I was going through some of my old college assignments and materials, when I came across an article I read for my freshman year writing class. In this course, we did an entire unit on discourse communities. We defined this term, discussed the communities we fit into, and analyzed several characters in the novels we read based on their membership to a variety of discourse communities. We also very briefly discussed this article that the professor gave us and the idea of teachers belonging to several communities just within the job title of “teacher.” Upon re-reading this, I immediately thought of a conversation I had in the education class I am in this semester: teachers do so much more than what most people think, which is much more than they get paid for.
On the outside we see a teacher as some one who comes to work in the morning and gets the classroom ready for students to arrive. They follow a set plan for what and when to teach their students, they use their planning period to map out the next day of class and stay on track. And they form lasting relationships with every single one of their students, helping them to grow and flourish academically. However, not one teacher I have ever talked to describes their job like that at all. That cookie cutter description leaves out the endless hours of their free time spent planning for each day because their planning period was used for meetings. Any one-on-one time they have with students is usually spent testing them. The creativity that inspired them to teach in the first place is very limited to what ever their local board has required them to teach their students, which basically translates in to test preparation. It also leaves out the hours after the school day is over spent cleaning, preparing, and planning which all go without any pay. Not to mention the emotional rollercoaster that they experience as one kid is excelling academically, one kid just does not get it but you are not allowed extra time to help them, and one kid is scared to go home on the weekends because school is the only place they are safe, warm, and fed.
A teacher wears several hats, many of these are invisible. As the article I shared breaks this down and does a great job of expressing the several roles a teacher takes on, there is still so much it leaves out. However, you get an idea of how many discourse communities a teacher must be a member of to really master the job. What I find interesting about this, is how much effort a certain teacher might put into a particular discourse. You can tell when you have one teacher who values the numbers, test scores, and the way he/she looks on paper. And it is just as evident when you have a teacher who values relationships with students, spending time individualizing their curriculum, and being a role model for their students.
However, this brings up another valid point. What about the teachers that have no choice? What if their job depends on it? What if they want to spend that extra time with students or go against the standards and bring back creativity into the classroom, but if they don’t focus on those test scores and fall below the requirement they lose their job? Again, these are the challenges of being a teacher that most people do not even see. It amazes me how teachers that truly care about their job, are able to juggle fulfilling the requirements thrown at them, build lasting relationships with their students, and jump back and forth between all those discourse communities they are a part of, in such a way that brings their classroom to life.
These are the invisible hats a teacher wears every single day. So next time you meet a teacher making an impact in someone’s life, please thank them.