I'd like to give every young teacher some good news. Teaching is a very easy job. Administrators will tell you what to do. You'll be given books and told which chapters to assign the children. Veteran teachers will show you the correct way to fill out forms and have your classes line up.
And here's some more good news. If you do all these things badly, they let you keep doing it. You can go home at three o'clock every day. You get about three months off a year. Teaching is a great gig.
However, if you care about what you're doing, it's one of the toughest jobs around. If you care, and if your eyes are wide open, beware: your school is filled with bad guys. There are a few heroes around too (no one will point them out to you — heroes are usually unrecognized). But the bad guys can be more than just mediocre teachers or administrators, incompetent individuals who do a poor job of teaching; they'll make you sad, but at least you can focus on your own students. Some bad guys will actually go out of their way to prevent you from doing your job, even when you're minding your own business.
And parents, you certainly don't want your children around such people, so be careful. Spend as much time at your school as possible. Sit in on classes. Do not be fooled by someone who appears to be a hero because he dresses well or speaks smoothly. Get to know what's really happening in the school, so that you can direct your child toward the heroes and steer her away from the villains.
Related: Learn more about Rafe's teaching methods and his top 10 tips for fundraising in For Educators.
Excerpted from There Are No Shortcuts by Rafe Esquith. Copyright © 2003 Rafe Esquith. Excerpted by permission of Anchor, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.