4 Things That You Should Know About Becoming a Teacher
Congratulations on having taken the first step toward becoming a teacher. As you will learn, a career in teaching has its challenges, but it is also extremely rewarding. Teachers are called to the profession in a variety of ways, for a variety of reasons. Perhaps you chose to become a teacher because of positive childhood experiences with a teacher. Perhaps a family member in the teaching profession encouraged your decision. Perhaps you have a deep-seated desire to work with young people and be a force for positive change in society. Whatever the reason for your calling, we hope to provide you with a deep understanding of your career choice and all that it has to offer.
Teaching does not occur in a vacuum. In fact, changes in the teaching profession move in tandem with changes in the United States and in the world. Teachers adapt to social demands as they teach the content and skills children and youth need in order to navigate a rapidly changing world. In addition to teaching traditional subjects such as mathematics, science, and social studies, some educators teach subjects that were very rare in schools only a few decades ago.
Contemporary teachers must be able to work with students from a wide range of backgrounds and abilities. Teachers today must incorporate teaching methodology that is respectful of the ethnic, racial, and social class differences in their students. Teachers who excel in communities with a high percentage of minority students use teaching strategies that incorporate the background and experiences of these students into the learning process. Historically, public schools have been one of the major vehicles through which equal rights for all individuals have been promoted. Teaching in the United States will increasingly address the learning needs of diverse groups of students.
Despite these changes, many aspects of schools and schooling have remained constant for decades. For example, in most schools, core classes are still important components of every student’s studies during the school day. Means for determining how much students are learning is an additional mainstay in schools. In an effort to uphold the quality and effectiveness of teaching, standardized testing is increasingly used as a tool to determine not only what students know and are able to do, but also to ensure that teachers and administrators have the necessary skills and knowledge. However, as we will see, the new emphasis on standardized testing has come under fire from critics who believe it can be a hindrance to good teaching.
As you can see from the issues briefly presented above, teaching is a complex profession that adapts in order to meet the needs of children, as well as the expectations of the general public for high-quality teachers able to provide society with educated citizens. The goal of this article is to present an overall understanding of the teaching profession, and what it means to have a career as an educator in the United States. It should give you a sense of the realities of the profession, and let you know whether your calling to be a teacher is genuine.
Why become a teacher? People become teachers for many different reasons. A desire to work with young people is perhaps the most common reason people choose to enter the profession. A special interest in a certain subject area can lead someone to want to impart that knowledge.
Some people become teachers because of the high job security educators enjoy.
The Interstate New Teacher Assessment and Support Consortium (InTASC) has developed a useful set of standards that describe the dispositions necessary to be a successful teacher. An understanding of these dispositions, along with commitments to being a lifelong learner, using the curriculum responsibly, meeting the needs of learners, and contributing to the profession as a whole, can be helpful in deciding whether you are called to teach, and in guiding you along the way.
Is teaching a profession? Teachers are accredited, have induction and mentoring programs, opportunities for professional development, are specialized, enjoy opportunities for advancement, are well-compensated, and enjoy social prestige. Thus, teaching satisfies the requirements for being a profession.
Teachers may specialize in a number of areas: by age (pre-K, elementary school, middle school, high school); or by subject area. They may teach art, music, physical education, or special education, or teach English language learners. There are many alternative opportunities for teaching, including in private schools.
Teachers’ salaries are lower than those of other professionals, but the benefits and incentives are often excellent. The issue of merit pay is often debated: should teachers be compensated according to the perceived quality of their work? Job security for teachers is at present excellent.
What are the challenges of teaching? Teaching can be a stressful job, both physically and emotionally. Teachers shoulder the responsibility for the wellbeing of their students, which can be challenging. Teaching is hard work: they work one hour outside of class for every two hours of teaching. Keeping up with the latest technology can also be challenging for some teachers. Teachers tend to be highly mobile, moving from school to school and from position to position within a school. Teacher attrition is a problem, and adequate professional development is needed at each stage of a teacher’s career to overcome this. The day-to-day responsibilities can be heavy, and society has high expectations of teachers.
What are the rewards of teaching? Many teachers love working with young people, and have a sense of accomplishment from helping students grow. They take pride in knowing that they are essential to the wellbeing of the society as a whole. They enjoy immense prestige in the eyes of the community. Many teachers simply enjoy imparting knowledge: the process of teaching is fun. Teachers also enjoy some of the highest job security of any profession, particularly at present, as the “baby boom echo” affects the population.
Are there are any additional things that pre-service teachers should know about the teaching profession?