So you want to be a teacher?

By Dr. D. Jackson Maxwell

Everyone feels overworked, under-appreciated, and stressed-out by their jobs. We all work hard. However, once in a while I hear someone say, “You are lucky to be a teacher. You get all the holidays off and a summer vacation. You’ve got it made!” I shake my head and reply, “Yes, the benefits are nice, but you have no idea what a teacher’s day is like.” This article is for those who are thinking about giving up the corporate life to join the easy life of a teacher. Do not misunderstand, I love my job. I just want to give you a peek at what a teacher’s life is really like.
An elementary school teacher’s day typically begins no later than 5:30am. After a shower, a cup of coffee, and maybe breakfast, it is time to leave for work (that is if you don’t have the additional responsibility of getting your own children ready for daycare or school). Teachers often clock in by 6:45am. That gives just enough time to review lesson plans for the day and set out the day’s classroom activities.
Breakfast duty begins at 7am and lasts until 7:30. Teachers need to make sure that all students get the opportunity to eat breakfast. At 7:30, teachers return to their rooms, take role, collect homework, and instruction begins. After the reading, spelling, math, and science lessons are completed (not counting restroom and water breaks), its time for lunch, often as early as 10:30am! By 11:00, it is time for computer, social studies, writing, and support classes (e.g. library, art, music, language, or P.E.). At 1pm, you head out for recess, where as a teacher you are expected to supervise organized activities such as kickball, basketball, or other active endeavors. Next, it is time for grammar and review and time to assign homework and prepare for dismal at 2:15am. Bus duty lasts until around 2:45 and the official day ends (that is if you do not have a faculty meeting, tutoring responsibilities, a club to sponsor, a sport to coach, or perhaps a parent-teacher conference).
Not too bad, eh? A bit busy but manageable, right? Actually this is where the teacher’s second day begins. After school duties and programs, teachers are required to take staff development classes. If the teacher is not tenured, they must prepare for frequent observations and evaluations. All teachers must research and prepare unit and daily lesson plans in six or seven subject areas. Teachers rarely leave school on time and many often stay on campus till after dark.
However once these tasks are complete, a teacher can now go home for supper and relax, kick their feet up, take it easy, and watch a little tube. Another day is done. No corporate stress, no phone calls at home, and all worries are left at school until tomorrow. Well, not quite. What about all of the homework collected and tests taken? Those must be graded. What about little Johnny and Kierra who argued all day? You need to give their parents a call. The report cards are also due? Better tally up the scores, record the grades, and enter them online. There is the paperwork required by your school, the board of education, state department of education, and federal government. These are reports on everything from student achievement, student physical and mental health, teacher standards, professional certifications, supply lists, material inventories, and innumerable other forms.
Whew! I am worn out. Its time for a cold drink and some couch time! Not quite, what about the laundry, dinner, and lunches for tomorrow? How about time for my kids and spouse? Plus, teachers do this for substantially less than what a comparable job in the corporate world would pay. So, why do teachers do it? Teachers are not about making money, avoiding the corporate world, or for benefits such as holidays and summer vacations. Teachers chose teaching because they love children. Teachers are in the business of preparing children to meet the challenges they will face in life. Our goal is to ensure students can achieve their dreams. A truly admirable objective, if I do say so myself.
Dr. D. Jackson Maxwell is a National Board certified teacher with over 20 years of educational experience. If you have any questions or comments, please email

Author: LampLighter

The voice of Cooper-Young, a vibrant, diverse neighborhood to live, work and play, in the heart of Midtown Memphis, Tennessee.

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