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Question for teachers

Discussion in 'Off The Beaten Track' started by centerstage01, Nov 3, 2012.

  1. centerstage01

    centerstage01 Well-Known Member

    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?
  2. PDilemma

    PDilemma Well-Known Member

    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.
  3. briancoogaert

    briancoogaert Well-Known Member

    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. MacMadame

    MacMadame Cat Lady-in-Training

    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.
  5. PrincessLeppard

    PrincessLeppard Holding Alex Johnson's Pineapple

    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. :)
  6. PDilemma

    PDilemma Well-Known Member

    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.
  7. milanessa

    milanessa engaged to dupa

    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.
  8. Prancer

    Prancer Strong and stable Staff Member

    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.
  9. PDilemma

    PDilemma Well-Known Member

    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. Matryeshka

    Matryeshka Well-Known Member

    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 :soapbox: 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.
  11. screech

    screech Well-Known Member

    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. milanessa

    milanessa engaged to dupa

    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. :lol: 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.
  13. AnnieD

    AnnieD Active Member

    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!).
  14. Clytie

    Clytie Member

    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.
  15. victoriajh

    victoriajh trying to ignore rod and find the eurosport feed

    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!!!!
  16. Angelskates

    Angelskates Well-Known Member

    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. PrincessLeppard

    PrincessLeppard Holding Alex Johnson's Pineapple

    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.
  18. Eden

    Eden Well-Known Member

    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.
  19. shan

    shan Well-Known Member

    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!
  20. Angelskates

    Angelskates Well-Known Member

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

    Prancer Strong and stable Staff Member

    One of the things I like about teaching is that I don't have to work with the same people all the time. Yeah, there are the same people in the office, but every term, I get a whole new crew of students, all with their own personalities. Every class is different. And since I am usually in charge of what happens (I teach at the college-level, though, which is more independent than K-12), I can change things up as often as I like. I can teach different classes, teach the same classes in different ways, or decide that I just don't want to X today and will do Y instead. I sometimes want to quit teaching, but I can't imagine going back to a standard office job. The idea of facing the same people day in and day out for years just makes me cringe.
  22. Really

    Really I need a new title

    I was 7 years old when I decided I wanted to be a teacher. I toyed with a couple other ideas very briefly once I got out of high school, but a teacher is what I became, and it's the only job I've had since I got out of university! I wanted to have the same impact on kids that certain teachers had had on me. I'd like to think I have had that kind of impact on a few. People say I'm crazy for teaching junior high, but they're fun, refreshing, and they keep me young and on my toes. When it's not fun anymore, that's when it will be time to quit!
  23. made_in_canada

    made_in_canada INTJ

    I love that junior high age group, too. I love that they're old enough to be starting to figure out their own identities apart from their families, are starting to think for themselves and yet still need adults. It's such a period of transition physically, socially, emotionally, that it's always interesting.

    I'm not a teacher but I strongly considered it as a career path. I work with children in a whole range of age groups and while I love working with kids I wasn't sure how I'd do in a classroom environment. I talked to a bunch of teachers, job shadowed, and then when I discovered that my major/minor combo wouldn't give me what I needed to enter into the education program at my local university it cinched the decision to not go into teaching. The seemingly rabid teacher's union in my province kind of scared me off too.
  24. michiruwater

    michiruwater Well-Known Member

    My father has been teaching at Finlandia University for nearly 40 years at this point, and I grew up with his influence. For most of my childhood I waffled between saying I wanted to teach English like him when I grew up, or I wanted to be a famous pop star :lol:

    Then I joined band in 6th grade, loved it, had an absolutely wonderful and influential band director, and this April graduated with my degree in instrumental music education. There's something really special about music that I think no other subject can even begin to emulate, and band kids tend to be the best students in any school. I wanted to teach kids to love music as much as I do, and to be a positive influence in their life.

