Everyone has opinions about everything—including teachers. As happens all too often, opinions become confused with facts. There are many preconceived concepts about being a teacher that have reached mythological status—and those who believe them aren’t teachers themselves.
If these myths were good, it would be more tempting to turn a blind eye to them. But unfortunately, teachers seem to get an undeserved bad rap about their profession.
Here are some of the most common myths about being a teacher, and the facts that they seem to overlook.
Myth 1 — 8 to 3 and Off on Weekends
One of the most common myths about being a teacher is that they only work from 8 to 3 during the week and have weekends off. In fact, most teachers actually work a minimum of 50 hours a week.
Compared to many other professions, teachers are far more likely to work in the early mornings before class begins, to work late into the night, and to dedicate one (often both) of their weekend days to work.
There’s a lot of class preparation, lesson planning, and grading that teachers need to do. These duties cannot be performed during class time, of course—which leaves the early hours, evenings, and weekends.
And then there’s also the matter of staff meetings and parent-teacher meetings too!
Myth 2 — Teachers and Students Alike Have the Summer Off
While they may not be giving lessons, teachers don’t have the summer off. They spend this time attending professional development training programs, prepare for the next school year, and teaching summer school.
Myth 3 — Paid Vacation
Contrary to popular belief, and despite the fact that they work through the summer, teachers don’t get paid for these months. They only receive payment for the nine months that school is in session. Summer most certainly isn’t a vacation—and definitely not a paid vacation by any stretch of the imagination.
In order to make ends meet, many teachers opt to have their nine months’ salary spread out over the year so that they still receive an income during the summer months. After all, they’re too busy attending training programs and making preparations for the following year to get any kind of summer job.
Myth 4 — Teachers Are Overpaid
Teachers earn about $36,141 in a year (average starting salary), but many receive less than $20,000. That’s far below the average starting salary for a graduate with a Bachelor’s Degree, which is $45,000 a year.
Business Majors tend to start with an annual salary of $54,000. So not only are teachers not paid for the summer months, but they often earn less than half of what their students are likely to go on to earn.
This has led to many teachers making time to work second and even third jobs to make ends meet—even though they’re already working an average of 50 hours a week!
Myth 5 — “Those Who Can, Do; Those Who Can’t, Teach”
Jack Black brilliantly made light of this common misconception in his 2003 musical comedy, School of Rock when he said: “Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach; those who can’t teach, teach gym.”
All jokes aside though, this is a very real myth that disregards the amount of training and preparation it takes to become a teacher. Teaching is a highly specialized field, with professionals not only having to be incredibly knowledgeable in their subject matter.
In fact, teachers are all required to have some training in educational psychology, assessment, communication skills, classroom management, curriculum instruction, and budgeting. As one teacher has pointed out, a qualified teacher is required to have the same skill set—and level—as in any other profession.
Myth 6 — Good Teachers Mean Good Student Grades and Test Scores
The term “teaching” is actually something of a misdirection which has led to this popular myth about being a teacher. Educators don’t actually “teach” students anything—they merely facilitate the learning process.
Learning in a wholly internal activity. Teachers are there to focus a student’s motivation to learn and to provide an environment where students develop that motivation.
While it’s easy to find a private English tutor or other teaching aids online, students still have to work hard to attain good grades. It is not a teacher’s job to motivate learners, although fostering and promoting that motivation certainly can be considered part of one’s responsibilities as an educational facilitator.
Myth 7 — Teachers Are Born, Not Made
Similar to Myth 5: “Those Who Can, Do; Those Who Can’t, Teach”, this myth about being a teacher disregards the level of training required to become an educator.
As mentioned already, all teachers have to undergo extensive training before earning their degrees. In fact, more than half of America’s teachers have a Master’s Degree.
Furthermore, those summer developmental training courses they attend aren’t entirely optional. Teachers need to obtain graduate-level credits in order to retain their teaching certificates, which requires attendance of further training every year.
Myth 8 — Anyone Can Become a Teacher – It’s Easy
Aside from the fact that teachers undergo a lot of training—both before they can start practicing their trade and continually throughout their careers—the daily requirements of the job preclude many individuals from becoming teachers. Being a teacher is very much a full-time job.
Not only are there the long hours to consider, but you have to be vigilant from the moment your students step foot onto school property to the moment they leave. Once students arrive at school, their teachers are held responsible for anything and everything they do—whether in the teacher’s sight or not.
Furthermore, the profession requires a lot of patience, dedication, creativity, and a love for the act of teaching.
Myth 9 — It’s Better to Enter Teaching After Working in the Industry
Again glossing over the amount of education-specific training required, the idea that it’s better to work in the industry before teaching a subject is also highly ignorant of the profession.
While it may be tempting to think that someone who has worked as a scientist may be a better science teacher (as an example), it’s most often these individuals who fail as educators. That’s because knowledge of content is only a small aspect of a teacher’s job.
Teachers also need to have a passion for working with children and young adults, as well as considerable skill in order to engage and promote motivation in class.
Myth 10 — There Aren’t Any Out-of-Pocket Expenses
Remember how teachers are earning far less than other graduates? Well, unfortunately, their meager salary doesn’t only go toward providing for themselves and their families.
In the rare instance, teachers receive a stipend to pay for classroom materials. Most schools merely provide a box of copy paper, some pencils, furniture, and the basic textbooks.
All the decorations, classroom library books, notebooks, crayons, markers, provided stationary, and folders (etc.) are actually paid for by the teacher. In fact, teachers tend to spend hundreds of dollars of their own money on classroom supplies every year, despite being underpaid and overworked.
There are dozens of myths about being a teacher. These are just the ten most common ones. Working in education—especially with younger children—may seem like all play and little work, but you’d be very surprised if you tried to walk in their shoes for a week.
There’s certainly a reason many male teachers enter the profession after having worked in the military—it requires a lot of dedication, discipline, and rigorous training to become a teacher.