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  1. #1
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    Question for teachers

    For those of you that teach, at whatever level, did you become a teacher because that's what you felt called to do? Did you get into the profession accidentally due to wanting to share your life's experience with others? Or was teaching the "back-up plan" when other dreams didn't quite pan out?

    I'm wanting to make a career change and teaching keeps being brought up. My family thinks I'd be good at it but I'm not so sure. I just don't feel like I'd have the patience (or the ability to not knock some kid's teeth out if they snotted off to me or were bullying another student). But I'm curious to know other people's feelings. Is it what you hoped it would be? Better or worse?

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    I felt like it was a secure profession and that I was in some ways called to do it. I genuinely loved every moment the first time I taught a "mini-lesson" as part of education school--as a sophomore. I remember observing a literature discussion once prior to that and feeling like I so wanted to be in the teacher's shoes.

    But it wasn't what I hoped it would be. And it was never the students who I ran out of patience with. It was math teachers turned principals who thought that a discussion of Hamlet was inadequate because I "never gave them the formula"; parents who did their kids' homework; police officer fathers who stalked me when his kid didn't pass a project (hint: when the stalker is a police officer in a very small town, there is no one you can call); state standards that are based on politics not history and made by a committee that included no educators; school board members who got on in the first place to insure a free ride for their kids; and entire systems that value sports more than academics.

    And when you get home from all of those headaches and turn on the internet or pick up a newspaper, you get to read about how your profession is destroying the world. Add to that that there is no real job security. In a non-tenure school, you'll be out as soon as you get too many grad hours or too much experience. In a tenure school, you'll be the victim of last hired-first fired cuts. If you get lucky and make it to tenure, some batshit crazy admin might harass you out of the system if it suits her whims or her need for more staff points.

    I loved teaching when I got to teach. But there is too much other garbage that goes with it.

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    It was what I wanted to do when I was a child.
    I'm so happy with it, I feel that it's the only job I was made for. lol
    I think that you really have to want it to bear this today, because it's a difficult job.

  4. #4
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    I have a degree in Education but I quickly realized I could never be a teacher in a public school as the system would have driven me mad. I'm now a software engineer and quite happy.

    People think of teaching as a fall back career, something anyone can do. They are quite wrong in this regard and I wouldn't let them push you into the field if you don't think it's something you really want to do. You don't necessarily have to be "called" to do it but you have to have a certain amount of enthusiasm and affinity for the profession or you'll be eaten up alive IMO.
    Actual bumper sticker series: Jesus is my co-pilot. Satan is my financial advisor. Budha is my therapist. L. Ron Hubbard owes me $50.

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    I started teaching a bit later than most (32), and at that time, I knew it was what I wanted to do. I am not the most patient person in the world, but when a kid is trying, I just suck it up and dig in with the kid. I teach mainly 9th graders, who are hormone crazed balls of energy, and if I didn't love it, I wouldn't still be doing it.

    PD is right that there is a lot of other nonsense that goes on, but I've found that happens in any job (teaching being my third career), and her examples are not universal.

    You do have to at least like what you are doing, because if you don't, the kids will eat you alive. Or the paperwork will.

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    Quote Originally Posted by PrincessLeppard View Post

    PD is right that there is a lot of other nonsense that goes on, but I've found that happens in any job (teaching being my third career), and her examples are not universal.
    Nor are they limited. I spent time at national conferences with teachers from all over the country who had plenty of similar experiences.

    My husband dumps meat in a pet food plant. He makes as much as I did as a veteran teacher and more than a friend of mine made after ten years in a public school in this area (salary freezes meant she got stuck for eight years on a second year teacher salary. Our insurance costs one-tenth of what the same policy cost my parents through one of the largest school districts in this state ten years ago. And that is the same district that allows administrators in buildings to do anything required to force veteran teachers out of the district or into early retirement in order to keep the budget for salaries down.

    And it is easy to dismiss problems with curriculum standards in this state if you are teaching English which has the most general and reasonable standards of the lot.

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    But you're negative in general, PDilemma. PL didn't dismiss your problems, she just sees them from her perspective as you do from yours.
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    I never thought I would end up teaching and used to laugh at people who thought I would be good at it. I was a nervous mess when I got up in front of a class.

