Should I be a teacher?
August 7, 2018 1:41 PM   Subscribe

I've heard lots of frustrations, struggles, and horror stories about the profession of teaching in America, yet I'm still drawn to it as I consider a career change. What should I be considering/thinking about? Details inside.

I'm 35 years old and working in tech making a great salary, but have been considering a career change to education for a while now. I like kids, want to make more of a difference in the world than I am now, and think that I have a lot to give. That said, my sister has been a teacher for many years and consistently warns people away from the profession due to: 1) ever-increasing administrative overhead and politics, 2) the amount of work needed outside of work hours (lesson planning, grading, etc.) and 3) the low pay.

Despite that, I still feel drawn to the work. I'd appreciate any advice or experience on working as a teacher, the state of education in the US generally, and any other things I'm not considering. I don't have any experience in education and want to go into this with eyes open. What should I be thinking about? Is this a fool's errand? I'm on the west coast of the US and am interested in teaching late elementary or middle school.
posted by drawfrommemory to Education (26 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
 
I just recently met up with a college friend who became a teacher and has been one for about 15 years. He is passionate about it and genuinely seems happy. That said I've often thought of pursuing it and decided not to because I feel the pay is just totally unacceptable. Teachers are perhaps the most influential people in the world. Why the heck aren't they paid like they're important? At the end of the day for me it's just too much of a commitment for not enough money. But again my friend loves it. If you're passionate about it perhaps the money won't matter. But it will be tough going from a good paying tech job to a teaching job from a financial perspective.
posted by ljs30 at 1:53 PM on August 7, 2018


I have taught in low-income public schools for almost 20 years and love my job most of the time.

That said, I would not encourage anyone who is reasonably happy in their well-paying industry job to switch careers into teaching. My job gets harder ever year- not the actual teaching and being in front of kids part, but the everything else part- and there are absolutely zero indications that this is something that is going to get any better, ever.
posted by charmedimsure at 2:11 PM on August 7, 2018 [8 favorites]


Listen to your sister, and think very hard about this. My teacher friends are largely woefully underpaid, overworked, and hog-tied in a system that must overcome major systemic problems like a criminal lack of funding, poverty, racism, violence, and the petty cruelty of political leaders who use education like a pawn or a punching bag.

If you're interested in working with children, consider another way to give back, like maybe volunteering as a tutor or mentor, maybe with someone like Big Brothers, Big Sisters.

If you're more interested in teaching adults, consider doing it part time. Many community colleges have a difficult time hiring teachers in technical and trade courses that also require real-world industry experience.

I have a full time non-teaching gig, but I still teach a course or two on the side at a community college. It's a nice way to teach, which I love, and also have money to eat and maybe retire someday. But I couldn't live on an adjunct or part-time teacher salary, or even a full-time teacher salary (I don't have a PhD), even if I wanted to. Read this very famous "Death of an Adjunct" story that discusses how many adjuncts suffer in great poverty, even if they teach for decades. And tenure positions are few and far between.

Lastly, do not go into debt to train for a profession that would not return to you the salary you'd need to pay the debt back.
posted by answergrape at 2:12 PM on August 7, 2018 [21 favorites]


Also, most teachers of children are not well paid. Getting those jobs will require years of certification, training and also co-teaching, which is often not paid or underpaid.
posted by answergrape at 2:19 PM on August 7, 2018 [1 favorite]


First thing to do is go and spend some time helping in a school. I was once, in my 30s, considering a career change to primary school teaching, and got a week of work experience in a primary school. I barely made it through the week, it was so utterly clear that this was not what I wanted to do (even though, in my case, I would have earned significantly more as a teacher than I was earning as a journalist).

I'd figured I liked kids and am a decent person with good emotional intelligence and a lot to give the next generation, so teaching - why not? Turned out being trapped in a room with 30 of the littl'uns for hours at a stretch, and not having a moment during the working day to be 'off' or have a private thought, and having to spend the whole day talking on the level of people with much less understanding and intellectual development than me was just utterly draining and miserable for me.

