Saturday, January 25, 2014

The Many Hats of a Teacher

Post by Loralee Cole: Loralee has been teaching for 19 years, the last 18 years at Bettendorf High School. She currently teaches American/World History. She can be found on twitter @LoraleeCole

Students from St. Ambrose University sit in my class, earning observation hours.  As they watch, I wonder if they really know how much a teacher does. In their mind (as was mine 20 years ago!), it seems pretty easy; design lessons, deliver material, grade papers, test, attend in-service meetings and if you’re lucky, wear jeans on Fridays.  Pretty much that’s it!  Oh, then not to mention the paid holidays as well as two months of vacation time in the summer!  SWEET!! I’m in!  Not so fast…. Do they REALLY know the jobs of a teacher??   

Teachers wear many hats. Their first hat is of course the teacher hat.  Even though most of us are not art teachers, creativity definitely comes in handy when designing lessons, especially when you have to compete with Instagram and Clash of Clans.  Of course, teachers know EVERYTHING about the subject they teach.  Since I teach history (specifically World and American), that means I should know EVERYTHING about those topics.  Oh!!  The pressure!!!  Of course I do not know everything about history. However, with iPads, we definitely have many tools available (as long as they are iPad compatible!) to engage students.  Plus, the iPads have come in really handy since if I don’t know something, I can tell students to look it up!!    

The second hat a teacher wears is the counselor hat.  Students today have so many issues to deal with it's any wonder they actually get to school. Some students don’t have the time or don’t want the stigma of making an appointment with the counselor.  Maybe they feel they really don’t “know” their counselor. Many teachers are easy to talk to and students see their teachers every day with no appointment needed.  We easily establish relationships with them, which means we are easily accessible.  A teacher might be the only adult throughout the day who looks them in the eye and personally engages them. Many teachers will have at least one student divulge some kind of personal information to them at some point in their career.  We have to be good listeners, show empathy, and maybe even offer some advice at times.  There are times when we also have to bend the rules.  Fair is not always equal.    

 Being their teacher and counselor at times is not enough.  Putting on the “parent hat” is necessary in some cases.  As a teacher, we need to ask ourselves, “If this were my child, what would I want the teacher to do?” We all want our children to be challenged, learn something, respect others, feel cared about, and have fun.  Holding students accountable to high expectations can be hard at times, especially when they have been coddled by other adults. Sometimes the “parent hat” means settling disputes like, “Mrs. Cole! He took my iPad and won’t give it back!” Other times it means, “Pay attention to my child. Notice my child in your class and don’t let them blend in with the furniture.”  Always it means creating a caring environment where everyone feels safe and respected.  And at times it means have fun!  Most of the memories we have from our own school days do not involve the day we finally solved for "x." Most of the memories we have were when we had fun and did something out of the ordinary, probably directed by a teacher. 

A few of the other hats we wear are friend, colleague, and professional.  We develop friendships with people we work with that come in handy when we need to vent about the latest state mandate just handed down. Friendships with co-workers are important as a teacher to share life events and they allow us to just be ourselves, since most of the day we are “on stage” in front of 30 students. We help our colleagues with lessons as we collaborate together about the latest and greatest app.  And we are professionals when administration decides we can’t wear jeans on Fridays or in-service days anymore.

So, to the St. Ambrose student in training to be a teacher earning your observation hours, while it’s true you will design lessons, deliver material, and grade papers, you will also wear many other hats.  Be ready to change your “hat” multiple times throughout the day, because no day is ever the same. At the end of a year of being a creative teacher, listening to student problems and concerns, and being a “stand in” parent, you will earn the two months of "vacation" in the summer.  


  1. Loralee, I love this post! I feel so often that I play so many roles during the day as well. It certainly makes this profession interesting!

  2. You wear your many hats well Mrs. Cole!