Teaching Is More Than Just a Job


Aug 10, 2021

“So what do you do?”

It’s a question we’re asked all of the time.

And there you are, wondering - what the heck do I do?

You know it’s not socially acceptable to really get into it - the hundred daily tasks, the profound emotional investment.

But “Oh, I’m a teacher” doesn’t quite cut it either.

Because not everybody gets it.

Not everybody knows what teaching really involves.

They assume that our days start when the kids enter the classroom; that they end when the kids go home; and perhaps most misguidedly, that the majority of our time is spent explaining long division or how Henry VIII’s wives died.

To these people, the reality of a teacher’s work schedule would be startling: the late night lesson planning, the endless piles of marking and assessments, the family liaison... the list of actual jobs goes on.

Research suggests that most teachers work nearly 50 hours per week, and some work more than 65.

But what would probably shock the uninitiated most is not just the hours teaching demands of us – it’s how emotionally demanding those hours can be. 

Teachers need EQ, not just IQ

If you assume teaching is simply about imparting facts, you could be forgiven for thinking it was fairly straightforward.

The reality, however, is good teaching requires not just knowledge but emotional intelligence: it demands a continual effort to emphasise; show compassion; listen actively; and, perhaps most of all, be extremely patient.

Like many professionals, teachers experience personal challenges - as highlighted in recent reports of occupational burnout.

What makes teachers different though, is the intense responsibility we voluntarily undertake for the wellbeing and flourishing of our pupils.

To be a teacher is to invest yourself profoundly in the lives of students you may never see again: we get this short window in which to attempt to shape these young minds, and in many cases, we never get to find out whether our efforts ultimately bore fruit.

This can be hard for people to get their heads around.

It might seem like the rational thing would be to turn cold, avoiding caring too much.

But the truth is, for most teachers not caring simply isn’t an option.

Teaching isn’t just an occupation – it’s a preoccupation.

The level of involvement teaching requires makes it more than just a job: it’s a way of life.

And as our families would surely attest, most of us can’t simply ‘turn it off’.

To outsiders, this might seem excessive.

But the truth is, you get what you give.

And no other profession lets you give or get nearly as much.

When a kid you taught a decade ago suddenly ‘pops in’ to tell you about her Medical degree; when the little boy who could barely speak in class somehow ends up with the starring role in a play – those are moments no other job can offer. 

Of course, they aren’t exactly frequent - you might get a handful across your whole career.

But for anyone who’s experienced one, there is no question what it really means to say ‘I’m a teacher’.


At Front of Class, we’re as passionate about education as you are. If this article spoke to you, check out our discussion about technology in education, where we ask if tech could actually make education more human.


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