19 Things You'll Only Understand If You're A Teacher

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It's okay to cry, you're among friends. Just not for too long, because you have grading to do.

Being a teacher is one of the most rewarding careers in the world -- but it's also one of the hardest. Here's why:

1. The workload is freakishly intense.

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If you’re not a teacher, you probably don’t realize how much work you do outside the classroom. From planning lessons and mapping units to calling parents and grading papers, on a bad week teachers can clock up to 90 hours of work.

2. You have to buy your own school supplies.

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You’d think that the basic tools you need to do your job would be covered by the school, but a lot of the time, they’re not. If you want enough copies of Catcher in the Rye for your 32 kids, you might find yourself buying a whole class set. God forbid you want highlighters, pencils, post-it notes, pens…

3. The pay can be low.

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Depending on where you live teaching can pay as low as $20k/year. For a job that can sometimes take up 90 hours per week of your time, that’s peanuts. Even if you’re lucky enough to live somewhere with a higher pay rate, your cost of living is probably going up too.

4. You definitely hate some of your students.

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No one wants to admit it because hating kids doesn’t exactly feel great, but there’s a limit to how many times you can send an 18-year-old boy out of the room for sexually harassing his female classmates before you maybe don’t like him so much anymore.

5. You have to document everything.

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Every parent interaction, every student intervention, everything. Paperwork can take longer than doing the thing you’re documenting in the first place, and 90% of the time, no one is ever even going to look at it.

6. You work during your vacations.

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People seem to think that teaching is easy because you get summer vacation and winter break. True, you do get that time off…but you spend the first half in a coma trying to physically recover from the past few months, and the second half preparing lessons for the upcoming school year. Breaks exist, yes, but a teacher’s work is never truly done.

7. You don’t have time to go to the bathroom.

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You know how when you have a normal job, you can take pee breaks whenever you want? Not so with teaching. Unless you can flag down another staff member to watch your class, you could be stuck in the same room for hours at a time. When there is a break, the hallway might be too crowded to make it to the bathroom between classes. To teach, you need a bladder of steel.

8. Friday nights are party nights.

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Specifically, Friday, not Saturday. On Saturday night you’re in bed early, because you know you have to spend all of Sunday prepping for Monday’s lessons.

9. You will cry. More than once.

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The teacher’s lounge, and the staff bathroom, are great places to find teachers having breakdowns. (The teacher’s lounge is a better choice, though, because the principal isn’t allowed in there.)

10. The tests don’t measure anything valuable, but you have to waste time on them anyway.

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After your first conversation with a brilliant 17-year-old who can think of valid reasons why every answer on the multiple choice English test could be right, but can’t figure out which answer the test wants, you will start to doubt the validity of statewide tests. When you have to tell your kids that they can’t read novels in class, because you have to do test prep you’ll start to wonder if the tests might be wasting your time. When said brilliant 17-year-old tells you he thinks he’s stupid because he can’t figure out what the wants for him, you will want to dropkick statewide tests in their metaphorical faces.

11. You will learn more than you ever wanted to know about the student’s love lives.

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You might not see out information about who’s hooking up with who, but the kids will tell you anyway. Sometimes with so much detail that you’ll need bleach to cleanse your mind of sin.

12. Teaching keeps you young while it ages you prematurely.

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Your students will definitely try to teach you how to do the whip. This will keep you young. You will be so overwhelmed that exercise and sleep become a thing of the past. This will age you prematurely.

13. Your principal can make or break your teaching experience.

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A good principal will support you and help you become the best version of your teaching self. A bad principal will sabotage you, micromanage you, and insult you to your face. You know you work in a school with the second kind of principal if your fellow teachers warn you when she’s walking this way. It's hard, but you gotta hold your head up high and not let a bad boss determine your value.

14. Student behavior can be bafflingly terrible.

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Once, an 18-year-old boy threw a bottle cap at my eye after running around the classroom screaming dick jokes at his friends for the whole class period. Some of my fellow teachers insisted I call the police and have him arrested for assault. Not being a literal monster, I did not call the police on this child for throwing a bottle cap at my eye…but why he thought it was appropriate to begin with is incomprehensible.

15. You don’t really get to reuse lesson plans.

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Okay, sometimes you do, but the chances that you’ll actually teach the same grade and subject from year to year are pretty small. Even if you do teach the same thing, your school will change its curriculum and you’ll have to start all over from scratch.

16. You constantly have to correct people who think you’re a glorified babysitter.

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People throw around the term “glorified babysitter” all the time, but the instant you roll out what it is you actually do all day, people change their tunes.

17. You will definitely have favorite students.

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Teachers may say that they love all their kids equally, but they don’t. Usually, you’re going to end up liking the ones who remind you of yourself as a student the best. Unless you were a terrible student. Then you might like them, but you’ll also find them infuriating.

18. It can become your whole life.

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There’s so much to do that it can actually take over your entire life. Self-care, a social life, and basic home maintenance can easily fall by the wayside if you let them. Don’t let them.

19. You wouldn't trade helping your students learn and grow for anything.

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That moment when your formerly disinterested student’s face lights up like the sun because they didn’t realize Shakespeare wrote about black people and now they feel important and represented is the freakin’ best. You brought Othello to them, and you know it’s going to change the way they think about literature, and themselves, forever. Teaching something meaningful is the best feeling in the whole world, and it makes all the struggles you go through 100% worth it.


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