Most people think of teaching as a posh career. Who wouldn’t want to work nine months out of the year and get paid for 12? Who wouldn’t want to start their day at 7:00 a.m. and be done by 2:30 p.m.? However, these are common misconceptions…being a teacher is not for the weak.
Patience is a Virtue
I remember my mom saying this all throughout my life; it used to drive me nuts. When I became a high school teacher, the saying hit home. If patience is a virtue, teachers must be saints. Having patience is an absolute must as a teacher. There are days I love my students and days when I want to run away screaming. Teachers deal with, on average, 25-30 different personalities; those who teach high school, encounter 25-30 new personalities every hour. It takes an incredible amount of patience and understanding of how to work with so many differing personality types, and it can be easy to lose patience and sanity. I have prided myself on the fact that I am not a teacher who yells and screams to get her students’ attention. It does no good. Add in the battery of teenage hormones, and it’s easy to see why teachers are saints!
Treat Them Like Humans
I have taught all levels of high school English throughout the past 10 years — from ninth to twelfth grade, regular level students to AP/college-level students — and the first thing I tell my students on the first day of school (after my name, of course!) is that I will treat them with respect and as the young adults they are as long as they are deserving of it. I have found that high school students respond much better to teachers who treat them like humans rather than like children…even though they may still be children, or even worse children who, at times, seem to have been taken over by aliens.
In this ever-changing world in which we live, maintaining flexibility as a teacher is key. Unscheduled class assemblies, pep rallies, weather drills, last minute faculty meetings, and parent-teacher conferences pop up all the time. Being flexible and having “back-up” plans in these instances is essential to being an effective teacher.
Though it is true that, in general, teachers do get paid holidays and two months off during the summer, this simply is not a 7-3 job. A teacher’s work day does not end with the school bell or with the start of a holiday break. There are many extra hours put into planning lessons; preparing those lessons and materials; setting up the classroom; attending a multitude of meetings, conferences, and trainings; and grading papers. There is much more involved in teaching than just teaching. Teachers work far beyond forty hours per week with no extra pay. This is certainly a key factor to consider before joining the teaching profession.
Keep Your Sense of Humor
The biggest piece of advice for anyone wishing to become a teacher is to keep a sense of humor. Things will not always go as planned, lesson plans will go awry, students will deal with world-shattering drama, and the politics of the education system will bog you down, but in the end, it isn’t the pay that keeps a teacher teaching. Teachers teach because they love kids and hope to impart some knowledge and wisdom that their students will use to one day run our communities. Keeping your sense of humor will help you keep your sanity.
Not everyone is cut out to be a teacher. It can be a thankless job most days that pays very little, but it is also a very rewarding profession, particularly when a teacher sees “the light bulb go on” in a student’s mind. That “a-ha” moment makes it all worth it. Teachers must teach students to not sweat the small stuff and to enjoy the journey of growing up. Teachers teach much more than a curriculum; they must teach life.