Why teachers can’t have ‘normal’ lives (The Washington Post)

February 5 original article here.

Though this article is written with grade school teachers in mind, I find many of these points to be true about college professors and instructors as well.

(By Charles Rex Arbogast/ AP)

These posts are originally from an article by Alice Trosclair and appeared on the appeared on The Educator’s Room website. I am modifying these for college educator.

“Oh you are a teacher? It must be so nice to have two months off. I just have a normal job with only two weeks’ vacation.”

Me: In the case of the professor, we generally teach over the summer to make extra money and the “breaks” we get during Christmas and in between semesters are generally filled with meetings, curriculum revision, paperwork, and let’s not forget research and publication because as we all know, publish or perish for most of us.

Valerie Strauss:

We have all heard it — and to be honest, we are sick of it. Sure, we get summers “off.” I should not need to mention that during that time we attend workshops, plan lessons and rewrite curriculum we rework to meet changing standards, but, apparently, I do. Here are some things people may not realize about the lives of teachers.

Free time.  Our free time is spent grading papers, planning lessons, and researching new ways to teach concepts. The majority of us are more than teachers; we are tutors, coaches, and sponsors. We spend time after school (me: or before and after class as well as during office hours) helping develop talents and skills, for no extra pay. We give up time with our families to help mold your child (me: adult).

Little or no privacy. We cannot go to Walmart in shorts, no make-up, and a pony-tail because we might run into a student and parent … Or a student might see a bottle of wine in our cart and when Monday comes, we hear students saying making jokes, like Ms. So and So is a wino, or Ms. So and So, you didn’t listen to the DARE lady.

Me: I don’t know the last time I left the house in questionable clothing or looking just slightly disheveled even to go to the gym for fear of running into a student. Forget going to bars,clubs, or concerts and not always having in the back of my mind that I have to maintain an image.


Then there is social media, which has become a dangerous land mine. You have a bad day or a bad customer? No problem; many of you can rant online.  If teachers do that, we get pulled into the office for our negativity. We even get chastised if a friend posts an inappropriate post on our page. Even with privacy settings, things get out, so if it is not PG, it doesn’t go on my page. Everyone says we have freedom of speech, but anything can be taken out of context and lead to a dismissal. Oh and did I mention homecoming week? Everyone’s house is victimized. If you are loved by students,  only toilet paper awaits. Hated? Get ready…


Forget even having a social media account that isn’t dedicated 100% to my professional life. I gave up on social media the moment I realized I can easily be found by anyone at any time. I am terrified of social media and my friends, who may possible curse in a post on my page. This could result in a student or administrator seeing it and be pulled into an office for a discussion on image. God forbid a student for one reason or another decides to have it out for me (maybe for an F they rightfully earned), social media becomes the perfect easy access target for ammunition. As far as my students are concerned, I do not exist outside of the school and my interests are nil other than art history and teaching.


Sickness. We can’t get sick and stay home — at least not without guilt.  When many people miss work, a desk is empty or a register stays closed. We have 30  or so souls who need to learn. Somebody has to do a sick teacher’s job, and that somebody is either a sub or a teacher who gives up preparation time to cover the class.


In 9 years of college teaching, I have not used one sick day. I have come in with broke legs, on crutches, blinding migraines, 24-hours after I was released from the hospital, you name it. As long as I am not carrying a contagious disease, I am there at the start of class of before, without fail.


We save the world. It is not all bad. We save and guide our students’ lives. Teachers help choose majors, guide interests, and build confidence. We inspire and redirect. We don’t have superpowers, but we do have impact. And when things go well, we are thanked, years later. Our students remember us when they get older. They are at class reunions and say, ‘Remember when Ms. So and So said that? She changed my life.’

That is why we cannot live a “normal” life. We are not “normal” people.


There is always that one student who begins the semester and is only taking my class “to fulfill a credit requirement” but somewhere in the middle of the semester, I start to see the spark. They get the art bug. Next they are sending me articles and checking out galleries, none of which was required for class. Sometimes, I even get emails that students have changed their major or decided to apply to a graduate art history program. That’s when it’s really worth it.

Oh, neither Valerie in her article nor I mentioned the crap pay, but its there. No Bugattis or mansions for me!





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