There are lots of other things to consider, obviously, but you might find that you have a visceral reaction one way or the other once you're in the classroom, which would help you decide.
posted by penguin pie at 2:37 PM on August 7, 2018 [12 favorites]


Listen to your sister. It’s admirable that you want to contribute to the good in the world and I would definitely hold onto that impulse; you might want to find a different outlet for it, though. I work in education but am not a teacher, largely for the reasons listed above. A factor that you may not be aware of, and this may vary from place to place, is parent attitude toward teachers, or rather, many parents’ attitude that the teacher is an employee of theirs and is under obligation to take orders from them.

I’m not talking about reasonable requests, like “hey, my kid is being bullied by this other kid, they really can’t sit together.” I mean parents coming in screaming because the school is sending a child home with a fever. I mean parents emailing a teacher at 10:30 p.m. about a typo on a worksheet and then getting abusive because the teacher did not get back to them immediately. I mean parents demanding that the entire reading curriculum be changed for the whole class because the one in use is not working for their child. Are you prepared to deal with that? Your principal may or may not have your back.

Another thing to consider since you are in the United States, is that you may find yourself in a school district that is unwilling to put money toward things like fences and basic campus security but is willing to pay for active shooter training that teaches staff to sacrifice some students so others can escape. The response to school shootings is a fucking grim situation that I don’t see improving anytime soon. (Yes, I realize that the incidence of actual shootings is low. It’s soul-destroying to look at actual children you know and have to wonder if it’s this group that’s going to end up in the line of fire.)
posted by corey flood at 2:53 PM on August 7, 2018 [2 favorites]


What subject/grade do you want to teach--you said late elementary but are you imagining using your tech background at all or doing something altogether separate (and maybe go back to school)? Is your sister a teacher nearby? You could consider trying to set up a before or after school enrichment "class" that you volunteer to teach (maybe sharing some of your tech skills). Your sister may be able to help or at least introduce you to the correct people at a local school to get something going. This could help you get a small picture of what it would take (lesson planning, class management, etc.) without the full life change, and it may help you decide if you've scratched the itch or more certain that it really is your calling.

I also would love to be in K-12 education, but for me it would mean a significant salary cut, so much so that I'm not sure I could afford basic life stuff like my mortgage without other significant life changes (e.g., a housemate). Literally all the other women in my family are teachers, but they're also all married to men who make *significantly* more than they do. I have some definitively ranty and enraged thoughts about that, but I'll spare you.

I've tried to find a few proxy ways to pursue working with kids and helping people find joy in learning, mainly through volunteer opportunities.
posted by kochenta at 2:54 PM on August 7, 2018 [1 favorite]


You may want to consider where you'd be teaching and what the teachers' unions are like. Some teachers unions have managed to win very good contracts for their teachers as well as better conditions for their kids. Unfortunately it's often after a long period of active disinvestment and hostility from government officials. Among the teachers I know, those working in a strongly unionized environment are generally happier than those working in private schools.

Note that the Supreme Court's recent Janus decision has severe repercussions for public sector teachers unions (not really sure how many teachers unions exist outside of public schools), but on the other hand, many teachers are literally reshaping the current labor movement through a wave of wildcat strikes.
posted by mostly vowels at 3:28 PM on August 7, 2018 [2 favorites]


I have taught adults, teens, and children in a variety of settings, and I can say there are things you do need to know:

1. With technology these days, the shift is toward more automated online learning. Eventually, teachers are going to be replaced. I can already see the difference in how educators are being treated and the nature of courses. I would seriously do my research by going to different schools and asking questions first. How you remember your school days is very different to what is being done now -- and even if you have children in the system, it is not a bad idea to be upfront with different school boards and to ask them questions as well.

You now have things like Teachable where you can make your own online courses. YouTube has decimated a lot of old college workshops and courses. When I started teaching in 2000 is vastly different than it is now. I wouldn't recommend it as a vocation as much as a part-time gig.

2. Schools look for efficiencies to cut down costs, but not updating how they teach things. I know this is a big problem with j-schools, for instance, but it is not the only place. If you are good just to teach and don't worry whether there is a better way to do it, then you shouldn't have a problem. I am not like that.

