I’m a proud public school teacher. Here’s a glimpse at what I do.

I am a teacher.

  • I spend Saturdays reading, researching, and creating materials to use in my classroom.
  • I spend Sundays entering my lesson plans for the week in our online planning and grading system.
  • I wake up at 5:15am each weekday, and the very first thought that enters my mind is “what am I teaching in each of my courses today–and what do I need to do in order to be ready for each class?”
  • I write and revise curriculum.
  • I meet formally (and frequently) with my colleagues to discuss content-specific issues connected to instruction.
  • I study the ever-changing standards to which I must align my instruction.
  • I purchase extra binders, assignment books, pens, and notebooks to keep in my classroom for students who are unable to go out and purchase their own.
  • I serve on district committees that seek to improve instruction for the children we serve.
  • I arrive at school early to make copies of and organize materials I’ll distribute to students throughout the day.
  • I distribute informational slips from the main office, principal’s office, or guidance office to students each day.
  • I check my voicemail before another teacher and her class come into my room during my planning period.
  • I spend my plan period returning calls and emails to parents, guardians, administrators, counselors, Child Study Team members, and others who have an interest in my students’ progress.
  • I must teach to address all the different ability levels and learning styles in my classroom.
  • I visit guidance counselors between periods to express concerns about students who I notice are struggling.
  • I spend nights and weekends writing college, job, character, or scholarship recommendations for students who are currently in my classes or those whom I have taught in the past.
  • I spend nights and weekends uploading those recommendations to an internet-based “college and career readiness platform” that sends these recommendations electronically to colleges and universities.
  • I create meaningful assessments which are designed to show me the extent to which students have mastered the content we’ve covered in class.
  • I hold individual writing conferences with students during my plan periods and before/after school to help those students improve their writing.
  • I spend time before/after school and during my free periods helping students revise their college application essays.
  • I nominate students (in writing) for acceptance into various programs; for scholarships; for recognition in the local newspaper; for recognition at our district’s awards night.
  • I engage in professional development opportunities, both in-district and out-of-district.
  • I read about all aspects of education “reform” and do my best to speak out against reforms that are damaging to students.
  • I keep accurate records of student absences, latenesses, early dismissals, restroom trips, visits to the nurse, class cuts, and class participation.
  • I attend my students’ sporting events and other extracurricular activities.
  • I grade papers. (Incessantly.)
  • I maintain (and update daily) sites and pages on social media to connect with my students and their families.
  • I maintain (and update weekly) a website, which has mass text and email blast capabilities, which lists class schedules, assignments, and other important information.
  • I visit our tech crew when my school-issued computer crashes, when my SmartBoard doesn’t work, when my projector needs a new bulb, when my printer is offline, when our online grading program is inaccessible, when my laptop’s wireless signal is lost, or when the my students encounter trouble with the computers they’re working on.
  • I keep a supply of flash drives in my classroom for students who can’t afford their own.
  • I monitor students in the cafeteria, in the hallways, and outside the building.
  • I break up fist fights, many of which occur between students who are physically larger than I am.
  • I donate gift cards–anonymously–to students who have financial troubles at home.
  • I constantly “reinvent the wheel” in terms of my teaching techniques, assessments, and materials; after all, students change, and so should my instruction.
  • I counsel students who cry because of problems with friends, family, boyfriends/girlfriends, peers, or other teachers.
  • I spend time before and after school allowing students to complete make-up work.
  • I read the newspaper, scholarly articles, and blogs daily and apply what I’ve read to my lessons and my students’ lives.
  • I spend summers taking professional development courses and reading and preparing for the courses I’ll teach (these change frequently) the following year.
  • I pay for many of the materials I use in my classroom.
  • I stress the importance of learning for the sake of learning–not learning to pass a test or get a grade.
  • I ask my students to be good citizens and to understand the common emotions and experiences that connect all human beings.
  • I seek to combat student apathy by determining students’ interests and crafting lessons that incorporate these interests.
  • I refer students who I feel might be engaging in dangerous behavior to our substance abuse counselor.
  • I refer students who I feel might be experiencing abuse at home to our administrators and counselors.
  • I refer overt or suspected instances of bullying to the appropriate authorities and discreetly follow up with or keep an eye on students who I feel are being victimized.
  • I seek to understand the home lives of the approximately 120 students I teach each year and to tailor my instruction based on this information.
  • I complete forms to help special education teachers write Individualized Education Plans for students with learning disabilities.
  • I record information about students who have 504 plans and submit this information to the building principal.
  • I attend IEP and 504 meetings before school, after school, and during my free periods.
  • I cover classes for teachers who must miss class to be in meetings for individual students.
  • I buy cookies, flowers, candles, pizza kits, and other things I don’t really need to help students with fundraisers.
  • I maintain a close, mutually-respectful relationship with members of our Parent-Teacher Association.
  • I educate students whose parents are wonderfully supportive or our public school district and its educators.
  • I educate students whose parents obviously bash teachers at home; often those parents wonder why their children have trouble learning in school. (Hint: it might be because of the lack of regard for academics and the lack of respect for educators that these parents spew on a regular basis.)
  • I witness the effects poverty has on students, some of whom come to school with worn or dirty clothing and without enough food.
  • I have served a coach and an extracurricular advisor.
  • I’ organize fundraisers, dances, and trips–and collect and organize money associated with each activity.
  • I attend fundraisers, organized by members of our school community, for students and families in need.
  • I donate coats, shoes, old clothing, new toys, and money to our community through charitable events our students and staff sponsor.
  • I use social media to connect to fellow educators all over the country in order to share ideas and engage in a professional community.
  • I administer standardized tests that are required by the state.
  • I spend instructional time preparing students, many of whom have test anxiety, to take such standardized tests by acquainting them with the format, content, and expectations involved with these tests.
  • I watch, with great concern, as testing companies like Pearson make hundreds of millions of dollars by selling their testing services to districts, many of which are in financial crises.
  • I watch, with great concern, as unregulated charter schools, which are funded by taxpayer money, are advertised as panaceas to the current problems with public education.
  • I watch, with great concern, as non-educators shape education policies that reduce the art of learning to a set of skills that is measured by high-stakes multiple-choice tests.
  • I volunteer my time to support the efforts of my local union.
  • I contribute hundreds of dollars each month to my pension.
  • I contribute hundreds of dollars each month to my health benefits.
  • I collect 22 (sometimes 21, depending on the calendar) paychecks each year–and do not get paid in the months of July or August.
  • I listen, with disgust, as teachers are vilified and maligned.
  • I understand that though many seek to dismantle public education, it is my job to ensure it remains a fundamental part of our society.

