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The Secret Lives of Teachers: Appreciate This!

By Meghan Everette on April 24, 2014
  • Grades: PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5, 6–8, 9–12

Teacher Appreciation Week is from May 5 to May 9. I love that there is a week to honor teachers. And while I’ll eat all the chocolate that enters my room, no doubt about it, I just wanted to take a moment to get real about my life in the classroom all those other weeks of the school year.

There is a persistent belief that a teacher's workday ends when the 3 p.m. bell rings — that we are finished with anything teacher-related when we leave the schoolyard. It simply isn’t true! Teachers live their jobs in a way that most folks cannot understand. I will lift the veil as I reveal the Top 10 Teacher Secrets.

  1. I work nights . . .

 . . . and weekends, and summers. Children may leave my classroom at 3 p.m., but that doesn’t mean my day is over. We have faculty meetings, meetings about kids that are in danger of failing, meetings to learn new and different teaching techniques, and meetings to plan school events. Sometimes we have meetings about meetings. I have to clean my classroom that somehow goes from fresh and tidy to “What exploded?” during the course of the day. After my own children are fed and in bed, I grade papers, create new lessons, and prepare files for the next day. In the summer, I attend professional development for weeks at a time, read journals and ideas, and write curriculum for the upcoming school year. Even while I am out enjoying the zoo with my family, I’m wondering what field trip options are available and asking if the worker with the monkey will come speak to my class. Teaching is a full-time job.

  1. I cringe at the thought of a substitute.

Now subs, don’t get me wrong, I love that you are able and willing to fill in. I believe you have one of world’s hardest jobs. However, I’d rather show up on my deathbed (and many of us have) than prepare for a day out of the classroom. Leaving notes to indicate the precise treatment for each child and type of emergency that might arise during the day while never knowing if you are able to get through the normal everyday dramas that can take place in my classroom, is terrifying. It takes me longer to plan beforehand and recuperate the day after I get back than if I’d never been out to begin with. Trust me, if I have a sub, there was probably an ambulance involved. Besides, I get two precious personal days a year that I have yet to take for actual personal reasons because I’ve used them for professional development (I paid for out-of-pocket). Two measly days. If I’m using them, it is for a good reason.

  1. I have a bladder of steel.

You think I kid! Find me a teacher that cannot hold it for a solid eight hours. I cannot leave my 6-year-oldsGirls' bathroom sign unattended, and I certainly couldn’t leave my 9-year-olds in previous years. I go to the bathroom when I get up, and after the three o’clock bell. And forget the notion of some luxuriously-appointed teacher’s lounge, restroom, or even a normal grownup public lav. I get the same pink tile mini-potty as every girl under the age of 8 in my school. I’ve honed my personal potty dance to look like well-executed classroom monitoring, and I’d advise anyone considering the teaching profession to do the same.

  1. I kill trees.

Yes, I am a certified murdereLots and lots of copiesr. Even when I would prefer another route, there are always necessary copies to be made. Our school is all digital, and yet there are paper copies that must be provided to go with our math series. They are not in the purchased workbooks, nor can they be rewritten onto loose-leaf paper (both of which consume trees as well). The weekly worksheets alone have likely resulted in major deforestation.

  1. I know what you did last summer.

I also know what you ate last night, where you are going this weekend, what you bought on your grocery trip, and what color underwear is your favorite. The younger the student, the more likely I am to know every detail of your personal life. You think you get a lot of, “Mrs. Everette said . . . ” stories? You have NO idea what I know about your bathroom habits.

  1. I like cafeteria food.

Yup, I do. And I really miss the days when the lunches were less healthy tooSchool lunch. I know, I know, there is an obesity problem. There is also only 20 minutes to sit for lunch and I want all the flavor I can cram in. My favorite is the rectangular school pizza. It is usually served with corn and some kind of fruit ice thing that doesn’t actually contain any sugar. Hamburger day is good, and I wouldn’t turn down a Crispito. Truthfully, if I didn’t have to get up early and make it, if I don’t have to reheat it, and if I don’t have to remember to bring home the Tupperware to wash after school, it’s all right by me.

  1. Sick kids are not so cute.

You know how when your own child throws up it isn’t quite as terrible as anyone else doing it? The same Kleenaxdoes not apply to teaching. I am not a germaphobe by any means. I despise hand sanitizer. (It gets in your cuts, the kids drip it all over, it smells funky, and the off-brand that gets donated turns a weird color when left on the shelf too long.) That said, I don’t like watching noses drip, kids coughing themselves inside out, or identifying weird skin rashes. I don’t want to see a wiggly tooth dangling by a thread or admire someone's three-day old scab. There are times, of course, when I need to do these things, but I am totally shuddering on the inside.

