WE know what it takes to be a teacher – the hours, the workload, the emotional commitment, the frustration and the benefits.

How is it that the general public out there really has no idea what it is that we do?

Teachers as a whole don’t have great PR.  Because teachers care, we tend to just take on the work and do it to the best of our ability to serve kids.  Given the sometimes vitriolic public response to teacher job action, we need to better communicate what we do.

What if we kept caring, but communicated from a vocabulary of professionalism? Maybe people would start to get a clearer idea of the importance and workload of what we do.

Here’s what I mean:

The caring teacher in us says: I’m coaching the kids’ grade 7 basketball team.

This is what we say because this is what we do. But society at large doesn’t seem to respect or understand what we do. So, being teachers, we need to educate them.

We could say instead: I’m volunteering without pay  5 hours a week on top of my job to coach basketball, that at market value would cost $50/hour for my time $100 per hour for the space rental, and $100 per hour for security detail, and $20 activity supplies fee per child.  I believe sports are an excellent way for students to develop team building skills and lifelong fitness and so I choose to take away the cost from society, and volunteer my time to do this.

Seems like a mouthful.  But it is! That is what we do! Why shouldn’t people know it directly?

Instead of:  I’m just helping some kids with their math afterschool.

We say: I’m working privately with a group of 5 students to assess their understanding of math concepts and structure programming so they can clarify and reinforce their understanding. I’m doing this during the time I normally reserve for preparing the next day’s lesson.  There are commercial tutoring services that charge $40/hour to take your child through generalized math concepts and who do not know your child, but from me you get personalized, specialized service and with a connection to a network of people who can further help your child if need be.

 Instead of:  I’ve just got some marking to finish up at home.

We say: I have 60 papers to assess using this rubric with specialized criteria. It will take me 10 minutes per paper, for a total of 600 minutes, or 10 hours.  This only represents 2 of the 4 classes I teach. I used my preparation time at school to prepare the next lessons and activities. I used my time after school until 5 to run a rehearsal, meet with parents or 2 students in need and participated in a school success committee.  This 10 hours of marking will need to be completed either after 8 p at night when my own kids are put to bed, or during the weekend.

Instead of:  I’m looking forward to summer vacation.

We should say:  I’m looking forward to a well-deserved break. It’s fortunate that my district pays my 10-month salary over 12 months, because I know some districts don’t and you need to be quite mindful with your money if you are trying to save for 2 months of unemployment where you can’t collect EI.  It will also be nice to be able to go to the washroom whenever I want for the next two months.

I’m being facetious there.  But you get the point.

Society in general isn’t going to look seriously at what we do for a living, until we explain it more seriously to them. We should be proud of what we do every day and let people know directly.