Ten common myths about teaching


4. If teachers are good at what they do, student grades and test scores will be good, too.

“The best teachers among us can never be identified by the performance of their students on tests. We should seek to find those teachers who instill in students a belief that they can and will be successful when they are confronted with challenges. Teachers who provide real-world challenges in which students can try, fail, and try again until they master a thing are teachers in the truest sense of the word. If a third grader scores 100 percent on a math test, the teacher has not necessarily taught [that student] a thing. It is the student who fails the test, yet subsequently finds a way to master the material, [who] has learned something. Let’s assume everyone has a lifetime of learning ahead of them and not judge based on how much or how little is left to learn.” —Todd Harris, director of technology, Copiague Public Schools

“A big misconception about teaching is that ‘a teacher’s job is to teach.’ In actual fact, one cannot teach anyone anything; for students [who are] motivated to learn, teachers can facilitate that learning. And teachers (facilitators) can provide an environment that is conducive to increased motivation to learn; but again, teachers cannot motivate learners … any more than they can teach unmotivated students.” —John Bennett, emeritus associate dean/professor, University of Connecticut

5. Teaching is easy, and anyone can do it.

“The major misconception that the general public has is that teaching is not a profession. We teachers must complete professional development and continuing education in order to maintain our licenses. Not only must we master pedagogical theory, but we also must put it into practice daily. I think that particularly the early childhood educators bear the brunt of this. Most outsiders to education see preschool and kindergarten as no more than playing games and glorified babysitting, when in reality the ‘play’ is used to develop social, motor, and other important life skills.” —Monica Wagner

“Last year I worked enough extra hours to add four more months of employment time. When you manage 20-30 students an hour, it is a 24/7 task. You don’t get a chance to go to the bathroom and hide for five minutes because you are having a bad day or someone yelled at you. Unlike the phone or the papers on your desk, I can’t leave my students unsupervised because everything they do, in my sight or out of my sight, I’m responsible for. You eat a 20-minute lunch while continuing to manage 20-30 students eating their 20-minute lunch. Many days, this will be the only time all day long you get to sit down—at least for a moment. You go hours, sometimes days without meaningful adult conversation during the day—no chance to gossip at the water cooler or the break room. There isn’t time or opportunity to sneak out on lunch break to let the service repairman in the house or drop off that bill payment, much less to make a doctor’s appointment or schedule a meeting. Teaching isn’t a job—it is a lifestyle—a calling, and those of us [who] do it and do it well can’t imagine doing anything else!” —Jennifer L. Kelly, M.Ed., NBCT-Literacy

“If I could change one idea about teachers, it would be the idea that teachers are inherently lazy. Teachers are the hardest working multitasks there are, next to parents. Actually, during business hours, we are the parents. We love the children, discipline the children, play with the children, and finally teach the children. Then we go home and do it all over again with our own families.” —Charlotte McNeary

“That our jobs are easy, as we only work with children—especially when it’s young children such as the kind I work with.” —Angela Achim, elementary art teacher, American International School of Bucharest

“The biggest myth about teaching is that someone coming directly from industry will be more capable because of his or her content knowledge. Those are the people who usually flop. Teaching requires much more than a knowledge of content; it requires passion and skill in working with children, engaging their interests, keeping them motivated, managing a classroom, and much more.” —Anonymous

Meris Stansbury

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