12 Circus Acts That Teachers Perform On a Daily Basis

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This article was written by a guest blogger, teacher, wife, and mom of one, who is going into her 11th year teaching 4th grade. Her belief is that successful teaching is based solely on building relationships with her students.... but also Sonic drinks and a sense of humor.

You know the saying, “Not my circus, not my monkeys?” Well, for teachers, it turns out, this IS our circus and these ARE our monkeys. Teachers are educated professionals who are overworked and underpaid. We work at a circus every day for peanuts. It’s only fair we should get the free popcorn and travel. My thought is, the next time the circus comes through town, any one of us could freshen up our resume with our actual skills and apply for any of the following positions:

1. Juggler

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We can juggle a tote of graded papers, coffee, water, lunch, books we found at a yard sale over the weekend, and a bag of new school supplies all while unlocking the school building door on a Monday morning. We juggle the responsibilities of being our students’ educator, counselor, disciplinarian, and sometimes parent figure. Bring on some flaming bowling pins.

2. Entertainer

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We are “on” for 7 hours a day, 5 days a week. There’s no opportunity to turn it off until 4:00 on Friday. We sing, dance, and all but stand on our heads most days. Entertaining a crowd of eager, money-paying consumers HAS to be easier than entertaining a crowd of bored, unimpressed students. I can practically hear the calliope music now.

3. Barker

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Not only do our teacher voices provide the perfect volume for commanding attention, but we also know how to sell a performance. We can talk up the most mundane of experiences to make them exciting: WE ARE DOING AN AWESOME SCIENCE LAB TODAY!! (Or you know, pouring water on a pie plate of soil to watch erosion). Give us some real entertainment to sell.

4. Tight rope walker

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Don’t mind us, over here trying to keep parents, students, administrators and colleagues all happy at the same time. We walk a fine line all day, every day. And falling off that line is just as dangerous as falling off the tight rope. One misstep and our livelihood is ruined.

5. Lion tamer

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We’ve all literally said this sentence (or one very close to it) to a student:

You are not a lion. Quit acting like one.” (Variations: "You are not a monkey." "You are not a cat." "You are not a horse." Endless possibilities).

Also, we’ve all been growled at and/or bitten at some point in our teaching career. Taming one lion? I tame 70 lions, every day.

6. Ringmaster

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Announce what’s to be expected, get spectators and participants excited about the activities, watch over and take responsibility for what happens in the 3 rings? Sounds like learning centers to me. Throw in a top hat and a whip, and we could start the job today.

7. Contortionist

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Has a contortionist ever had to share their box of doom with dozens of children? We share a small windowless room with multiple other people for 7 hours a day. If you count “lockdown” drills or bad weather drills, we occupy an even smaller space than a contortionist, bending our already tired bodies around to simulate protecting our kids, all while trying to keep them and ourselves completely silent in a dark room and trying not to inhale a flu germ.  Also, after years of teaching, being in a box by myself for a while sounds magical.

8. Stilt walker

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We actively monitor tests, moving silently and slowly about from high above the crowd. Give us some stilts. In fact, if we can’t have the circus job, could we at least have the stilts? That would make active monitoring more fun.

9. Sword Swallower

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If we are lucky, teachers have about 15 minutes to inhale lunch, and that’s on a good day. If you put a sword in a Tupperware dish or Ziploc bag, we wouldn’t be able to slow down enough to even know the difference. In fact, we could probably perform a sword swallowing trick while standing at a copy machine, if that would add any entertainment value.

10. Acrobat

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Besides performing daring, death-defying feats regularly, acrobats are all about working with a team, trusting that team with your very life. Acrobats rely on each other to perform their stunts safely. Is there a better metaphor for teaching? Other teachers are literally our lifeline. You can never feel defeated in a room full of teachers—they were made for building you up and catching you as you swing wildly out of control.

11. Escape Artist

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Have you ever seen a teacher at 3:45 on a Friday? Neither has a parent or administrator. Teachers are masters of escaping a classroom and school building with the greatest of ease. No act of God or otherwise can keep a teacher locked in a school building once that final bell rings. Especially the weekend before Spring Break.

12. And finally, clown

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Laugh at our expense. We’ll laugh with you, to keep from crying.


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