    But then I was offered a chance to go to grad school for free if I would teach just one class per term and I couldn't pass that up. I was indeed a nervous mess on the first day, and probably for the first month or so, but that passed and I found out that I actually liked teaching. It can be a really frustrating job and you have to have a pretty high tolerance for failure (because most of your students will not dazzle you--and you will, in spite of your best efforts, not dazzle most of them, either), but it's also a very rewarding job. There's nothing else quite like that moment when someone "gets" a difficult concept.

    I think it's a huge mistake to think of teaching as a "calling." Teaching is not a religious profession; it's a career, like any other. Thinking of teaching as a "calling" is what leads to teachers getting low pay, being given little respect, and enduring unreasonable expectations of sacrifice and devotion. It's a job--a demanding job, but a job.
    "The secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources."-- Albert Einstein.

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    Quote Originally Posted by milanessa View Post
    But you're negative in general, PDilemma. PL didn't dismiss your problems, she just sees them from her perspective as you do from yours.
    As I said, I interacted with teachers from all over the country. The best and brightest who were chosen for national select programs and they were seeing the same problems. I have had two former students enter the profession only to teach in three schools in three years (last hired first fired) then find themselves with too much experience to get a job for year four.

    And you have no idea what my life is like right now. None. I will say that I recently had someone I know IRL tell me that if she had been through everything my husband and I have been through in 2.5 yrs, she is pretty sure she'd be divorced and suicidal. And that was prior to things getting much much worse just this week. Don't judge people you don't actually know.

  10. #10

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    I fell into teaching in graduate school. I had no plans to be a teacher, even though looking back, it seemed inevitable. As early as sixth grade, I had teachers comment that I would make a good teacher (I did a lot of tutoring in French, English, and Chemistry.) But I never wanted to be a teacher; most of the time I wanted to enter the diplomatic service or be a writer or a mermaid princess. I entered graduate school with the intention of getting my PhD and some cushy little research position or a consultant doing consulting thingies on Eastern European/Asian cultures. Not a well thought out plan in hindsight.

    In graduate school for my masters, however, the research just seemed really pointless--all these microhistories and small insignificant battles and people in wars that weren't even taught about countries that no longer existed. I had very existential thoughts about the Point of It All. By my second year, the one really bright spot in my day were my office hours. I was probably the only TA that took their TA duties more seriously than their research duties. Doing endless research about the Women's Bureau of the Communist Party just seemed dry, but explaining the Revolutions of 1848 to undergrads really got me animated and excited. I had lines out of my door to talk to me! I read and made comments on every single paper. It made my blood boil to see other TAs not taking their job all that serious--one TA admitted he just tossed them in the air and the ones that landed near his desk got As. Many didn't even read the final exams (which is a stupid risk--if you're caught, it's bye-bye job, bye-bye scholarship, bye-bye graduate program)! I had professors fighting over me my final semester.

    Before entering college again to get my teacher's certification, I substitute taught for a year to see if I could handle it, and even on days when the students tried to throw a desk at me just to see what I would do, I would rather be there than my mindless department manager job at Bed, Bath, & Beyond. (For the record, this doesn't work every time and you have to know the attitude of the class, the other teachers, and the principals, but I just pulled out a book and pretnded to ignore them. They were so confused, they were docile little lambs the rest of the day. I found out later, this does not always work. In fact, it rarely works. I just got lucky.)

    Teaching was by far the greatest thing career wise I ever did, and if I could get another teaching job, I would drop my current one in a heartbeat.

    I will say as a precaution: teaching is one of those jobs where you're either on top of the pedastol or underneath it. You will get lauded and in the same breath the "those who can't do teach." You need to be able to shrug both off as both can be equally stifling. Also, a lot of people say it's a calling. No, it's not. Like any career, there are some who excel and some who don't. You will have days where you really feel like you're making a difference, and days where you cry yourself to sleep in frustration. Most days, it is a job like any other and your success or failure depends on how your job feels that particular day. You will have people that taught for six months, got their PhD, and entered the teaching lecture circuit tell you how to do your job. You will be subject to the no-win whims of the current administration, which will likely have the mentality of if you succeed, it's because they put such-and-such philosophy in place and pat themselves on the back. If you fail, it's because you didn't do it right because THEIR SYSTEM IS PERFECT You need to be able to handle other teachers not talking to you for a good six months; maybe even a year. You need to be able to help the ones you can and let go of the ones you can't. Contrary to popular belief, you cannot save every child. This is not your job. Those who go in with Crusader Joe mentality inevitably fail and can do a lot of damage. You need to not feel like a complete failure when you can't get through to a student.

