Not only do teachers help students reach their full academic potential, they also play a direct role in influencing students’ maturity, values, and worldview. It’s a great responsibility that requires the management of multiple priorities within a busy school day. So, what’s it like being on the educational frontlines?
We interviewed a teacher with more than three decades of experience to learn their perspective on everything from their influence on school strategy to their time and lifestyle pressures. Here’s what they had to say about their day-to-day role, what they like best about being a teacher, and how the job has changed.
A typical teaching day
“I prefer to get to school early and prepare for the day to come. Over my 32 years of teaching, I’m finally able to get to the point where I do not take school work home with me, but that was difficult to accomplish.”
What does a good day look like? “A good day is every day that I can teach. I love the times when a student keeps working even if they’re struggling and the light bulb doesn’t go on. Or when I have the time for kids to focus on being kids, a field trip or extra recess—those are the times when kids really grow.”
How has teaching changed? “Over the years, I’ve spent more and more time prepping lessons to fit standards and have become far more focused on academic performance and student outcomes. Technology has become very important in my classroom teaching. I record grades, write lesson plans, communicate with parents, and interact with students via technology. I love my Promethean ActivPanel because it allows my students to interact with content in a new way.”
This belief in edtech’s value is shared across the teacher community, with 83% of educators agreeing it’s a great way to engage students, according to the State of Technology in Education Report. Educators recognize the benefits of creating lightbulb moments with students and improving their own productivity to save working out of school hours, as 68% of teachers reported they constantly strive to innovate by using technology.
The challenges of being a teacher
“There is great pressure on teachers to be all things to all people. When I started, much of the control of curriculum and learning needs was created and addressed by the teacher as a professional. Today, the standardized tests dictate curriculum, and the teacher often is not able to address social, emotional, and educational needs to help students succeed.”
Sometimes all these pressures can slip out of the school day and into a teacher’s personal life. “For many years, I worked on school work after my own kids went to bed. I missed my own children’s performances, field trips, presentations, and first days of school because I was in my own classroom hosting those things for other children. Many of my summer days were spent in preparation for the upcoming year, writing lesson plans, making copies, etc.”
So what would ease the burden on teachers? “We need more professional treatment. Most teachers have a master’s degree and are still treated like they cannot make a decision about what’s best in education. Teachers need a say in how things are done in schools, as they’re the ones that live it daily and can make a huge difference in the future, but teachers are not making decisions in our schools today.”
Teachers’ voices are important, so they need to be given strategic input. As it stands, 40% of teachers said they have no say in school strategy, but improving this helps unite the whole school behind staff and student priorities, and lead to more successful outcomes and improvements.