Why You Shouldn’t Become A Teacher
This weekend I upgraded my iPhone (hey 7 fam!) and had a lot of time to kill in the Sprint store as all of my data transferred. 2500 pictures takes a little bit of time. While I was there I had a conversation with the woman behind the counter. She was probably a little older than me, and when I told her my career, she told me that her husband is considering being a teacher. A few minutes later, her husband actually walked into the store and, hearing that I was a teacher, asked me the question I was dreading:
What do you think, should I become a teacher?
I dread this question because I have yet to find a way to articulate to an outsider what happens inside my classroom. I'm not talking content or testing, I'm talking the things that make my job amazing, and the things that make my job difficult. He wanted me to be straightforward with him, and so I was. Here's what I said:
You shouldn’t become a teacher if you think it’s easy. You shouldn’t become a teacher if you think the kids are cute, if you get jealous easily, or quickly become overwhelmed. You shouldn’t become a teacher if…. In deciding a future career, there are a lot of ifs. In education, there are infinite ifs. Pay and standardized testing aside, it’s not only practical questions that must be answered before becoming a teacher. I am a firm believer that some people simply should not be teachers even if they are a science genius or a literary connoisseur. Content is crucial, but teaching is not a formula, it’s a blank canvas.
Before I begin, two disclaimers:
I have only taught for 1.5 years. I have less teaching experience than a typical elephant pregnancy (two years!!).
I teach at an amazing school filled with amazing staff and amazing students. My perspective comes from this #blessed mindset.
you shouldn't become a teacher if:
You think it’s easy. It’s not. Never in my 1.5 years as a teacher have I thought, “hey, this is pretty easy!” I’ve thought it’s great, it’s amazing, it’s horrible, it’s killing me, but never easy. I have never heard another teacher say that, and I can’t imagine another teacher saying that, no matter how long they've been at it. Sure, you won’t struggle with content, and might even be able to lesson plan relatively easily. The hard part is when you factor in the 30 individuals staring at you for extended periods of time, ready to be distracted from “this will be on the state test” information by the first fly that lands on their desk.
You think kids are cute. They might be, but so are dogs, and that’s not a good reason to be a vet (spoiler: vets put dogs down). I teach high schooler’s and I still wipe noses (metaphorically, of course).
You get jealous easily. Your friends will have careers that they can leave at the office. You never will. Forget the fact that you might have a few tests to grade, your weekends will be consumed by piles of papers that your guilt keeps you chained to, reminding you of that promise you made to your students to have them done by next class (that was a crazy promise, by the way). It’s like digging a hole in the sand: you make progress, and then it begins to slide down and fill itself up again. You never get caught up.
You get overwhelmed easily. I repeat: PILES. OF. PAPERS. Most of the time, grading is the least overwhelming part of the job because it is the most predictable part of the job. There is no predicting what goes on in your classroom between 8 and 3, what moods your students will be in, or if that lesson you spent hours planning might flop or not. Keeping your cool no matter what is just part of the job.
You should become a teacher if:
You want to make a change. If you want to see a young person suddenly *get* something. If you want to see a young person maybe, just maybe, understand something you’ve been working on for weeks. Positive change is not a given in education; many times it seems like things are changing for the worse- if you let yourself think that way. A positive mindset is the only way you can impact a young mind.
You believe in the future. The future is not an impending dark cloud of entitled adults who text when they walk. The future is in the hands of teachers and parents- arguable even more so than the present is. Nothing is set in stone, especially the potential of the future.
You understand the benefits of taking risks. As a teacher, I have been allowed to take risks with my students. I have had the opportunity to teach content in new ways, and to introduce new programs to my school. Not every risk pays off, and sometimes it's back to the drawing board, but most students see the risk and, whether it works or not, understand that risk taking is a healthy part of the education process.
You are a fighter. Every day is a fight. It's a fight to engage students. It's a fight to not give up. It's a fight to bring students the best possible content, even when worksheets and films are so much easier. It's a fight that isn't always glamorous, but is never boring. It's a fight that has hundreds of young people depending on you winning. Because if you lose, if you give up, if you lose focus, then they lose too.
Teaching isn't better than other careers, and I don't want it to sound like I'm some sort of super-human which qualifies me to be a teacher. All careers requires unique skills and assets, and teaching is no different. I love my job, and I know many people who love their jobs. And that's what is most important: being in a place, personally, where you can still go to work happy, do what you have to do to make your work the best you can make it, and understand that not every day is glamourous. If we all work with a passion, we can do some amazing things.