Approximately half way into my college experience I did what a large percentage of college majors do; I changed my major. I had intentions of pursuing a career in broadcasting or possibly public relations, but decided on becoming an educator. I weighed the pros and cons for each profession and decided that the intrinsic value of teaching takes precedence over any external rewards my other career path will have provided. My parents were not thrilled at my decision initially; they expected me to do something more prestigious I assume. Now, three years after graduation with almost three years of teaching and coaching under my belt, I have no regrets, in fact strolling down the hallways at school nodding, waving and catching up with hundred’s of former students is all the prestige that I need. However, teaching is not without it’s challenges, but ultimately it is a great feeling to know that your effort has a direct impact on someone elses success, and an indirect impact on society as a whole. Hopefully, I will be able to shed some light on what teaching requires helping any prospective teachers in their decision.
Financially, it is no secret that a profession in education will not lead to a life of luxury. In fact during my first year as a teacher, I was recently married and also a new father. A family of three living on beginning teacher’s salary is eligible for several types of welfare programs. I realize that teachers only work 180 days each year, and have nights, weekends and holidays off, but I think it says something about societies priorities when a person with a four-year college degree in education requires welfare to raise a family. I would advise anyone thinking about teaching to consider the financial drawbacks of the profession. If you become bitter about the lack of respect and money teachers receive that bitterness will seep into the classroom, and the students will pick up on it. You don’t have the right to step into a classroom unless you are willing to put your students’ needs first not your own.
Another realization that shouldn’t surprise prospective teachers, but often does is the fact that a large percentage of the students you will teach are not interested in learning. In some cases a high school teacher can be compared to someone trying to sell ice to an Eskimo. The Eskimo’s don’t want anymore ice; they think they have enough and what is so special about your ice anyways? You are selling a product that few want to buy, and the ones that want to buy seldom admit it. The challenges of teaching 20-30 different students who learn differently, who are motivated differently, who live differently, and who have different, or in some cases no objectives in life cannot be fully grasped by those who have not taught. In order to really get through to each kid a teacher must figure out what makes that student tick and then try to appeal to whatever that may be. This is a difficult task considering the fact that most high school teachers have over one hundred students.
Teachers wear many different masks during any given school day. Sometimes a teacher is simply a teacher, but situations arise that calls for a different mask. A successful teacher will value his/her students’ needs, therefore, when these situations occur a teacher will not hesitate to be a counselor, a coach, a cheerleader, a parole officer, a comedian, a performer, a friend, and, unfortunately, in some circumstances, a parent to. A teacher must be accessible. A teacher must be flexible. A teacher must keep an open mind. Those that do not possess these qualities will find it difficult to connect with students, thus, negatively impacted the chances of any real learning to take place.
A lot of people say that they teach because they love kids. Well, I am here to tell you that loving kids is not a reason to teach. I love playing with fire and injure myself ever July 4th. Loving kids is great, but love, alone, does not get the job done. Trust me, if you teach because you are convinced that you love kids, you will meet many kids that will change your mind within a week. You must have a passion to help students, even those that you may not love. You must force them to be accountable for their actions, show patience with slow and reluctant learners, and you must inspire them to think. The benefits of teaching extend far beyond the nights, weekends, and summers off of work (most teachers do work summer jobs in order to maintain a decent standard of living). They may not be tangible, spendable, or even, in some cases, noticeable, but the rewards associated with educating are, indeed, immeasurable. Each day brings new challenges, new frustrations coupled with new victories and successes, however small they may be. As a teacher you will get as much out of the profession as you are willing to put into it.
Teachers create, mold,and shape a product; a product so important that it will change the future. To be part of something so significant is a reward in itself. If you are willing to selflessly take on the detrimental task of educating those that will control the future than I welcome you an honorable profession of infinite reward.