    I had a couple tough years in college where I really asked myself if I wanted to teach. I'm in my first year of teaching now. I couldn't find a band job in the US, so I am teaching English in China. I feel I am doing a very good job and I am liking the experience a lot, but I miss band a lot. I'm hoping I can find a band job - hopefully middle school - in the US some time in the next two years.
  25. spikydurian

    spikydurian Well-Known Member

    Not a teacher but I have many teacher friends. Impression I get is that unless you love it and is able to accept the satisfaction and challenges which come with teaching, don't bother. I have a friend who has just retired from teaching. She was well loved by her students, and what I found in her was not only knowledge in the subject, but a high level of enthusiasm, patience, positivity and compassion. She now gives free tuition to children who comes from disadvantaged background.
    I think teaching in the 'right school' helps. Some of the complaints I heard are having to deal with disruptive children.
  26. floskate

    floskate Vacant

    I started teaching performing arts at Further Education level (16-18) when I was 29, so nearly 10 years now. I almost fell into it, as I decided to take a break from working professionally to put down some roots with Mr Flo. I had no idea whether or not I could teach and got lucky with a break early on which was mainly due to my professional CV. One of the best bits about the job is the creative freedom I get from teaching a vocational subject. I found that I could indeed teach and truthfully have enjoyed the majority of my career thus far.

    That's the positive. The negative isn't necessarily the odd wayward kid, or maintaining discipline or anything like that, but the humanly impossible admin responsibilities placed on us by management. Teaching is no longer the priority, it is data and statistics and woe betide anyone who misses a deadline, or *gasp* has a student actually fail a subject (through no fault f the teacher) because it messes up the figures. Every year it gets worse and the government continues to tamper with a system that was never broken in the first place. All I see now are pretty miserable teachers, many wanting out but scared to take the risk, or just leaving and making do with lower paying jobs. So far in the last 4 years, my department has seen 15 changes of staff due to people leaving.

    I've had to cut my hours this year because I could not cope with the job 5 days a week. It's the best thing I ever did. I now teach singing privately on my day off (I've done this on and off for years but never continuously) and demand is high. So much so that I'm considering going down to 2.5 days a week in January. I'm doing a distance learning course in advanced contemporary vocal tuition which will qualify me to open my own vocal studio - hopefully next summer. So I'm not quitting teaching, I'm just changing the goalposts to suit me. I love to teach, especially 1-2-1 where you see results so quickly so if this works then it's win win. The joy of teaching without the pressures.
  27. centerstage01

    centerstage01 Well-Known Member

    Thanks for everyone's responses. My mother has been a high school teacher for 30 years and just retired this past year as well as other family members and friends who are teachers so I know all the ups and downs of the job. Basically: students - good, administration and red tape paperwork - bad. (I know not all administrations are ALL bad...some are very supportive.)

    The idea about teaching overseas was an intriguing one as I hadn't thought about that so I'll have to look into that more. I've also heard about teachers who work in hospitals for kids who are too sick or injured to be at a traditional school for any length of time. If I went the traditional school route I'm not sure what age level I'd be best with. I can see pros and cons for all of them. :lol: I really do love kids and love watching the wheels turn in their heads when they're learning and when they finally figure something out. Little kids especially...their brains are such sponges that soak up anything and I find that utterly fascinating. Every time I get around my three-year-old niece I can't wait for her to tell me (or show me) something that she's learned at school.

    I need to contact my state's department of education to find out my options about school and non-traditional licensure. I just wanted to know other people's experiences during the job.
  28. PrincessLeppard

    PrincessLeppard Holding Alex Johnson's Pineapple

    I have never heard of teaching in a hospital. That sounds kind of interesting, but could be very sad as well.

    The thing about teaching overseas is that most schools want you to have a couple years experience before they will even look at your resume. I can't decide if I want to do that again or not. I know I would love it. I'm paranoid about traveling with my cats. :shuffle:
  29. TheGirlCanSkate

    TheGirlCanSkate Well-Known Member

    Little kids especially...their brains are such sponges that soak up anything and I find that utterly fascinating.

    I used to think this until I started working in schools. Now I know about 1/4 struggle with learning. You have to have a special patience for working with kids who don't get it and try so hard. The number goes up when you have kids who have no desire to learn as they get older. I found it difficult and energy draining.

    My son had an opposite reaction - he said it is easier to get failing kids to pass than it is to get B+ student to A+. Still he dropped the idea of teaching high school, changed his major and would rather teach at a university or college.
  30. Angelskates

    Angelskates Well-Known Member

    Come to Beijing!