Teaching is rarely "an event." We know many teachers can feel they have fairly invisible lives beyond the classroom. Last year when HMH commissioned an ethnographic research study of K–12 teachers in America, there was plenty that was revealed during the time we got to spend with these teachers, learning what motivates them and irks them, how they manage at school and at home, and even their hacks for one of the world's most underrated, intellectually- and emotionally-complex jobs. And, for what it’s worth, teaching is one of the least likely professions to be disrupted by automation in the coming decades.
This research, along with the HMH Annual Educator Confidence Report and the professional learning work our consultants do every day, continues to help us better understand the needs of our first and best constituent: Teachers. As part of the ethnographic study, our research partner spent time observing and interviewing 16 teachers in different towns and cities from morning until late at night as they prepared lessons, taught, and graded papers long past their own family’s bedtime.
Inspired by all the teachers we met in the study and their candor in sharing their experiences inside and outside of school, we wanted to continue the journey by bringing forth some of these stories in a podcast series of conversations. So we began visiting classrooms and talking with educators who perform hundreds of small, but uncommon, acts every day as they provide learning oversight, equity, and nurturing to 55 million Americans—the country’s next generations.
We captured aspects of teachers' roles and issues that as an industry and a culture, we don’t discuss: that many teachers are frustrated by the lack of consultation about, well, everything from school hours to what technology they can (and can’t) use; that parents can be both a source of support and fear; that often, teachers spend much more time serving as a counsellor than as an academic specialist on an average day given the social and emotional complexity in any classroom; that many teachers have second and even third jobs to pay off loans and support their families; and, importantly, that the values and motivations of teachers are not the same.
This shouldn’t be surprising. Three and a half million educators make up America’s largest single profession.
A goal of this podcast is to make clear that: 1) teachers are not a single homogenous group—they have as much regional, cultural, educational, academic, “fill-in-the-variable” specificity as the children they serve; and 2) teachers do not only "exist" in the space of the classroom or school—they each have unique contexts and passions that are part of their identity. Almost everyone remembers when they first saw a teacher outside of school. Somehow, it’s shocking when teachers lay claim to life outside. Why is that?
In our Teachers in America podcast series, we talk about what’s on teachers' minds: what keeps teachers teaching; how they feel about lockdowns in schools, their salaries, their own children; and how lonely teaching can be.