  1. I hate homework.

Besides the countless ways to get kids to do homework, the benefits of at-home practice, or the satisfaction that comes from knowing Mom has to see what kind of crazy answers her kid creates, I seriously hate homework. I do a little happy dance every time I see one of the countless studies proving homework doesn’t matter. Do I think learning should extend to the home and that some project responsibility should be managed? Totally. Do I want to find, copy, distribute, hunt down, and grade half-done ripped pages soaked in last night’s ketchup? Negative.

  1. I get paid a reasonable salary.

I think teachers are professionals. I think we work incredibly long hours (see #1) and do not truly have the life of “off-at-three-o'clock” luxury some perceive. I do think I’m paid an average wage. I will not be a crybaby about it. I do not expect there to be some unearthing of funds in our state that will bankroll teachers or somehow repay the nights away from my own family and the thousands (yes, thousands!) I spend on my own classroom. There is not enough money in the world for that. An unattributed viral post talks of paying teachers like babysitters only to find we would be making much, much more than teachers actually make. You know what I want? To be respected as a professional and be able to pay for my child’s summer camp when I attend professional development in the summer. That’s all.

  1. I love teaching!Sam I Am and Myself

I love back-to-school time and the crayons appearing in aisles. I love the smell of the school hallways. I love field trips and snack time and kids sweaty from PE. I love seeing ankles poke out of pants in the spring after a winter growth spurt. I love hearing "k-i-s-s-i-n-g" being sung, or hearing the anticipation for this weekend’s camp-out and big game. I love Valentine gifts that were half-eaten on the way to school, ragtag folders on their last legs before dumping homework everywhere, and the exasperated eye rolls shared among stressed coworkers passing in the hallway. I love being a copy machine technician, curriculum writer, nurse, psychologist, family friend, disgusting ogre, counselor, and role model. 

Best of all, I love when they accidentally call me "Mom."


Teachers, what deep dark secrets do you harbor and what should you really be appreciated for this year? Be sure and visit Scholastic's special Teacher Appreciation page with a note to all of us from Scholastic CEO, beautiful, FREE downloadable posters and printables, and a video featuring some of the bloggers you read right here on the Top Teaching blog!


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Comments (56)

As a veteran teacher and fellow professional, I loved your article! I am tired of the cries for more pay less testing,.... We should be asking for the respect other professionals receive. And before anyone gets upset, I work in one of the lowest paying states in the nation and we also score fairly low on testing- but it doesn't stop me getting up each day excited to teach and learn with my students. I love the sound of students sharing ideas, working on problems together, stumbling over words and then rereading them fluently. My favorite though is the "aha" moment; that moment when a child grasps a concept, the lightbulb clicks on and their face lights up with understanding...that is why I went into teaching.

Many truths here. But after 25 years, I'm really tired of teachers self-sacrificing for this job and expecting a pat on the back. You're sick? Stay home. You're not a servant and a door mat! Stop acting like one and telling everyone you just love it. It just perpetuates this notion that teachers aren't professionals and therefore don't deserve a decent living. Start demanding better working conditions.

I thank you for that post. You are right! BUT, we are a silent type. Doctors, lawyers, etc. have the same license as we do, issued by the state for our educational degrees for which we were tested and passed. This should be enough to prove we are professionals! It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see which teachers are teaching and producing students who are learning.

No, I didn't become a teacher for the pay, but now that I am close to retirement, I am beginning to regret that. The pay in our district is much lower than all those around us, we haven't had even so much as a cost of living raise, not to mention a step increase in 5 years, and my total retirement income from 28 years teaching in three states will top out at around $20,000 a year. Who can live on that? Thank goodness I have a husband or I would be working until I'm 95. I have always loved teaching, but they have just sucked the life out of me these last few years with the nonstop testing. Someone mentioned 20 minutes for lunch. I'd love that. We have duty during lunch and eat standing up on the playground holding a styrofoam food box with a water bottle stuffed in my pocket. I'd give anything to just be able to sit down for lunch.

This was a fun read, especially with Teacher Appreciation next week.

I would like to add that "I still get to have recess."

It is a great time to bond with so many students, teach them how to reach out to others who may feel isolated and alone, and show them how to have fun safely and with modified rules. There are no scouts watching your football, soccer, or basketball game, so yes, everyone has to have a turn with getting their hands/feet on the ball. Yes, you will get a time out for poor sportsmanship. (Think how ridiculous those grown adults look when they have bad attitudes and temper tantrums during the games.) We encourage students to stay active in a variety of ways, and we even get to participate in their games. When was the last time business workers were able to try double-dutch during their day? On rainy days, we use www.gonoodle.com to have a blast as we stay physical.