3. A lot of students and parents expect perfect grades, and can get abusive and demanding. I have known teachers to have done nothing out of the ordinary, and then be thrown under the bus. If you can put up with it or thrive in diffusing things, then, again, if you prefer teaching, then do it. If your mouth has no filter, it iwill be harder for you.

There are a lot of rewards to teaching, and I always enjoyed it, but it's not the same in a lot of ways that I find concerning. There was always violence in schools, even when I was a kid in the second grade, a classmate threw his desk at my teacher's leg and shattered it. You always had administration be a bigger pain than the students, too.

But before you commit, you may wish to propose to teach part-time a single class -- better day than night to get a more realistic feel of how your typical students will behave, and then try it out. You may have found your true calling. Or you may be fantasizing yourself into a bad situation.

Test the waters first. Do your research.

Good luck.
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 3:33 PM on August 7, 2018


I don't have any experience in education and want to go into this with eyes open. What should I be thinking about?

Listen to your sister, and listen to penguin pie above- go to a school and volunteer in a subject/grade you prefer. Also try and visit the lunchroom/playground so you can really observe the kids interact.

One part of teaching that is not often appreciated by non-teachers is classroom management. Keeping order, maintaining interest, etc. take up a large part of a teachers shifting attention. Note how organized the classroom is (or isnt?)- assignment lists on the board, calendars, color-coded groups, etc.- is that you? If you see arguments in the lunchroom, consider how you would intervene. Multiply it x4 for your subject/class load. Class management skills are often what make or break a new teacher.

There are similar questions on the green, with many insightful comments, if you search around..
posted by TDIpod at 3:35 PM on August 7, 2018 [3 favorites]


You like kids? Of what age? Because a 9 year old is an extremely different beast than a 14 year old.

Also the bad pay issue is very regional. My sister got her MA to teach, and is in the NYC public school system. Her union is great, she is fully vested in her stellar retirement plan, and she makes 100K a year including tutoring maybe four hours a week at an outrageous hourly rate.

It ain't all bad.
posted by DarlingBri at 3:38 PM on August 7, 2018


My Dad was a teacher, I grew up surrounded by teachers, and many of my friends today are teachers.

It's a universal truth that teachers complain about their jobs and assert that it's awful and nobody works harder. However, it's also true that most teachers have never been anything but teachers, and don't really get how the private sector works, or understand how much people in the private sector work. I've found they tend to assume things like awful bureaucracy, having to play politics, doing a bunch of work you don't really believe and think hurts your organisation's mission is unique to teaching, when it's not.

That all being said - it's certainly not a walk in the park, and I can empathise with the frustration when all people see is your holidays.

I considered making the same switch as you, many many times. But this: I'm 35 years old and working in tech making a great salary - is what has stopped me. Becoming a teacher now would almost halve my salary. I would be stuck contracting for several years with no real job security and the real chance of getting no pay at all in school holidays. I would be limited in my choice of where, geographically, I would work, and how far away that would be from my home. My ability to co-service our mortgage would probably be okay, but many of the luxuries I currently enjoy, like frequent travel, would be out the window.

Contrary to my starting point, the work is hard, and I would be working just as hard, if not harder, for half the pay. My career experience would be of very limited help, and the fact is that there are - frankly - some real idiots working in schools (alongside some great people), and working with incompetent idiots is so, so frustrating to me.

On the bright side, I would have way more time to spend with my kids - one of my happiest memories of my father was all the time we had with each other on holidays.