This is a rough and incomplete list that I complied in one sitting. Please add your own experiences in the space below to help me create a more complete record of a teacher’s responsibilities.

People call teachers many things, but to me, “lazy” is the stereotype that is most offensive.



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17 responses to “I’m a proud public school teacher. Here’s a glimpse at what I do.

  1. Val Durfee

    I’m not even a certified teacher, I’m a para and I spend evenings adapting curriculum for special needs students. That means taking high school texts about things like Imperialism and re-writing it so a second grader can understand it.

  2. Stacey W.

    I submit to educational strategists (Kagan, Springboard), i.e. strangers, interrupting my classes in order to “observe” me and my students.

    I then listen to my admin. regale me with the recommendations of these “specialists” who know nothing of my students or the the inter-workings of my classes.

  3. Jennifer gottlieb

    I mentor, observe, listen to and make suggestions to new, less experienced teachers befor, during and after school.

  4. Vantucky Teacher

    I create and give students a variety of choices as to how they demonstrate their learning and skills because I understand that one size does not fit all in measuring student growth.

    I am mentoring new teachers in my subject and my building.

    I hold after hours writing workshops for students to practice their writing in small groups and get immediate feedback from me on their efforts.

    I spend over 10% of my salary each year on supplies, curriculum and conferences.

    I lead my department in my building without compensation or recognition

    I maintain contact with many former students and advise them on their post high school paths.

    All of what you wrote plus this small list and I still love my job!! BUT, I hate being attacked and belittled by so many, so often.

  5. dmglassy

    I mentor college students, allowing them to come into my classroom to first observe, then teach science lessons throughout their methodology class.

  6. Pontifikate

    I model sentences, review draft after draft of each essay, and I find just the right comment to make that is a perfect balance of critical, encouraging and helpful.

  7. Kristine

    I’m so glad I work in a district where I am paid on a 12 month schedule. I don’t know what I would do if I didn’t! These are amazing points, I need to write something similar about my position because no one seems to know what it is I do.