Recess keeps me young, and I get to laugh and smile along with others. I get to see life through the eyes of a child, and realize that the world is full of hope and promise. Lucky me!

This is my 35th year, all in special education, and my penultimate year. I loved this article and all of the comments, too! I've had my fair share of criminals, but so enjoyed my post card from the Persian Gulf from the former student whose hair I had to cut before JROTC inspections, and the number of weddings to which I was invited. One former student's mother told me I was the one person he could not wait to see at his wedding. It has been a frustrating, exhausting and rewarding career. Bless all of you that continue to do it for the "kids".

I agree with everything! Multitasking! Work never stops and in my country (Venezuela) the salary is TERRIBLE, even though I work in an all-girl Catholic school which is very prestigious....... It is so gratifying when the girls run to greet me in the morning with a big hug and tell me that they want me to be their teacher forever, when they enjoy my class and complain when the bell rings, or when they call me Mom... For me, this is the best recognition I can get and makes everything worthwhile.

I enjoy teaching. I spend my teaching hours with my classroom from 9 am to 3 pm. After school on certain days, I help the children who need the extra help to catch up with the others.

I spend time with the children in the community who also need assistance of whose parents can not afford lessons after school.

On weekends, my church period is spent with the children to encourage them to grow spiritually and enjoy life. Myself and other teachers have craft, puppet ministry, dramatizations and more to make teaching and learning exciting.

Teaching is my life and the beauty of it is that my biological children and my husband are supportive and get involved.

I'm a teacher and I agree with many of these points, especially regarding the hours we work! However, I diasagree with the sub thing - personally, I stay home if I'm sick! Just like you pointed out, I hate when sick kids bring germs in and I know my students' parents and coworkers don't appreciate me dragging myself in and infecting everyone around me! I also take personal days - I love my students, but I always love my own family, and I'm a much better teacher when I avoid burnout and take (just a little!) time for myself when I need it. After my first year or so I figured out that no one is handing out medals for attendance to teachers!

I am a retired teacher who worked in an elementary school for 36 years. What finally drug me down was all the testing . I felt I wasn't really being a true teacher but a robot who read from testing manuals never stopping to consider the differing abilities or learning styles of the students. The other thing our school insisted upon was only 1 recess a day for my third graders. Try teaching 9 year old kids anything when they have been sitting all afternoon. Especially such important words as onomatopoeia ! Lol. I respect all of you who continue to teach. I loved my job when testing wasn't our main job. Hang in there. Education seems to always change. Lets hope it changes for the better.

Excellent article. I think you really got to some of the Truths of teaching. Great heart.

I love this list! I would also add that WE CARE! It bothers me so much when I overhear someone say something like "Teachers just don't care. They have tenure, etc." What they don't know is that we read books and articles, and we check out documentaries, and we attend professional development workshops and meeting all focused on the various issues we see in our classrooms just so we can get an idea of how to handle each one better. They don't know I've spent Valentine's, countless Friday nights, lunch "breaks", and so many other times trying to learn about how to teach the child with dyslexia, ADHD, FAS, etc. They don't know about the days we leave the classroom smiling, but once we get home, we cry in secret because we fear we wont be able to reach that ONE child. I love my job, and I care about the success of each and every one of my students.

I love my job. I am rich in all the ways that don't involve actual cash. Because I have been teaching a long time, I have gotten see how some things turn out; one former student is a doctor and one a school principal. A whole slew of nurses and teachers have passed through my doors along with some beauticians, mechanics, Marines, cooks, coaches, and one college professor. I have taught two members of our school board, but also one escaped convict. I am sometimes irritated, sometimes tired but never bored. I can fix the copier, stop a nose bleed, explain which Common Core State Standards apply meaningfully to whatever I feel like doing, and identify the author of a mean note by the handwriting. I nag for a living, but I know I have made a difference in some lives.

Great blog. However I'm stuck on the "I get paid enough". You must not teach in North Carolina.... Just curious. And you didn't mention testing. Hmmmm. Does your state not test? If not, AND you get paid enough, I'm moving to YOUR state. Love my job. Love my kids. Hate the pressure and disrespect.