A huge, mind-bogglingly huge, proportion of people that start teaching in any given year are not doing it by year ten. Heck, even five years later, it's a depressingly large number. 8 percent of teachers leave every year. Less than a third of them are leaving for retirement.There's a lot of reasons for that, and I wouldn't assume you will be an exception to the rule..

tl;dr don't underestimate the impact of a major salary reduction on your lifestyle.
posted by smoke at 4:14 PM on August 7, 2018 [5 favorites]


What type of tech work do you do now? You might want to look into teaching at a Career and Technical High School. The one where I work has a Cisco Networking Academy and Networking program. Pretty much all of the teachers at the Career and Technical Ed high schools in Pennsylvania worked in their trades (plumbing, nursing, culinary arts, auto tech, etc.) for years and became teachers around your age and later (one of our 'newest' teachers is 55). In PA its a little bass ackwards: you get the job first and then the school pays for you to get the teaching credentials. Many new teachers are credited for years of service in their field towards the salary scale, so they're not starting out at level 1, so the dip in salary may not be that bad.

I've been teaching 30+ years - from Kindergarten to high school - and I love it still. I'm very blessed that the public school districts I teach for are all above the national average w/r/t salary, and they've also afforded me the opportunity to earn a Master's and gain other certifications. Teaching is definitely a calling and you kind of "know" if its something you should do. There's great advice upthread about getting your feet wet and volunteering - I'd start there, but also wanted to mention the CTE piece as it might be something that could work for you. Good luck.
posted by NoraCharles at 4:47 PM on August 7, 2018 [2 favorites]


What's your financial situation? I do not believe that you can fairly consider changing your career path without fully exploring the financial repercussions of your decision. You didn't mention other sources of wealth - a spouse, family money, etc.

- Do you have 0 debt?
- Do you have enough saved that you could pay for the degrees you may need to acquire without obtaining any debt?
- Have you been stuffing your retirement savings so that you can live comfortably in retirement without having to worry about what your near-future and rest-of-your-lifetime salary might be?
- Are you capable of taking the huge financial/lifestyle hit?
- Do you have middle-term financial things coming up? These could include having a child, having to financially support elderly parents, buying a home.

I suppose hypothetically you could save a lot during your work now so that you can actually afford to go into teaching. But that would probably be a multi-year endeavor.
posted by k8t at 4:48 PM on August 7, 2018 [1 favorite]


If you want to make a difference, why not get involved in some sort of community volunteering? There are so many opportunities! Sponsor a refugee family, be involved in some sort of mentoring, etc.
There are a ton of these that you could get really invested in too - like many hours a week.
posted by k8t at 4:49 PM on August 7, 2018


I have a friend who was dissatisfied with his work as a lawyer. He took some courses and get certified as a teacher, and he got a job teaching history in one of our local high schools. He quit after three days.

The entire experience was unsatisfactory. As the new kid on the block, he did not have his own classroom and had to move from room to room across a rather big campus. The textbooks were unavailable and he was told to make copies of the needed material, but schools provided maybe one copier per 100 teachers. And more stuff like that. In summary, he was unable to tolerate being thrown into a zoo. By the way, this a highly respected public schools system in a quite prosperous city.

There are three teachers in my extended family, and mostly they love what they do. They all started "right out of school."
posted by SemiSalt at 5:00 PM on August 7, 2018


Maybe teaching isn't right but a public sector education job still is. Only you can decide that soo....

.....Assistive Technologists are a thing and very valuable in school districts. It's different kind of work that no doubt has its own headaches but resolves the full room of kids issue as it's a more specific kind of position.
posted by zizzle at 5:46 PM on August 7, 2018


I know a lot of miserable ex-teachers. They may have liked the teaching, but it was the bureaucracy and abuse that drove them out, and teachers are treated as disposable and easily replaced and they are nitpicked out the wazoo. Some just get laid off and MAYBE rehired every single year these days.

If you like kids and want to help, volunteer somewhere.
posted by jenfullmoon at 6:30 PM on August 7, 2018


I'm starting my thirteenth year of teaching and I absolutely love it. I'd want to teach even if I didn't need the money, and I mean this genuinely. I have an elite education and was on a path to do something "bigger" but I cannot imagine a career that would be more rewarding, creative, and fun for me. A lot depends on your school and area: I teach at a diverse, high-poverty urban school in a community that really values education and respects teachers. Not everyone feels this way but you can find a school with a climate that matches your motivations and interests. Don't get me wrong, there is a lot of shit that the administration is putting us through right now but my focus is on the kids.

