse, these are most often people who are parents of school-aged children.

I have worked in competitive market research for a national insurance company, taught at the college level, served as a district-level administrator, own a business, wrote two books, am a consultant and was an elementary school teacher.  Hands down, being a teacher is the hardest job I have ever had.

Teaching is all-encompassing.  It is intellectual, physical, social, emotional and pragmatic.  Research has shown that the only other profession that makes as many decisions in a day is an air-traffic controller.  Air-traffic controllers, however, get to sit down while they work and take a 30-minute break every 90 minutes for safety reasons.  Teachers don’t even get to go to the bathroom or drink water (due to not getting to go to the bathroom).  ABC News ranks it as the fourth most stressful job in America.  Why then these responses about relaxing and cute?

Let’s face it, most of these people hire someone to manage their child’s birthday party.  Can they not control 25 kids for two hours with cake and games on their own?  Have they tried teaching 25 seven-year-olds (and that’s a small class these days) how to determine the theme of a book?  Or how to multiply?  Or how to write a text-based essay?  Or how to be a collaborative partner?  Or how to be a good friend?  Or have a snack ready for the student who never has one? Or source a classroom library from their personal funds? 

There has never been a more important time for our country to shift how we value educators.  Education is a profession that is our future.  It is a profession that impacts the lives of our children.  It is a profession that is selfless and often without reward.  It is a profession that can be lonely and exhausting.  It is a profession that requires the use of personal funds to acquire the tools and materials necessary to do your job.

Teachers matter.  Teachers make a difference every day.  Teachers deserve our utmost respect.

Teachers deserve to be appreciated. Every single day.


  • Avatar
    Melanie Meehan
    Posted at 22:50h, 02 March Reply

    I might have to start playing that game, as I could say that I’m a teacher or an educational coordinator. I agree with EVERYTHING you have in this post, Clare, and the hardest parts of my job is when I have to deal with transitioning the kids without their classroom teacher there. Thanks for this–it’s important to think about and say.

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    Katie O
    Posted at 22:51h, 02 March Reply

    I love this! I can’t help but be reminded of Taylor Mali’s “What Teachers Make” poem. Elementary school teaching is definitely among the most underrated jobs. Thanks for what you do!

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    Colleen Flathers
    Posted at 23:13h, 02 March Reply

    Well said. Why is it that people think teaching is such an easy job? Come shadow me for a day and see how easy this job is.

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    Amy Juengst
    Posted at 23:29h, 02 March Reply

    I so agree with you, but of course you are preaching to the choir. I’ve always said to non teachers: so imagine you had to create 5 engaging, killer presentations each day to an audience that is easily distracted and usually not in the “audience” by choice but rather by law. Then imagine you had to follow this routine every single work day. Teachers are “on” every single minute their students are present.

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    Liz Garden
    Posted at 23:51h, 02 March Reply

    Oh man, I can’t wait to play that game at the next function/event/thing I attend! Laughed out loud when you said “these people hire someone to manage their child’s birthday party”!

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    Tracy Brosch
    Posted at 00:00h, 03 March Reply

    Thanks for that. Gave me goosebumps. Being a teacher is the hardest job I’ve ever had also.

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    Mrs. Tice
    Posted at 00:21h, 03 March Reply

    Thank you so much for writing this. I have found that most cannot empathize with a teacher unless they have had a classroom of their own. I had no idea about some of the statistics that you cited, such as the decision-making being as much as an air traffic controller and that it is the 4th most stressful job in the country. But, speaking as someone who feels like I work in a fast-paced race every day, I appreciate your thoughts on just how necessary the teaching career is!

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    brenda hall
    Posted at 00:39h, 03 March Reply

    Yes, Yes, and yes…I’m getting close to the end of my career (5-7 more years) and I honestly don’t know what I will do to keep me as active and having my brain go in all different directions …maybe I won’t retire!

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    Fran mccrackin
    Posted at 01:42h, 03 March Reply

    I agree with all the commentators, but then I am also “the choir.” This is so well written- humorous but pointed- I think you should find a different venue for this piece. Newspaper editorial? somewhere.

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    Posted at 01:51h, 03 March Reply

    OH, I love this post! When I see parents complaining that school vacation is too long and they have run out of patience or ideas to engage their kids I always think-multiply that by 20 or 25! Not looking for sympathy, but hoping for some understanding when the teacher bashing rears its ugly head.

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    Posted at 02:09h, 03 March Reply

    Thank you for this, Clare. Too often I wonder what is wrong with me. I am so tired.

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    Posted at 15:04h, 03 March Reply

    You are spot-on, Clare. I have heard the way the responses change depending on what I say I do. (My favorite response, though, is when I used to say “I help teachers teach writing better.” The response is always, “Handwriting? Wow, I didn’t know they still taught handwriting.” Then I had to explain the difference between handwriting and writing workshop. Therefore, I changed my response to “What do you do?” to something more concrete.)

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    Posted at 04:28h, 04 March Reply

    Well said! And don’t forget about getting out of work at 3:00, and having every Monday holiday off as well as intermittent paid vacations. The other thing I often cringe when I hear is the comment, “You don’t know that and your a teacher?” UGH!!!

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    barbara suter
    Posted at 05:27h, 05 March Reply

    They look down their noses because so many teachers in this nation are underpaid. When we are paid fairly, they think we don’t deserve it. After all, don’t we just “hang out” with kids all day playing games? I always say in response to any criticism: Anyone is free to become a teacher. Try it!

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