I agree wholeheartedly with you about the lack of pay, especially when my favorite Seahawk cornerback Earl Thomas just signed for 9 million a year. I once wanted to and had a great track to become a lawyer and go to law school. When 9-11-01 came around, my heart changed for the children in this country because of what was going on in the world at that time. What does that have to do with low teacher pay you might ask? Simple: I didn't become a teacher to get only monetary rewards. All philosophizing aside, I encourage you to self-reflect as to why you became a teacher? I bet it wasn't for the pay either. It's because the children deserve honorable caring adults who can see their potential even before they can. It's probably also because you enjoy the recognition and love that can only come from a child in whom you have devoted hour after hour of instruction. The rewards ARE in teaching trust me. Children's lives changed for the better is priceless!

I was told when I took my teaching job in a small town that, "You will have no privacy. Everyone will know you and everything about you. You will see 500 people in the grocery store." I never realized how much I love it! I love feeling like I'm part of my community. But even better is when I'm in the grocery store, or wandering around the Village (our community), and I see a student and they run up and hug me and hurry to introduce me to their parents (if I haven't met them already) and they have told their parents all about me and how much they love my class! It's funny to see some of them when I'm out in public. They think we slink back into a cave when the 3:00 bell rings and we only come out when it's time for school. We couldn't possible go to real restaurants like they do!

I also love receiving e-mails and text messages from former students telling me how much they miss me and wish I was their teacher again this year. They write to tell me they made middle school band, or the cheerleading squad. It is so great that they thought enough of me to inlcude me in their lives even after they've graduated and moved on!!!

I got called Mr. H. or coach and although I was a paraprofessional for 9 years before graduating and becoming a certified teacher, all those same things about ignoring you at the mall or movies happened to me as well! I also can relate to working in the inner-city and just how hard it is working with students whose parents you never get to meet! I never have had any children, so I always thought that the kids I was blessed to teach were sort of mine. I appreciate your article and it definitely makes me love teaching especially now that I am looking for a teaching job in Texas! Thanks for making my afternoon Meghan!

The bladder of steel... SO TRUE! I used to hold my pee for HOURS on end. And all of the others. The reasonable salary thing depends on where you live, I think, and your personal lifestyle choices, of course. But I'm here to agree not argue. TEACHERS are the BEST!

I have been a teacher for 35 years! I can attest to all of the things you talk about and sometimes I wonder where am I going to get the time to do all the things teachers have to do as well as the roles we have to "play" in the course of the days and weeks. As a teacher we had to supervise school events,basketball,softball etc games ON WEEKENDS!!!! Yes even our weekends weren't "free". I agree that all of these things don't happen as much any more as parents are finally taking over the "sports" supervision. Finally! Thank Goodness.
In spite of this I would teach every day. I would still teach but at some point in your life you have to have another life. Teaching was my first love!

I wish that all people, really knew how much time teachers spend on the weekend and other time that is supposed to be their own working on school projects. Along with all the money that they spend on their kids supplies, room decorations and any other support items that the class may need it all comes out of their home budget which is very limited. Then maybe we could get them the money and respect that is so long overdo. They show so much pride and give so much respect for everyone involved with their kids that help get the job done I wish that they could get some back. GOD loves them and all others should.

I love this! I must confess to not liking cafeteria food and HATING field trips... But the rest is spot on. Additionally I LOVE stickers, fun paper, all things sparkly and laminating. I even have a laminator at home! I also love it when my kinders write about me. It is especially cute when they write mr instead of mrs. :-)

Field trips are not awesome. I think the place, docent, parent helpers, etc... all feed into it. STICKERS! Me too! I have a cold laminator and sticker maker. If I had a poster machine, I'd be unstoppable!

I love when kids say "it's time to go already?"

You must be a great teacher to hear that!

Beautiful post! Gets to the heart of what living a teaching life is all about. Thank you for putting into words what many of us can't .

This was wonderful. Every thing you said was completely accurate! People have said they hate when teachers refer to their students as their kids but in my case I have the same kids for 4 to 9 years and if they leave my room they go next door....so pretty much 9 years unless they leave. I have 14-22 year olds so yes occasionally they call me their school mom and I wouldn't trade it for anything!

Oh wow - 9 years is a ton! My old school was very close to the middle and high school and I got to see my kids go from 3rd grade to 12th. It is amazing the transformations that happen.

Thanks for revealing your secrets. There must be some more...right?^^ Your post gave me big smiles.Hope your days as a teacher bring you big smiles all the time. *^0^*

Oh yes.... many, many more!