You work very, very hard your first few years but, hey, you also get summers off and those give you a chance to re-energize and start fresh. We're talking ten or twelve hour work days when you start so you're tired but there's a passion that keeps you going. I was in Target today and saw some adorable food-shaped erasers that were both cheap and overpriced. I weighed the pros and cons but ultimately got them because I thought of how happy they'll make my students on the random day I hand them out. I also ran into two former students as well as a current student when I was there, and we had such lovely little chats. (Yes, the erasers were one of the topics: would they want to receive these as a prize? The answer was yes. When should they be rewarded? When the entire class does something well as a treat versus certain students receiving them for doing well on a test? Their answer: everyone for good vibes.) That one student told me at the end of last year: "This is the only class I don't hate" which is the biggest compliment coming from her; this time she said "This is the only class I'm looking forward to!" which is even a bigger compliment, ha! This sounds mundane here but is great in person. Sometimes I go home exhausted or upset and often my students do crazy stuff; however, most days I go home happy and with funny stories to share and happy memories to focus on. That's what teaching is to me, all those little moments that you rarely share with others but enjoy so very much. Every teacher has a billion of them and can share if you ask the right questions. Oh, that same class was semi-secretly juuling during instruction, have done a semi-secret piercing or two during class, and don't get me started on cellphones. But you learn tricks and let the small stuff slide because life is too short and the goal is learning, not policing.

I do wish I earned more money but don't have any student debt so it's fine. In addition to teaching, my passion is traveling and the time off allows for it. My favorite part about teaching, other than the fact that I'm always thinking and doing creative problem-solving, is the students. Even the toughest students tend have to have big hearts, and I can imagine the interpersonal relationships you cultivate as a teacher are something you'd really love. As others have said, I'd see if you could volunteer maybe once a week at a local school for a few hours. If you can't take off during the day -- and your boss might be flexible since this is volunteering, you could run a tech club or program of sorts one evening a week through the school's PTA or the like. You could also take a week or two off from work and shadow a teacher. You'd be working hard but also would have a chance to see the daily life of a teacher: you may find you actually like older or younger students. I was a substitute teacher during college breaks: while I hated it and can say it's almost completely different from being a classroom teacher, it showed me what grades, subjects, and schools I liked best. The paperwork is my least favorite thing but it's totally manageable once you create a system: it's actually less than at a lot of jobs, I believe, but you just don't have quite as much time to do it since you're teaching as well.

There are a number of "career switcher" programs out there for people who have a BA or BS and work experience but no license. They don't cost an arm and a leg and take under a year: this would absolutely be the way to go if they are available in your area. Most teachers are very collegial if busy; it was a pleasant surprise to see how much teachers help each other, especially new educators. I'd talk to HR at a local district and see what their requirements are and if they can connect you with a volunteer opportunity. You also go in-person to a local school with a resume in hand and ask to speak to an administrator about volunteering: don't just call or email because they receive a lot of messages a day and may not respond but can chat in person if they have a minute.

I totally understand why your sister warns people to avoid teaching, and can say it's definitely not for everyone. However, I think it's also a wonderful career for many. A few years ago there was a study published that said teachers have the highest level of career satisfaction in the US. (I wish I could remember the source!) So many people leave the profession before five years but those who stay out of love and commitment are pretty darn happy. That said, teachers do like to complain, even if they love their job -- I'm guilty, too, and few people love a Happy Hour more than teachers! You are asking because you are drawn to the profession: it really is one where the term "calling" applies. I laud you for this and encourage you to explore. Even if you don't become a teacher, I am sure you will find many ways to connect and give back!
posted by smorgasbord at 6:47 PM on August 7, 2018 [9 favorites]


I'm trained as a teacher but am not currently one, my husband was a teacher for 5 years, our best friends are both teachers.

How flexible are your hours at your current job? If they're in any way able to accommodate it, you can do some volunteering in a local school. Be aware, however, that you will need clearances and that most schools are not really set up for randos to walk in off the street and volunteer. You will probably have to do a fair amount of legwork to figure out the best way to volunteer in your local schools. I'd say trying to get this plan together has a high likelihood of teaching you some important things about how schools and school systems operate. And I don't mean that to be snarky, I'm serious..

