I have a university student who is in a masters program for education observing my class once a week for the next month. Speaking with him was interesting to say the least and it made me wonder if he actually knew any teachers.
I come from teaching stock. My grandmother was a fourth grade reading teacher. Several cousins from the other side of my family are teachers, two are ECE teachers (we covered ECE in the last entry). While no one can really predict what teaching is actually going to be like, I was fairly prepared by the time my turn in a classroom came up. I understood two very important things: teaching takes a lot of time and teaching is NOT just about your classroom.
During my lunch (which he was horrified to learn was at 10AM), he wanted to talk to me about teaching. He attempted to talk to me during my class, but he learned that doesn't really work when the kids are meant to be quiet and get frustrated that the teacher is not being quiet.
I have first period planning. Your planning period is just want it says; the time the school gives you to plan your lessons. You also grade, make calls home, meet with other teachers, meet with administrators, meet with students, do crazy amounts of paperwork and other various tasks during your planning. He came in time (well, actually late, but that's another rant) for my second period class, so the first class that I actually teach for the day. When I told him it was my first class, he said "Oh, so you just got here, too!" What? No, I didn't. I have planning! His argument was that if a teacher has everything set up for their first class of the day, they should be able to come right before that class. He did not seem to comprehend that if I did that, I'd have to stay late for the day.
You see, you're paid to be in your building a certain number of hours each day. Even though I don't have a class first period, I still have to be there. I'd rather leave the building before 4PM every day than show up late and stay late. Even when I arrive at my designated time, there are days when I am in the building after 4PM. He didn't understand this either. "What do you do with all of your time? It seems like kind of a waste to sit around and do nothing." Sit around and do nothing? Really?
It was just so shocking to me because I went into teaching knowing it was a long and exhausting career. I knew it would take up a large portion of my time. I knew I'd spend a lot of time in the school building. I knew there'd be a lot of extraneous work to accomplish throughout the week. I knew that teaching was going to become my life.
"Wait, what do you do when you have to go to the bathroom?" Hold it? You can't just leave the children unattended. "But they're high school students, what could they possibly do?" A fight could break out. A kid could have an asthma attack. An intruder could come in the building. One of the kids might have a weapon. Bullying could happen that could lead a student to consider thoughts of self harm. All kinds of horrible things could happen. There's a reason teachers are in the building. There are children motivated enough that I could leave a list of instructions and they'd do them whether I was in the room or not. But an emergency could happen, too! I could never live with myself if a child was killed or permanently injured because I couldn't hold my bladder.
I explained to him about administrative rules for your classroom and how following them was in your best interest. He rolled his eyes and said "I wanted to get into teaching to help people not follow a bunch of rules!" The rules help the students and you. The structure makes the students feel safe and secure. For some students, this is the only structure and authority they have all day. No matter what children will tell you, they need that authority and routine. They crave it. When they don't have it, they are not happy. They enjoy knowing what's going to come next and how a situation will work out. By creating and following the "rules" (we prefer to call them expectations, it sounds more positive), you are helping the students.
Overall, it was a very frustrating experience for both of us. He appears to have seen too many movies about teaching and not enough actual teachers. I think he thinks I'm a stick in the mud, so I set up for him to visit another teacher's room. Hopefully that will help. If not, he'll just be another new teacher who burns out within five years.
Teaching isn't for everyone. Teaching is not and should never be a fall back career. Getting your teaching certificate so you have something for do in case plan A doesn't work out is a disservice to yourself and the students who will have to suffer through you. If you're looking into teaching as a career, talk to a real one first. Ask what their day is like. Ask what their weeks and months look like. And for God's sake, if you don't want to be a teacher, don't say "It must be nice to have summers off and be home by 3PM!" Yeah, it would be nice if it were true, but it's not. What teachers are you hanging out with that have such a cake job?