The Mentality of Elementary School Teachers

Throughout the years, I’ve met many educators who have worked at all levels of the profession. There’s one that has always stuck out to me. The elementary school teacher.

While teachers from all parts of the system leave the profession, the reasons all varied, and though I have only worked at the elementary and middle school levels, elementary teachers have long exhibited the ‘YES SIR, YES MA’AM’ behaviors. I’ll explain.

Teachers have duties, responsibilities, and obligations associated with their daily schedules; however, 60% of these things aren’t things that they should be doing. In fact, it may well be higher than 60%! I’m mostly talking about the things happening within the walls of the school.

Every time you say yes to something you don’t want to do, this will happen: you will resent people, you will do a bad job, you will have less energy for the things you were doing a good job on, you will make less money, and yet another small percentage of your life will be burned up.

James Altucher

I recently had a random conversation with a fifth grade teacher, Lisa, who left the profession 16 years ago to care for her children. This year, she went back into the classroom, as she described the many changes since her first year in education back in the early 2000s. Her demeanor was a bit timid, sweet, and she was definitely that ‘Yes, ma’am’ type. It made me reflect on some of the other conversations I have had with other teachers. One, in particular, stood out. At a Halloween party last year, I met a high school teacher, named Jessica, who absolutely loved her job. I had just left teaching, so we continually talked about education throughout the night. She was in her third year and expressed zero qualms. She loved her administration, peers, and students. She said she had full autonomy. I was in complete shock, as this wasn’t my experience in my many years in education. Jessica was a no non-sense person, too. She was the type that spilled her truth, tactfully.

I want to iterate that many teachers love their jobs. They love aspects of their administrators, peers, students, and other stakeholders. However, there is a distinct difference of personality and mentality between elementary and secondary school teachers. The problem? Elementary school teachers say, ‘YES SIR, YES MA’AM’ all too often. Elementary teachers are more nurturing, in general. They are used to babying children; ensuring colorful classrooms and fruitful lessons. Elementary teachers are pleasers, meaning, they are less likely to speak their truths, tactfully. Instead, they over exert themselves with tasks unassociated with making their classroom and prosperous. If they don’t, administration and even some peers will say, “but it’s for the kids,” sparking guilt. To put into words kindly, secondary teachers appear to value their own time and have more self-respect. Secondary teachers target the opportunities of lessons over the fluff of providing nurturing environments. I mean, have you seen elementary classrooms verses secondary classrooms? High school classrooms are boring af! To my point, high school teachers have different mindsets than that of elementary school teachers.

Countless times, I was told that I would be an awesome high school teacher. Though, I never taught high school officially, I completed several high school internships during my undergrad, and I do agree that I had more of the mentality of a high school teacher.

When you say yes to others, make sure you are not saying no to yourself.

Paulo Coelho

Teachers! Learn to say no . . . tactfully. I was always that teacher who would speak up for myself and others; however, I was one of the only elementary school teachers to do so. My door was barely decorated, my room wasn’t the most extravagant, and I didn’t always attend the after school/ evening activities and events. But I did pride myself on my ability to form amazing relationships with my students and their parents.

3 thoughts on “The Mentality of Elementary School Teachers

  1. I can verify your comments about teachers say yes to things they don’t want to do. I taught fourth and fifth grade for twenty-nine years. It does eat you up mentally when you feel you have no choice but to say yes!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for visiting my site and reading my blog! Why do you think people have no choice but to say yes? The guilt trips? Teachers instill confidence and a ‘you can do anything’ mentality in their students. Yet, teachers don’t practice what they preach, right?


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