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Being in Teacher Shape

Updated on July 18, 2017

Teaching's Physical Toll

Although I generally try to put it out of my mind, I still remember my first week of student teaching. My assignment was split between two schools, teaching two 10th grade history classes and one in 7th grade. In addition to being overwhelmed, my most distinct memory was the feeling in my legs after teaching those first two high school classes. My legs ached as if I had just finished a short marathon. Clearly, I was not used to being continually on my feet for any extended period of time. Although I was a young guy who kept himself in pretty good shape, I was not in teacher shape.

Fortunately, I teach community college today. I only lasted at the secondary level for about six and a half years, and in only two and a half of those years did I follow the typical public school schedule of six classes, taught one after the other. Over time, I got into somewhat better teacher shape, but I would still feel physically spent at the end of each day. It is one of many reasons that I am grateful for teaching college. My classes are scattered throughout the day, with some days more busy than others, and I typically only work four days a week. But still, at the end of a three-hour night class on a day where I have taught for six hours total, I definitely can feel the physical toll.

People don’t generally think of teaching as being physically demanding. For teachers who sit on their butts all day and hand out worksheets, it is not particularly strenuous. But I have never been one of those teachers, and I know that there are many dedicated teachers working in grades K-12 who are on their feet for five-six hours per day. It is one of many reasons that I am in awe of secondary level teachers. It’s not just that they have to deal with all the discipline and classroom management problems that we college teachers rarely experience. They are able to do it hour after hour, five days a week. They are the real education warriors.

Hopefully, like myself, they feel that it’s worth it. I thank my lucky stars every day that I am not in some desk job. Sitting in a chair all day is probably even worse physically than being on your feet. And at the end of every class, I feel like I have accomplished more than just putting in my hours. Anyone who has ever tried to teach anything knows that it isn’t easy. But there is no way in hell that I would trade it in for a "real" job.

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