I tried to compile a list of things that every teacher knows. I thought it might be helpful to see what kinds of things all teachers understand but that the general public probably doesn’t grasp.
Here’s my list.
Every teacher knows:
You can’t force students to learn.
You can’t control what students learn or think. You can only encourage them to learn and think.
All students can learn something. Most will not learn everything you’re trying to teach.
Relationships are more important than curriculum.
Race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, identity all matter in the classroom.
Students who feel safe and cared for engage more in the process of schooling than those who don’t.
Home life affects academics – positively and negatively.
Almost all parents want the best for their kids, but most are struggling to achieve it.
The best teacher cannot make up for an absent or abusive parent.
It is important to differentiate instruction but there is only so much differentiation a single person can do effectively.
Special education is vitally important but it is an unfunded mandate that demands teachers and schools provide services without providing the funding or tools to get things done.
Class size is important, and most classes would be better with fewer students.
Education is more of an art than a science.
Learning is not quantifiable. It cannot be measured like a physical quantity.
Standardized tests are poor ways to assess learning. Teacher created tests are better ways to assess learning. Student projects are often the best way to assess learning.
Student test scores are poor ways to assess teachers. The best way is peer observation of teachers in a classroom context with the nonpunitive goal of improving instruction.
Per pupil spending has a positive impact on academic outcomes. And in general the more per pupil spending, the better.
Teachers get no respect.
Politicians are afraid of the power teachers have over the next generation.
Education is a pawn in the culture war. Most things politicians and policymakers say about education are untrue.
Decision makers rarely listen to teachers.
There are very few bad teachers who last beyond 3-5 years in the classroom. There are many bad administrators who spent very little time in the classroom.
Public school teachers with 4-year (or more) degrees are generally better at their jobs than teachers with emergency certifications, Teach for America temps and uncertified charter school teachers.
Teachers’ working conditions are students’ learning conditions.
Teachers absorb student trauma. Whether intentionally or not, students often hurt their teachers – emotionally and/or physically. Teachers sometimes hurt their students.
Teachers’ safety, well-being and health are not valued by most school districts.
Teachers are not paid a fair wage for the work they do, the amount of education required to get the job, and the impact they have on the lives of their students.
Teachers are not able to use the bathroom during most of the school day.
Teachers do not have enough time untethered to students to plan, collaborate and speak to parents effectively.
Most paperwork teachers are required to complete, most meetings teachers are required to attend, and most professional development teachers are required to undergo is meaningless.
Teachers are expected to put their students before their own children and families.
Teachers are expected to take work home every day, and they often feel guilty if they don’t.
Teachers are expected to correct the wrongs of every level of society – and accept all the blame.
Teaching is one of the most important jobs in the world.
Teachers make a difference every day.
Many teachers who love their jobs are considering leaving at the first opportunity.
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