I think the one thing students don't always understand (I teach 5th grade) is how much the teachers actually legitimately care about them. I've decided to leave the teaching profession, but if there was one thing that could have kept me around, it was the students. I want every single one of them to succeed at whatever gets them excited. I want them to know that no matter how they are feeling, what they are doing, or what they look like, I care so much about them. And I want them to know that even though I'm leaving, I'm not going to forget my time teaching.

I think that's very true - I think the older the kid, the less they believe, which is sad!

I taught special education for most of my career. Sometimes I had the same kids for up to four years. I spent countless hours on planning lessons, documenting, writing IEPs and keeping things organized because it was best for the kids. I can identify with the person that says she spent thousands or dollars out of pocket because I did too. I worked more days when I should have been home in bed than I care to think about. I remember
Going to the bathroom before leaving the house and going when I got home at night only to realize I hadn't been to the restroom all day.(Now at nearly 60 years old I'm paying. Ladies take a restroom break!). I got a kick out of being called "mom" at the beginning of my career but getting called "grandma" toward the end wasn't such a kick. There is nothing like being a teacher.

Special education has a whole other set of worries to contend with. Bless you and that paper work!

I agree with what you said. You write beautifully. Did you major in English? I come from a family of educators and I remember well how much time my dad spent on correcting papers and writing up plans on his own time.

I didn't, but my mom is an English teacher and she will love that you said that!

I agree with everything that's been voiced,and all of this applies to students who were are in GED classes as well.

Amen! Absolutely perfect!

I loved this. It is all so true. I also think about the emotional toll that teaching takes. My heart breaks for my students. When I know they are having a rough time or circumstance, I have the urge to give them a big hug and tell them it will be o.k. Of course, in this day and age, we aren't even supposed to give a middle school student a pat on the back. I come home excited for my students and have also cried for them. It is emotionally exhausting. At times it is hard to pack that away so when I come home, I have time and energy for my family. It is an emotional balancing act each and every day.

It is emotional. I was in severe poverty / inner city for 7 years and it was heart wrenching everyday. The thing is, now that I'm in a "good" neighborhood, there are the same trials and tribulations! It is emotional to the core. I struggle with my kids being the same age as my class (K and 2nd while I teach 1st). It is hard to want to put up with more kid stuff at home!

Absolutely perfect! I couldn't have said it any better. That's so me!!!

Great post. I get called Mom, Dad, any number of brothers and sisters names and an occasional Uncle. I never say a word but I draw the line at Pop Pop or Pawpaw. LOL.

The very best article written on the subject!!!!! You hit all the nails on their proverbial heads!!! Happy Summer to you!!

There are many things about my job I LOVE and things I don't. What I enjoy is when past students come to visit with you or help in your classroom on their pro-d daya. Yes, sometimes that means having to give them something to do, but it re-affirms that you've made a positive difference with them... I also enjoy getting to be silly with them from time to time... It keeps us young!

I love being silly! I think I'm pretty serious, but when I dance or goof off they love it!

Thanks for the words and as a fellow teacher the reminder that at least educators are community who can understand this!

When I had a classroom, I loved the "Good Mornings"...the many crayon drawings of me...the impromptu hugs around my waist...the torn, bedraggled tiny wildflowers laid on my desk after recess. And the best part I loved was when I felt a tiny hand slip into mine as we walked to lunch/library/music/PE/recess. That little gesture of complete trust always made my heart melt. Thanks for a great article!

What a wonderful article.. i agree with the whole thing. And it feels so good when I'm at the store or at a local festival and from acrooss the crowd I hear "Ms. Levine!" and a student, one of "my kids," runs up to me and throws his/her arms around me. It's a feeling all the money in the world could not replace.

LOVE this!! I agree with all, except the cafeteria food!! I also love when the morning talk is, "I saw you in your car!" Then they tell everyone in the class, "I saw the teacher's car!" So cool! Last week we went on a field trip and I wore my Nike tennis shoes. They were a BIG hit and all they could talk about for the first 30 minutes..."Did you see teacher's shoes?", "Teacher is wearing tennis shoes!" I also love that they call me "teacher". They know my name, but most of them call me "teacher" or occasionally, "Mom" will slip out with embarrassed giggles. I love it!! The best job in the world! Thanks for this article!

Oh yes! They notice hair cuts and new clothes... It is hilarious! They are mystified by my car too!

I wear a variety of hats in my classroom. I am counselor, Occupational Therapist (non-certified), lawyer, nurse, secretary, and shoe-tying expert (if only I had a dollar for every time I tie shoes - just to watch them tug on the strings and untie even the tightest of double knots within the hour!). Whatever comes up, teachers must handle it! Multitasking? Teachers invented it!!!

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