Ten common myths about teaching
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Educators discuss the nation’s biggest misconceptions about teachers and their profession
“One highly misconceived idea is that today's teachers are not as dedicated to their work as teachers in other eras," says one reader.It seems everyone has an opinion about teachers and their profession these days … and most of them aren’t teachers.
Perhaps it would be a different matter if the conceptions of teaching were like those of NASA engineers: smart, genius! Or maybe like those of firefighters: brave, self-sacrificing! However, in our nation’s current climate, saying the word “teacher” is like Forrest Gump opening a box of chocolates: you never know what you’re going to get, as teachers too often are seen as a convenient scapegoat for the perceived problems that are plaguing public education.
eSchool News recently asked readers: “If you could clear up one misconception about teachers and/or teaching, what would it be?” Our goal was not only to help others understand these misconceptions, but also to learn how teachers feel they are perceived by others.
Here are 10 misconceptions about teachers and teaching that emerged from readers (responses edited for brevity):
1. Those who can’t do, teach.“The one misconception I would like to clarify is around the phrase, ‘Those who can cannot do, teach.’ While many educators are active contributors to the particular area in which they have domain expertise (i.e. Science, Language Arts, History), K-12 educators … have committed themselves to developing skills in how to engage and foster growth of young people around the content and processes that comprise that area of expertise. It is the very special practitioner [who] makes a good educator; however, good educators need to have enough knowledge of their areas of expertise to cultivate excitement, curiosity, and spark the passion to commit to a vocation or avocation. Maybe a better phrase is, ‘Those who teach create those who do.’” —Michael Jay
“One of my favorites is, ‘Those who can’t, teach.’ Teachers must be well educated in their field of study, of course, but that is only the beginning. Teachers need much pedagogical preparation on topics including educational psychology, classroom management, assessment, curriculum instruction, communication skills, and budgeting. And that is all before a teacher steps into a classroom. The requirements for a qualified teacher include all of the skills needed for the 21st-century workplace.” —Mary Montag, teacher, St. Teresa’s Academy
2. A teacher’s day ends at 3 p.m.
“The main misconception that I would like to see corrected is the belief that we all quit work at 3:00. My work day usually extends to 8 or 9 p.m., and I have to work on the weekends. On the days that I do leave the building at 3 p.m., I am taking my work home with me.” —Anonymous
“I would love to clear up one misconception about teaching: that teachers have an easy job, working 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. with summers and holidays off. The sad thing is that too many people become teachers for this very reason. The good teachers I know work before school starts and long after the students go home, and work all summer, too—taking classes and attending workshops to become a better teacher; working on developing activities, units, and lessons to help students learn better; and learning new skills to integrate technology into their classrooms.” —Pam Mackowski
“Contrary to popular belief, we do not have summers off. We spend them doing professional development and planning for the coming year—even more so if you are changing grade level or subject for the coming year. Also, we don’t stop working when that last bell rings—often we spend our evenings and weekends grading papers, planning lessons, and responding to parent eMails and phone calls.” —Susan J. Walton, computer teacher and technology coordinator, Academy of St. Adalbert, Ohio.
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