    I would definitely substitute teach first--it's the best thing I did as preparation. You get to see lots of schools, lots of different managerial styles, and how things work in real time. For the most part, education classes are largely useless. You will spend more time unlearning things once you get into the classroom.
    "The practice of sport is a human right. Every individual must have the possibility of practicing sport, without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play." –Olympic Charter

  11. #11
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    Teaching was always my back-up plan. I absolutely love the actual teaching aspect of the job. I don't enjoy the administrative aspect of the position though.

    A big thing with teaching is (despite there being a lack of jobs in many places) being picky enough to find a school that suits you. I worked at one school where I had absolutely no support from the administration, and I had an absolutely terrible class. I went home in or near tears most days, and it was so bad that I was forced to take mental health days. The administration would come to my class only once after I would approach them with a problem and tell them I was considering not renewing my contract (I was signing every 3-4 months because I was covering a sick leave) and then once I would re-sign, they stopped being helpful. Needless to say I was there just one year.

    I'm currently working at an international school in Europe where the school has high expectations of what is expected of the students, both academically and behaviorally. We don't really have many behaviour problems to deal with, and because of that, we are able to focus more on the teaching and I've come to really enjoy my job again. I actually like going to work every day because it's such a positive environment. I know that if I hadn't been able to find a school that suited me, I would have made a career change.

    Before you consider making a move to teaching, though, I would recommend looking at the job prospects for where you'd be teaching. I know in Canada, a lot of teachers are having to change careers because they can't even get on the substitute teaching lists.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by PDilemma View Post
    As I said, I interacted with teachers from all over the country. The best and brightest who were chosen for national select programs and they were seeing the same problems. I have had two former students enter the profession only to teach in three schools in three years (last hired first fired) then find themselves with too much experience to get a job for year four.

    And you have no idea what my life is like right now. None. I will say that I recently had someone I know IRL tell me that if she had been through everything my husband and I have been through in 2.5 yrs, she is pretty sure she'd be divorced and suicidal. And that was prior to things getting much much worse just this week. Don't judge people you don't actually know.
    I'm not judging you. I said that in general your posts are negative, have been for years.

    Back to centerstage01. I taught for 7 years but that was in a military environment so probably has as much relativity to your question as asking a cat breeder what it's like to raise children. I will say I loved it a lot of the time but when I was unsure myself of what I was teaching it was hell.
    3539 and counting.

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  13. #13

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    I kind of always felt a sense of inevitability about going into teaching. There are so many teachers in my family that I was warned from an early age not to go into the profession, but I always had a nagging sense at the back of my mind that I was quite well-suited to it. That being said, I ended up going into it as a back-up plan when I hated my first degree and didn't really want to pursue a career in it. I found out that I could qualify as a teacher in a year using a post-graduate course and figured that was my best bet.

    I enjoy my job a great deal. I'd worked with children from when I was in my late teens, helping teach dance and volunteering at a local children's club so I felt quite comfortable with the idea of teaching. That being said, I never went into the job with the idea that it was some sort of "calling" which I had to do. I think because of how much I'd heard about the job from my family (particularly my dad who was the head of a teachers' union here - some of the stories he came home with were eye-popping!) I had my eyes pretty much wide open to the negative aspects of the job as well, and I think that stood me in good stead because I wasn't going in expecting it to be a wonderful, life-affirming experience! That's not to say that I don't get satisfaction from my job but I think I was pretty realistic about the crappy administrative, frustrating curriculum side of it!

    I think that as with any job it has its positives and negatives. As much as I moan and gurn about my job there's one thing which I do really enjoy about it; you don't really get bored. I've worked in shops and offices and I always clock-watched. As a teacher I don't have time; I find myself turning round after what seems like ten minutes to realise an hour and a half's past and it's nearly break time. The other thing is that although I've taught for 9 years, no two years have been the same. Every class I've taught has been different, each age group (I've taught from Primary 1 to Primary 7) is totally different. I've had classes I've absolutely adored (I cried when I passed on my last class because I'd taught them for 3 years and knew them all so well), and I've had classes I've pretty much torn my hair out over (my current class - my worst class ever so far! Roll on the end of June 'til I can pass them onto someone else!).