  8. Rebecca Miller

    Here is some of what I do as an ECSE speech clinician:
    I teach 6 two and a half hour speech classes and see students a few students at home or at their preschool fr additional therapy.
    I greet each student and make them feel cared for.
    I help students improve there speech and languages as well as incorporating kindergarten readiness skills into lessons.
    I teach children how to share with others.
    I make sure students are having fun to instill a joy of learning and school.
    I help students socialize and play with others
    I teach school rules and how to be at school and participate in groups.
    I ensure the students get a variety of fine and gross motor activities.
    I encourage students to be independent.
    Search for songs that fir the lesson goal that the students will enjoy.
    Set up the classroom before each class and organize the room afterwards.
    Prepare materials for each class, including coping activities to go home with students and setting out specifics toys activities for the day’s lesson.
    Meet with my teammate to lesson plan and discuss strategies for helping the students learn
    I wipe noses, help with toileting/change diapers, and tie shoes.
    I put on band aides and comfort hurts.
    I comfort a crying four year old who was acting out in class because her mother was passed out drunk on the floor the night before.
    I make child protection reports when necessary.
    I make home visits to meet with parents to write IEPs.
    I do periodic assessment of speech students articulation skills to monitour practice in addition to weekly data.
    I collect data in IEP goals for every student each time I see them.
    I log every time I see a student for service,including data on IEP goals from that session.
    I log every contact I have with students parents
    I write individual education plans and periodic reviews for each student.
    Schedule all IEP meetings and make sure everyone can attend.
    I meet with Head Start teachers and other preschool providers at ther different sites to collaborate about students.
    I complete evaluations of students to exit them from special education or add additional services as necessary.
    I check students backpacks each day for notes from parents and I send home notes and homework activities with each student.
    I return parent emails and phone calls daily.
    I get backpacks for students who need them.
    I buy and collect books to give to the students so they will have books at home.
    I do book orders for my school.
    I use technology with my students.
    I research and purchase apps to use with my students in class.
    I search the Internet for ideas and materials to use with students.
    I work with school tech to get the things I need and keep technology I have working
    I schedule busing for my students and contact transportation when there needs to be a change.
    On contact parents almost weekly with bus time changes.
    I contact parents when there child misses class.
    I work with interpreters ( Spanish, Somali, Hmong and others) when working with student and families who home language is not English.
    I supervise and instruct student teachers in my classroom.
    Mentor new teachers.
    I develope my own curriculum for speech groups.
    I am a union student for my building, a member of our union executive board and Treassurer for our legislative committee.
    I attend events where I can speak with legisilators and others about improving our schools.
    Invite schools board members to visit our program and give them tours.
    I place students entering our program into classes.
    I help students open up there lunches and work on teaching them table manners and to try new foods.
    Keep track of food allergies and other health needs.
    Meet with prinicipal to discuss program needs.
    Supervise and train classroom assistance.
    Help parents apply for prekindergarten or kindergarten classes.
    Do transition paperwork for students transferring out.
    Help parents get there child into Head Start.
    I write a professional development plan and two
    I participate in my speech cohort professional learning community.
    I attend professional development to improve my practice.
    I make sure parents have completed necessary forms for the school , such as emergency card and free and reduced lunch form.

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  10. Lyn Conley

    I teach kindergarten so some of the things on your list do not apply to me, but many of them do. This past year I taught the special education inclusion class as one of our five kindergarten classes. I spent my first month chasing a severely autistic child around the classroom, changing his pull-ups, getting him eat applesauce (the only food he would eat at school), and picking up everything he threw on the floor – all while trying to engage the other 21 five year olds in meaningful learning. I did not have a full time paraprofessional. I dealt with both ends of the educational spectrum in my self-contained classroom. One child was reading on a fourth or fifth grade level (but would still throw temper tantrums when things did not go his way) and another child was still struggling to recognize and write his own first name at the end of the school year. I filled out all the paperwork, documenting that this child had received in excess of FOUR reading classes daily – but the administration of our district (who did not spend even five minutes in my classroom this year), declined to allow me to retain this child. I had another student who stood on a chair and threatened to “stick a gun in my mouth and blow my head off, then burn down the school”. Still another student screamed at the other children and called them all F***KING IDIOTS! Then I had to spend much time reassuring the other children and explaining to parents and administrators what went on. I have 29 years experience and I am hopeful that after one more year I will be able to retire. I had thought I would keep on teaching for a long time, as I am in my early 50s, but with the way education is going in my county, I think not!

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  12. Lynette

    All of the above! wow! Here are a few other ideas for you… i hold class meetings to check-in on how things are going for my students at school and their personal lives; I have students up during my lunch hour to reteach behavioral expectations/allow students to retake tests/ to help individuals get caught up/or just to have a safe place to hang out. I call and/or email parents when students do not turn in assignments. I document this contact as well. I set-up and clean-up science supplies. I teach and reteach and reteach expectations for my classroom. I organize and welcome parents into my classroom and provide them with meaningful work to do. I allow retakes, redos and late work and I keep track of it all. I strategically place students in groups or seating arrangements to help them do their best. I write the goal for the day on the board/have students repeat it and write it down/ and constantly refer to it during each day in order to show that I can jump through the hoops if an evaluator walks in; I turn on the fans that I bought with my own money when my building starts to heat up in May as we do not have air conditioning and I am on the 2nd floor (thank goodness I’m not on the 3rd!), I clean and disinfect areas that have been visited by mice or other pests; I monitor safe use of all science equipment; …oh my gosh, this list could go on and on and on.

    Thank you for your post. It made me think about what we really do on a daily basis.. Teachers are the most dedicated professionals who are in it for the kids. The job is impossible and never-ending and it takes special people to be in education. It is not a job for the lazy and unconcerned! We touch lives every day and do what we can to help students.

  13. I do my best, every day, to model what it is to be a good citizen, an active and enthusiastic learner, and a decent human being who is genuinely concerned with the well-being of others. This, I have found out in the last couple of years, is the most difficult lesson of all.

    Oh! And I bite my tongue nearly through every time a parent asks about, or a commercial comes on about, or a governor endorses with glee a “virtual or cyber school for a K-12 setting. Try teaching the lessons above on a computer screen.

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  16. Jagsfl

    I put together a useless data notebook so that I can prove to my admin that I am doing my job- simply for evaluation purposes.

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