Teaching is a noble and honorable profession, involving the heavy responsibility of training young minds. It is a wonderful, rewarding profession when one watches the parade of young people that pass through the halls of education. It is a profession vital to the well-being of any nation. It is also a demanding, exhausting, underpaid, time-consuming, frustrating and often unappreciated profession.
Everyone knows how expensive a college education is these days. Before deciding on any major, including education, a smart student will start early, while still in high school, to explore different careers. High schools often have career days to expose students to a variety of vocations. Such days give students a chance to talk to people in professions of their interest. In the case of teaching, however, a student has many knowledgeable people around each school day!
If you are considering a career in education, start with the “horse’s mouth”. Talk to teachers. Make a list of questions you might have and ask them Ask what motivated them to teach. Find out what they like and dislike about teaching. Ask for advice about becoming a teacher. Observe teachers in the act of teaching. Determine which teachers are the best and why.
Another avenue to aid in deciding if education is the career for you, join an organization such as Future Teachers of America. Many schools have such programs. If not, find out if their is a way you can become a student or classroom helper to get some hands on experience. This way you will soon know if teaching is right for you.
If a career in education does seem right for you, the next decision is what level. Teaching kindergarten is vastly different from teaching college. Explore the requirements for teachers in elementary school vs. middle school and high school. Colleges for instance, require another level of education beyond a Bachelor’s degree. High schools require education in specialized subjects, which leads to another decision-in which areas do I want to teach? Subject areas will impact on the job market for teachers. Those who have degrees in math or science are in much higher demand than English or Social Studies teachers.
There are many downsides to teaching that need to be considered. Salaries are generally low, often forcing teachers to take second jobs to make ends meet. Students and their parents are not always motivated to learn and support the teacher. Depending on what level you teach and where you teach the job may include a lot of non-teaching baggage, such as hall patrols, lunch room duty and chaperoning at school dances. There are fund raisers, PTA groups and administrative meetings. Most schools require continuing education for their teachers, meaning additional schooling and courses in order to maintain the teaching license. Middle school and high school may mean working with about 125 students in four different subjects and spending nights and weekends in preparation for classes and/or grading papers. Many would be teachers find after graduation, that there are more drawbacks to teaching than they thought.
Listen, observe, interview and research much before making the decision about a degree in education. To be a teacher demands much more than a love of teaching or even a love of children (lots of them at one time!) Good teachers are desparately needed, but they must be prepared to meet the many challenges of teaching. Knowledge of the subject to be taught is the least of the things the modern teacher needs to know. They need to be better informed about the ins and outs of discipline, of dealing with violence, of the way people learn and of the way schools and systems are rated.
Teachers not only need subject knowledge, they need patience, understanding, and persistence. The thing they need most, however, is the ability to see potential in each student. They need the ability to be thrilled beyond words when a student “gets it”. They need to be able to look past the daily frustrations teaching can bring to future possiblities. They need to be able to hang on to the early ideals of molding young minds and evoking curiosity.
Don’t waste your time, money and ideals without knowing what is involved in teaching these days. If, after all is said and done your decision is to become a teacher…go for it. And God bless you!