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    I went to teachers college ten years ago after two years of getting on the waiting list here in Ontario. I loved my first practicum. But that was because of the principal's influence on the school. Hated my second so much I almost quit before I graduated. And that honestly has felt like my teaching career.
    There are parts I have loved and others that have almost had me decide on another path. It really depends on your admin. Everyone says once you have your own classroom it is is different but it is not. The board and the principal decide the tone of the school. I have been in schools as a supply were the admin. is so toxic I would never take a job there. And ones were the jobs were decided ahead of time, not based on ability, to the point I would not waste my time applying.

    Here in Ontario the provincial government just came up with fair hiring guidelines for the Catholic board because the nepotism and hiring practices were so bad it could no longer be ignored. That coupled with the fact that last year only something like 1/4 grad's even got hired for supply lists and you have a really hard career path in front of you. I know in the States it is different but honestly look at your provinces/states teaching needs and then look at salary/benefit. I feel like we have really lost quite a few fantastic teachers due to this crap.

    Sorry if I sound bitter. I do think teaching is a great career. I remember the teachers I had who I cherish. I guess I just never realized the crap they had to put up with or maybe there is more crap now. Anyway if you think it is the career for you go for it. But do realize it takes time. And often connections. Sounds like a lot of other jobs out there.

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    I am a sessional instructor at a local university an I'd agree with prancer
    From a parents perspective please don't get into teaching unless you ENJOY children and working with them, my sons teacher could not care less about my son , supporting him or teaching him. It's sad . Se makes more working 9 months a year than I make working 11 and she is so darn negative . His last years teacher was INCREDIBLE and really has.a passion on for it, she changed my son.s confidence level and his work tremendously it s awe inspiring to see.
    Nt sure if this helps or not!!!!

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    I'm a primary school and special needs teacher, but I teach in my own setting. Teaching, like the majority of jobs, is what you make it. Go in not liking kids, you won't like it. Think you can help everyone? Can't be done, you'll end up miserable. There are things in every job that you don't like, but the good things outway the bad things, I think. I adore my job and wouldn't change it (unless the dealing with Chinese government side of things gets too much). I will say that I don't think I could go back to Australian state school) primary teaching. I want to help the kids that really need it, the ones that would otherwise fall in the cracks; most kids would be fine regardless of who their teacher is. I find my work incredibly rewarding, and more time consuming that most non-teachers think.

    If you want to earn good money and good benefits, consider teaching at an international school overseas. The teachers who do that here in Beijing are on incredibly good deals - fabulous salary, housing, insurance, travel benefits...

  17. #17

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    I taught summer school in Shanghai, and can vouch for what Angel is saying.

    Things I like about teaching: autonomy. Yes, I have to teach the state curriculum and incorporate the standards, but I like the curriculum and as PD said, the English standards are reasonable. Our school has managed to cut down on the number of mandated tests, so that nightmare is no longer in place, at least in my district. (When I taught elsewhere, there were 17 required assessments. When I first taught at my school, there were nine. We have it down to four now.)

    I feel like I am paid fairly, and my insurance is completely covered except for a co-pay and deductible (fairly low). My school has not undergone any reductions in force in the ten years I've been there, and we've brought in nine brand new teachers, seven of whom are still there. The other two were just not meant to be teachers and they realized that.

    Does some stuff suck? Yes. But FOR ME, the good outweighs the negative.

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    I had no desire to be a teacher (used to be a journalist and a radio producer), but when we moved to US my local JCC director called time after time and begged me to help them with Hebrew teaching.
    Once I agreed, I found out that I liked it and decided to get a degree in it. Finished with honors, and now I teach Hebrew 1st and 2nd graders at a different school.

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    I knew in high school that I wanted to be a teacher. My dream back then was to teach 3rd grade, which I did during student teaching. It was awful! I realized that I am not cut out for elementary, that middle school is where I belong. My students are crazy, but I love teaching them and interacting with them. It is stressful trying to keep up with the paperwork (and I do have moments where I hate that part) and the pay is crap (in my private school), but I love my job!

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    I think teaching is a great creative outlet for me. I love that side of it a lot.

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