Friday, April 5, 2013
SO YOU WANT TO BE A TEACHER?
PREFACE: I love teaching. I say this because this post will not sound like it. I want people to know however, what they are getting themselves in for if they decide to become a teacher because I have seen way too many people who do not belong in this field. Your attitude and expectations will have a great affect on how good of a teacher you are. I also believe the education system in America needs a major overhaul. There isn't a single system or area that doesn't need to be touched, but we have to deal with and work within the reality that we have at this point.
How important is pay?
Teacher's pay is always a hot topic. Teachers don't make as much money as other professionals, and each state is different. You will spend a lot of your own money (snacks, supplies, teaching materials etc...). Well beyond what you can write off on your taxes. You have to take into account that most teachers have about 8 weeks off in the summer. The more education you have the more you will be paid. Although I'd love to make more, as any person would, having a working spouse helps and I love that I have my summers off to spend with my family and travel. (NOTE: I don't think it's fair, however, that a teacher out on maternity leave can use her sick leave and an adoptive mother can not.) However, in my opinion, the duties we are asked to perform go way beyond the compensation we receive for it.
How important is time?
Whatever time you are "contracted" to be on the job will not be enough. Lesson planning, grading, and talking with parents will probably take place on your own time. Very little time is allotted in the overall framework of a work week for professional development or preparation time. It makes more and more sense to me why, back in 1872, teachers were not allowed to marry. "The experts" that give us all the advice on how to improve our teaching, assume we don't have a life outside the classroom. When I wasn't married and had no children I would spend 25-35 hours a week outside my duty day doing extra stuff for my classroom. Over the years it's become less and less. Some was organizing myself more, but some was realizing that I can't do it all and I needed balance. Now, after 23 years of teaching, I only spend about 5-15 hours a week working beyond my duty day.
How important is respect?
The older the students the less respect you will get from them. The younger the students, the more they want to please you. Parents on the other hand are a different story. It has been my experience that parents don't want to be parents. They want you to solve all the problems that they have created in their parenting, but without giving you any of the support to do so. Teachers are judged on how well they can reach each student by individualizing their education, while being a coach, activity sponsor, nurse, career advisor, parent, friend, and innovator. You will want to be everything to every child, but you will need to be more realistic and realize that you are human and can't possible be everything, for everyone.
Do you wear your emotions on your sleeve?
Teachers emotionally commit to their students. Students assume that your life revolves around them. It is not uncommon for a student to be surprised to see you out in public. You will hear some real horror stories: no food in the house, my dad hits me, parents in prison, being raised in foster care, sexual abuse, drug abuse and neglect, to name a few. You will have to develop somewhat of a thick skin or you will be an emotional basket case.
How do you deal with change, drama and lack of stability?
Be prepared for anything and everything to happen on your watch: being vomited on, 85 degree classrooms, being locked down in your classroom because of a danger in the neighborhood, having to combine your class with another because the substitute didn't show up, writing out worksheets by hand when the copier isn't working, fights and crying. Don't assume you will have enough books and desks. You may think these things are out of the norm, but out of the norm is normal.
How important is understanding?
Only someone who has been in the classroom can fully understand what it is like. You will not get a true understanding of what it is like to run your own classroom while doing student teaching. Good parents are a God send and poor parents can make your life a nightmare. The good parents understand that their children aren't angels and the bad parents think that being at the bingo hall all night while their children raise themselves at home, alone, is totally acceptable.
With all this being said, we do need more GOOD teachers. Besides parenting, it is the most undervalued and rewarding job there is.