But you need to get around kids in an educational setting before you make this decision. Seriously.
posted by soren_lorensen at 6:56 PM on August 7, 2018


I taught for 25 years - everything from pre-K to high school - and I currently teach student teachers in a large university. It's the best job in the world, incredibly hard (I was a career changer and teaching, done right, is harder than any other job I've ever done) and demanding. It's absorbing, creative, and entertaining, and in the USA the whole country is doing its best to ruin teaching as a career by turning it into a packaged-curriculum, packaged management-system, test-driven, reductive undertaking that turns out people who think global warming is a hoax and a reality show star makes a good president.

My first job was in a fourth grade in a public school in a tough neighborhood; I had 33 kids, some of whom had been held back, and no textbooks, no paper, no pencils, a packaged curriculum, and a stack of curriculum guides a couple feet high.

But honestly, kids are funny and lovely and hilarious, helping them learn is wonderful intellectual work among the most challenging in the world, and if you want to feel that your work is worthwhile and you are doing something worth your time, teaching is a big one.

If teachers are replaced with computer programs it will be because we go against everything we know about how people actually learn how to understand the world.
posted by Peach at 7:53 PM on August 7, 2018 [5 favorites]


Thank you everyone for the wonderful and insightful answers (and any more answers to come). I have a lot to think about, and it's clear that getting some actual real-world classroom experience is something I should do, as a minimum exploratory step. Thanks again.
posted by drawfrommemory at 8:17 PM on August 7, 2018 [2 favorites]


After many years of working as part of a school administration team, I decided to go back to teaching. I was in a position where I was able to conduct research around the kind of school I'd like to teach at - I cared a lot about school climate. Now, after a truly relaxing summer off, I'm ready to begin my fourth year with my new school.

I'd like to combat some of the negative responses above by saying that I really love my job. There are many days where I actually can't believe that I get paid to spend my days reading and writing with kids. I'm fortunate to live in a state that (mostly) values teachers. Because I work in a wealthy district, I'm paid a highly competitive wage. I get to partner with supportive families and have a lot of freedom in planning curriculum for my courses.

I've worked with low-income programs and have been in situations where I needed to work a second job to make ends meet. This was at the beginning of my career. Check your state's pay step program and take a look at pay scales in the districts you'd like to work in - salary varies so much from state to state and district to district that I think it's impossible to make any kind of blanket statement about "what teachers make."

Here's the biggest reason I love my work: I get to make reading and writing interesting for high schoolers. This makes me really happy. I'm generally supported by my team of principals and work with a group of professionals who care deeply about providing students with a strong educational experience. High schoolers are both heartbreaking and hilarious and I find personal value in building positive relationships with my students. I don't know if there's another job that lends itself to such life-changing stuff. Throughout the school year I consistently receive cards, letters, and little gifts from my kiddos - these are my soul fuel on the Saturdays in February when I'm holed up at Starbucks grading 60 rhetorical analysis essays and summer seems so very far away.

The advice to spend time in a classroom is a good one. Volunteer at a local school, spend time thinking about the curriculum you'd like to teach, consider your debt/income ratio, evaluate your state's commitment to education, and make the decision that's best for you.
posted by WaspEnterprises at 8:44 PM on August 7, 2018 [2 favorites]


Another veteran teacher here, nominated as teacher of the year in my state and I would no longer encourage anyone to get into this field.

* While some teachers may make $100k in places like NYC, most of us do not. The problem for teachers is that in a union shop, your pay is based on both experience and your degree and to save money, districts are not offering professional status/tenure to teachers with advanced degrees because they cost too much. That means teachers are starting over again every three years in new districts which sucks for school culture but also professionally sucks because it's really hard to get your salary into a higher range.

* Unions are great once you have professional status. Until then, you're forced to give a portion of your salary to them and they offer you zero protection because districts don't need a reason to keep teachers on for their first 3 years (see above).

