What It Is Really Like to be a Teacher

What It Is Really Like to be a Teacher

February 11, 2018

Recently a parent approached me and said “ I don’t know how you do it! I could never!” My response to her was “I feel the same way!”. Most days I don’t know how I get through it and feel like I never want to go back.

As it turns out being a public school teacher is absolutely nothing like I thought it would be. When I was little I looked up to my teachers and I thought they had the coolest job. They get to dress nice, have good hours, and get to boss other people around all day; win! So, on I went to get my Bachelor’s degree in Education and then my Master’s in Special Education, with a “look out world, here I come” attitude.

Nowadays, I have more of a “what the heck world? Why am I here?” attitude. I have only been teaching for three years, have only taught second grade, and this is my third year at it. Others may have different experiences and opinions. I am simply giving you my opinion, which I think many teachers would agree with.

Why Teaching is the Worst


How does well over $75,000 in student debt sound? Pretty normal for a lot of working professionals. What is not normal for most working professionals is a less than $40,000 salary. I, as well as most other teachers, have to work another job, just to be able to pay the bills and stay afloat. With my salary, I am not able to save any money or get out of any debt. There is no reason why a teacher should need government assistance like food stamps or Medicaid; however many do have and need it.


A classroom is a petri dish of illnesses. No matter how much I clean or spray there is always at least one sick kid in the classroom. Kids do not wash their hands properly and can’t seem to master the skill of covering their mouth when they cough or sneeze. The illness of the week in my classroom is the flu, which also means that is the illness of the week in my house. The germs don’t just stay in the classroom; they love to hop in my bag, come home, and invade my family as well.


Recently I feel more like a data collection and management specialist. I dread going to my mailbox, as there is always a new stack of paperwork. The tests, meeting, forms, and notices never end. I start the year off well organized with all of it, but by Thanksgiving the paperwork is out of control and I do not have the time or energy to worry about it, so for the rest of the year papers end up spewed around the room, in random folders in a filing cabinet, or in the trash can.


One of the reasons I started going to school to become a teacher is because I thought it would be nice to have the same working schedule as my kid’s school schedule. I wanted to spend more time with them and save money on daycare. I do get to bring my kids to and from school with me, but I am not done working when my students leave school. I usually do at least another hour of work at home at night working on lesson plans, communicating with parents, or grading. On top of that, we have lengthy pointless unpaid staff meetings bi-weekly.


You never know what you are going to get when it comes to parents. Like a good old box of chocolates; some are so sweet, while some make you want to puke. Most parents are either kind and helpful or don’t bother you at all; love it! But every year I get a handful of parents who are the absolute worst. They think that their child is God’s gift to the world and can do nothing wrong. They love to blame their child’s bad grades or behaviors on the teacher. Well if anyone is to blame here it is the parent! You are the one raising them. I recently had a parent freak out because their kid did not get an award during our quarterly second-grade award ceremony. No wonder your kid acts out in class, you just give him everything he wants! An award is earned not handed out.


As a teacher, 99% of my co-workers are women, and there are at least 100 of us working at the school. When you get that many women together every day in a high-stress environment, the drama is bound to happen. It’s honestly worse than high school with all of the gossip and tattling. Can’t we all just get along?


So, my official title is a teacher and that is what I get paid to do. However the other roles that I don’t get paid for include but are not limited to; janitor, nurse, counselor, friend, diary, computer tech, housekeeper, and mom. I am constantly juggling all of these roles, and could definitely use some more help and support. I am only one person with just two hands!


There is never enough time in a teacher’s day. We are expected to do so much at school, so trying to keep up at home becomes impossible. Only one can be clean an organized; either my classroom or my home, never both. I barely have time to teach what is required, because of constantly having to correct student behaviors. After a 40 minute drive home I have to worry about cooking, cleaning, showers, and getting everyone ready for the next day. By the time I am done all of that I am ready to go to bed. There is no time for myself, my husband, or a social life. I need more time and also more coffee!

Run Away

So, when a young hopeful college student approaches me with such excitement I can’t help but cringe inside. I tell them “that’s awesome” and “good luck”. What I really want to say is “OMG! No, don’t do it. Run Away. Choose something else. It’s not what you think it is.” I see myself years ago so hopeful and oblivious to the truth. Here is the truth, teaching is terrible because it is a high stress low paying job.

Don’t get me wrong I love teaching, but only because of the students. I started teaching because I wanted to make a difference in kids’ lives. I know I am doing that every single day, however, that does not mean it is always fun. The students are what I love, the long list of negatives is what myself and many other teachers could certainly do without.

Written for The Saltbox by Laura Weston

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