How to Decide if Teaching is the Right Career for You
If you have been following my work, you know I spent 7 years a K-12 teacher and 7 years as a university professor, eventually becoming the dean of a school of education. As a teacher, I was passionate about helping students reach their academic potential and become productive citizens. As a professor and education dean, I was devoted to developing the next generation of teachers and education administrators. For the last two and a half years, I have been an education entrepreneur, launching an education company, Lynch Educational Consulting, which also manages the following web properties: The Edvocate, The Tech Edvocate, and Edupedia.
However, I often miss being in the classroom, and when I do, I usually channel this energy in an article, resource, or project that will benefit educators everywhere. This time I decided to create a series of case studies that are meant to help pre-service teachers get a glimpse into the problems and issues that they will encounter in the field. These case studies will also give them a chance to reflect on how they can use each scenario to inform their own practice. Let’s get started.
Teaching is hands down one of the most demanding careers on earth. Sure, it is rewarding, but you end up working long hours for little pay, and most of the time you feel underappreciated by society. Before you decide to become an educator, make sure that it is your purpose, meaning you have the passion, skills, and dispositions that it takes to manage the rigors of the education field. To avoid being another cautionary tale, read the case study below, entitled “When the Enchantment Wears Off.” Afterward, reflect on the questions below, using your thoughts to decide if teaching is a good career fit for you.
- Was Lisa right in quitting her career as a senior manager and taking up teaching as a profession?
- What do you think about Lisa’s attitude toward the student-teaching experience? Should she have given more thought to the financial strains of the teaching profession before she decided to enroll in the teacher-education program?
- Was Lisa right in taking up a job for the sake of having a job? What would you have done in her place?
- Did Lisa make a hasty judgment in leaving the teaching profession based on one bad job experience? What could Lisa have done instead of quitting the teaching profession?
When Enchantment Wears Off
Lisa had more than 10 years’ experience in the human resources field. But she’d always wanted to become a teacher. Early in her life, when she was considering teaching as a profession, friends and family actively discouraged her from taking it up, because it was considered a low-income occupation.
Succumbing to pressure, she went on to obtain a business degree and climbed the corporate ladder to secure a well-paying job as a senior manager. Eventually she’d reached a plateau in her career and no longer found it satisfying. She wanted to make a difference to the community and help underprivileged children. She decided to quit her job and take the plunge into teaching.
She enrolled in a teacher education program and was excited about fulfilling her lifelong dream of becoming a teacher. The initial excitement quickly wore off, though, as she struggled to make ends meet during the 18-week student-teaching stint. The hours were grueling, as she juggled her student-teaching responsibilities and worked evenings and weekends. There were times when she wondered if it had been wise to leave a well-paying and successful career to chase a childhood dream. However, she willed herself to face the challenges of money and time, completing the program successfully.
Lisa had shortlisted three schools at which to seek employment, based on her desires and expectations. Unfortunately, none of them had a position that matched her grade level and subject. As the weeks passed, she became more frustrated and was feeling the financial strain of unemployment. In her desperation, she decided to take up a position in a different neighborhood, which required long hours of travel and was known to be “rough.”
After working there for some time, she felt out of place and could not relate to the students. She became bitter and depressed. Remembering her initial doubts about taking up teaching as a profession, she wondered if she’d made the right decision. Less than a year later, she quit her job and decided to leave the teaching profession for good. She was frustrated and disenchanted with her financial situation, disappointed with her job placement, and felt like a failure.