Tuesday, August 09, 2011

The Worst and Best Reasons to Become a Teacher

There are plenty of people and sites out there that can tell you HOW to become a teacher - but before you even consider the 5 steps to becoming a teacher, you have a bigger question to answer.


This is actually both the best and worst time in our recent history to become a teacher. You had better really want it because it is going to fight back and make you work for it! The climate is a little adversarial at the moment. This is not just about budget shortfalls; it's about reclaiming a professional identity that has been co-opted by federal mandates and private interests. We are in the midst of a sort of renaissance for teaching - teachers everywhere are mobilizing in ways and in numbers like never before. You can follow the conversations via Twitter at #SOSMarch and #140edu and #Teachers to name just a few.

For the first time in a long time we are on the same page. We've opened our classroom doors and stepped out into the light of the hallway and saw each other. The isolation of being a classroom teacher is fast becoming a thing of the past.

So - why do you want to be a teacher? I've heard many reasons as someone who prepares the next generation of teachers. I'll list for you the reasons I DON'T want to hear:

  1. I get summers off and a Christmas vacation! (as a reminder, that's without pay.) It may be good for your family that your hours coincide better with your children's, but don't let this be your main reason. You will burn out too quickly!
  2. It's an easier career path (sorry to say, there are usually more courses and a lot of field work involved). Many people who go down this path for this reason find quickly that they are working harder than they thought they would. They then complain about the work. If you want it easy, don't go into teaching!
  3. It's a guaranteed job (not anymore). There are less and less teaching jobs out there right now just like in any other career due to the economic climate. Schools are closing and class sizes are increasing. There are more jobs in "critical shortage" areas like special education, math, and science, but those positions will require additional training.
  4. I don't know what else to do (this is the worst reason of all). I don't mean to be harsh, but education doesn't want to be your consolation prize, your compromise, or your second choice. It is so relational that those of us who are here because that's what we always wanted feel slapped in the face.
That leads me to the BEST reasons to become a teacher. You may not resonate with all of these, but if you connect with at least 2 of these, you're probably making the right career choice.

  1. I love kids and I want to make a difference! (as idealistic as this sounds, it is the most often cited reason for becoming a teacher). This ideal is what will carry you through the difficult challenges ahead and the frustration you will feel on a daily or weekly basis. You will make a difference - for better and for worse at times; your influence is powerful.
  2. I love my subject area and I want to teach kids better than I was taught (this is also quite common). Maybe you love science or social studies or English and you know that there are better ways to teaching it and engaging kids than you saw growing up. You want to do it better and you want to continue to spend time on your favorite subject.
  3. I loved school and I want to continue that in my career (most people who become teachers loved school). This isn't true for everyone, but if it is something you liked/loved, it will be an environment you will thrive in as a career.
  4. I love learning and want to be contagious to kids! (the love for learning is a powerful motivator). Most likely you are a "lifelong learner" and want to continue to learn as a teacher. Kids do "catch" our enthusiasm and love for learning. We are role models of that love for learning. Keep the spirit of a lifelong learner as a teacher and you will make a difference and LOVE your job!
We all know this is not about money. If you want to make money, teaching is not for you. But if you want to make a difference in this world, we need you!

You'll be in good company!