Why Wouldn’t You Want to be a Teacher?

Choosing a career path and finding a job in your chosen field can be difficult enough.  It would be nice if it was smooth sailing from there.  That’s certainly not the case for teachers, not when almost half of all those who enter the teaching profession don’t reach their five-year benchmark.  During a recent networking event, I spoke with a young, energetic woman who taught fourth grade.  She said she loved being with the children but she “hated all the planning.”  A program coordinator with a non-profit was considering a career change; he said that he was interested in teaching but his biggest concern was student behaviors.  To be fair, I had planned to be anything but a teacher—writer, lawyer, zookeeper—but only because there are so many misconceptions about teaching.

In all fairness, let us ask the question: why wouldn’t you want to be a teacher?

Student Behaviors

Management is big.  When a class starts to spiral out of control, students aren’t cooperating, and parents are complaining, it can be painful to stick it through what is actually a normal growing pain of the profession.  I used to think my classroom management would always be a challenge because I don’t have a strict, commanding presence or a loud voice.  With time and practice, I learned that classroom management is about creating order from the beginning, building strong relationships, and heading off problems through partnerships with parents and other teachers.  And, one day, I found myself intervening as a group of students were clambering at a substitute for some Jolly Ranchers.  Suddenly, I was the one taking away the candy and lecturing the students for their behavior.  Life lessons, though not in the curriculum, are an essential part of teaching.

Safety Concerns

Safety is also related to management but overall it’s out of the teacher's control.  Graphing calculators and phones get stolen.  Security and metal detectors in schools are not at all uncommon.  On the other hand, we also hear about teachers talking students down from violent acts and teachers who protect their students in heroic ways.  I once had two teenage boys facing each other down who took their fight out into the empty hallway only out of respect for me.  The possibility of violence is everywhere people are.  Short of living in isolation, such danger cannot be avoided.

Planning, Teacher Evaluation and Test Scores

Almost half of all new teachers leave the profession within five years, planning time insufficient to the workload being one of the reasons.  There are a lot of stakeholders in education and the paperwork and evaluations are par for the course.  In some cases, teaching has become so regimented and test driven that there seems no room for creativity.  Yet, teaching is still about providing opportunities for learning, and this involves accounting for materials, pacing, and the social interactions and behaviors of everyone in the classroom.   Lessons don't always turn out as planned and other impromptu lessons turn out great.  It is a matter creativity, relationship building, spontaneity and over planning.

Those who can, do, and those who can’t, teach.

It should be a truth universally acknowledged that a teacher will never be in possession of a great fortune.  A teacher’s salary is never going to be as high as that of a doctor or lawyer or engineer, but teachers are professionals and they do make a professional salary.  The saying–those who can, do, and those who can’t, teach—is so cliché that it’s not even worth discussing anymore.  Teachers not only need to be knowledgeable in multiple subjects but also in pedagogy.  We would all be so lucky as to have a teacher who changed our lives, who drew us into learning, and helped us see the world in a new light. 

There are few professions as rewarding as teaching. Why wouldn’t you want to be a teacher?

I went in the day before winter break with a plan to read through a story with my math class and model my expectations for the assignment over break.  Instead, we previewed the story, reviewed the options for the assignment, and I showed them how to make a Möbius strip.  The hands-on interactions, clean up and three-minute closure went as smoothly as if I had planned it that way.  It was a great lesson.  It wasn't what I thought I was going to do, but it was one possibility that I had imagined.  Teaching continues to surprise me.  Lessons turn out better than I planned.  Teachers work together to organize amazing opportunities for their school community.  And, students impress me with wonderful moments of inquiry, insight and maturity.

It takes a great deal of flexibility to be a successful teacher, but as a teacher I also enjoy some great benefits not the least of which are snow days and school holidays.  I interact with interesting people every day.  I have taught in far-away places, supervised cool field trips, sponsored interesting after school activities, and organized graffiti murals and community gardens.  Most of all, I love seeing how the students turn out.  These days I can’t imagine what I would do if I wasn’t a teacher.

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