20 Things You Can Only Appreciate if You're a Teacher

You have to take the good, the bad, and the weird!

Teachers are every parent and child's unsung hero. They're therapists, mediators, nurses, mentors, custodians, and so much more. Frankly, many teachers should be on at least three different payrolls. But often times, educators don't get the credit they deserve. According to The Wall Street Journal, in 2018, American teachers quit their jobs at the highest rate on record for the profession. So, what's driving educators out of the classroom in droves? Well, besides inadequate pay and overwhelming stress, a 2019 report by PDK International indicated that teachers often quit because they feel generally disrespected and/or undervalued.

So, in the spirit of appreciation, here's a rundown of the good, bad, and generally weird daily experiences that only teachers will understand. Hopefully, it'll make you a little more empathetic to their plight.

Eating tons of baked goods

Basket of Cookies

Nothing beats a fresh-baked pan of brownies! And while some parents may have ulterior motives for bringing you their finest Betty Crocker baked good, you can't be bought (though you will certainly enjoy the fruits of their labor).

Getting to teach siblings

mom taking kids back to school, back to school mistakes

A great part of being a teacher is that you get to educate siblings. When you see a familiar name on your roster, you might be filled with a sense of dread, joy, or, more often than not, curiosity to see how the two both resemble each other and how they differ. The good news is, you're coming in a little bit more prepared and that classroom property—books, in particular—lifted by the older generation will sometimes find its way back to your class in the hands of the younger. Plus, you get to see who's better at doodle graffiti!

The importance of school pets

young children wearing lab coats and holding rodents

The real heroes of elementary and middle school education are the school pets. These nameless rodents and reptiles do the hard work of providing your students with the unconditional companionship that they need and invaluable lessons about responsiblity. School pets, we salute you!

Picking up the slack of other teachers

teacher asleep in class

Say you teach Algebra II, and the Algebra I teacher from the year before really phoned it in. Now, your students aren't prepared for your course—they might have learned formulas incorrectly, or not at all, for instance—and you're forced to un-teach or re-teach. But, on the plus side, you have the extra opportunity to do what you do love most: teach.

Hearing all kinds of homework excuses

student talking to teacher as classmates listen in

One of the perks of being a teacher is that you get to watch this happen: A student hasn't done their homework, and when it's time to hand it in, you let them pull the classic: "Well, my dog ate it." At first, they're encouraged by your active listening, but then there's the delicious moment—about 85 seconds in—where they realize you know truth.

It's one of those moments that's just as teachable for the teacher as it is for the student. Are you going to use them as an example, and possibly shame them in front of the entire class? Or are you going to practice leniency and talk to them after the bell?

Calling out students for texting in class

student texting in class

This is always best when they're trying to be coy. We see that iPhone under your desk!

Detecting fake injuries in the classroom

fake injuries

Every teacher knows this student: the one who, walking into the classroom and seeing "Quiz" written on the board, realizes that they need to see the nurse. Immediately.

Keeping up with the ever-changing energy levels of students

student sleeping in class

During your first class, your students struggle to stay awake. By third period, they're bouncing off the walls. Whatever they're feeding them at lunchtime, it hits consistently—and it hits hard.

Repeating yourself for that one student who refuses to listen to instructions

frustrated teacher in classroom

The limit does not exist!

Writing letters of recommendation (no matter who they're for)

recommendation letter

There are those students you're of course happy to recommend, and then there are the students who believe you'd be happy to recommend them because you vowed to never hate the student, just the student's unique problematic behavior. Both are getting letters—one's just going to be a bit more glowing.

Dealing with unreasonable browser restrictions

man angry at laptop

You found the perfect website for your lesson plan, but you discover during the eleventh hour that there have been a new set of browser restrictions set up overnight. So that genuinely informative website you were going to show your students? Yeah, it's blocked. (Savvy teachers, for the record, appreciate having a pal in IT who can help them circumvent such firewalls—when it's appropriate, of course!)

Those cringeworthy screen-sharing calamities

student computers

No one will disagree that computers are an invaluable classroom resource. Most of the time, they really do facilitate student learning and meaningful discussion. However, they can also create problems. Case in point: the screen-share. Your students are on their laptops and you call on one of them to show their work to the class on the big screen at the front of the room. However, having put the student on the spot, the screen-share shows a major no-no: one of those sites IT recently banned. Oops!

The frustration of unreliable online grade books

laptop crash

At first, you thought your online grade book was a godsend. It does all of the math for you, it's easy to use, and it significantly reduces the time it takes to enter grades. What you did not know was what a fickle beast these programs can be. All it takes is one major crash—and a Saturday afternoon spent reentering the grades for all 200 of your students—to switch back to a good ole paper system.

Picking your battles with budgeting

stack of damaged books

Say, for example, you place an order for a new set of hardcover editions of the book your class is reading, and the finance folks change the order to the less expensive option: paperback. By the end of the semester, the books are in tatters—and that's just something you have to live with as a teacher.

Waiting forever for maintenance requests to come through

fixing fire alarm

You put in a request way back in August to have that malfunctioning fire alarm light fixed. By the time the maintenance staffs gets around to it, though, you and your class are totally desensitized to it. After a few such mishaps, you learn to factor this delay into all of your requests.

The struggle of students who don't know how to recycle

recycle bin

The recycling bin could not be more clearly labelled, but the pile of litter at its base could not be taller! This seemingly simple task is apparently very difficult for students to grasp.

Smelling body odor daily

men's specialized deodorant, 40 year old men

A student standing next to you at an assembly suddenly raises their arm to wave at an approaching friend. Hormones, man…

Getting left out of faculty-wide appreciation emails


You receive a touching email from the administrative folks thanking you for your hard work, your dedication, your patience, your grace under pressure, your tireless efforts, your… And then you notice that the message applies to kindergarten through second-grade teachers only. Sure, they've really earned it. But so have you!

The joy of a student finally getting it

kindergarden teacher

Sometimes, a student can be wildly disruptive—and sometimes, their behavior can turn into a golden teachable moment. Whether it's something social ("We don't say that, Timmy") or educational (hey, long division is tough), few things are better than seeing a lesson impart in real time.

You get a front-row seat for the bigger picture

teacher in chemistry lab, things you should never say to a teacher

When you take a step back as you watch your students interact, you recognize that you weren't really that different when you were their age, and you suddenly appreciate just how far you have come. It's an experience that's both humbling and energizing—and then you put that positive energy straight back into sorting out your online grade book. And if you want to cheer up your favorite educator, check out these 20 Teacher Appreciation Gifts That Are a Total A+.

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Owen Duff
Owen Duff is a freelance journalist based in Vermont, home of Ben & Jerry’s. Read more
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