* The politics are no joke. School admins are generally some of the nastiest, pettiest, least inspired professionals I've ever met. They're either zealots who want to hang out with all the kids and know nothing about teaching, or they're puppets following the personal passion of misguided superintendents (i.e. forcing hundreds of teachers into co-teaching). Remember "Mean Girls?" More and more principals are Regina Georges--they couldn't handle being teachers but went to school for 2 more years and now think they can run schools. They can't, which leads me to...

* You're on your own with entitled parents and your admins will throw you under buses, hang you out to dry and every other metaphor you can think of for being left alone and defenseless, because fear of lawsuits has changed them. This year I had multiple meetings with one pair of wildly entitled parents with school admins and the special ed director because their kid was not getting As and they were threatening to sue. They thought that being on an IEP guaranteed straight As and instead of any admin telling them they were delusional, they allowed these meetings to go on and on and on.

* With all due respect to the fine answers you've received, if you want to immediately infuriate educators, tell them you're interested in becoming a teacher because you like kids. Liking kids is great but it's not the same thing as spending the day in front of 22 kids, half of whom have zero interest in what you're trying to do with one-eighth actively trying to undermine you. And even if you're okay with that, it doesn't mean you know how to teach. We go to graduate school for years and learn how people learn and how to teach. We learn about child development, special education, legal issues, literacy, project-based learning and a ton more. And remember, all that graduate school learning makes us more expensive as teachers and therefore, makes it harder to get hired.

* Lastly, high school teachers will tell you that technology has changed kids dramatically in the past few years. We are not being taught how to deal with that. Kids are used to being on their phones all the time and struggle to function without constant entertainment and immediate gratification. Their attention spans are terrible and their ability to sit and focus on anything for more than 30 seconds is dwindling to nothing (of course, I am not talking about any WeeFites-your kids are perfect and have no issues at all with tech). The job has changed completely in the past few years because these kids actually lose their shit when told to put their phones away and get incredibly frustrated if they can't have Siri give them an immediate answer to everything they ask. I wish I was exaggerating--I'm not.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 4:14 AM on August 8, 2018 [3 favorites]


I would also be really honest and ask myself why you think you want to become a teacher of younger kids. An unspoken truth is that a lot of people go into teaching little kids because A) their own school experience was terrible and they want to ensure other kids don't have the same awful time, B) kids are less intimidating than adults and it's a control thing, C) some combination of both.

It's like this dirty little secret of teaching--there are a LOT of teachers out there who only got into it because they couldn't really hack working with adults and little kids are easy to intimidate. I would spend some time in classrooms and note how many teachers seem to delight in the ability to boss kids around.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 4:30 AM on August 8, 2018 [1 favorite]


Setting everything else I've said aside, I have a critical question for you to ask yourself to help you decide. Think about your work/life balance and how much effort you like to put forth during the work day.

Being a bad teacher is exhausting and being a competent teacher is even more exhausting. You have to be on high alert all day, incorporate emotional intelligence to engage all the students, notice who is doing what and who needs help and remember that, make sure lessons will run smoothly with no dead spots, ensure you're always moving and connecting, taking data, remembering to lead with positivity and kindness no matter how annoying the students may be, deal with constant interruptions (bathroom, nurse, phone calls, paper throwing, admins walking in) and doing all of this while on your feet and remembering the longer term goals.

When you're not actively with kids, you're dealing with administration and parents, discussing ways to help struggling learners, trying to find out what type of support has helped kids in the past, trying to get specialists to come in and check one of your students, going to IEP meetings, writing reports, hanging up student work, considering behavioral systems, creating new lessons, reflecting on what parts of lessons were great and where they faltered, getting your classroom tech fixed, waiting 20 minutes just to make some goddamn copies, trying to get books for research projects, remembering to hydrate, remembering to PEE, getting in your paperwork...then there's all that work to grade.

I would ask you to consider if that level of intense focus while making far less money sounds appealing. For me, it is, but a lot of new teachers come in thinking O Captain my Captain and essentially lose it when they find out how much exhausting work is involved in teaching.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 4:14 AM on August 9, 2018


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