Teachers, do you like your job?

I recently completed my B.F.A. in theatre and have submitted my application to obtain a secondary education teaching certificate. This was the plan all along and something I’ve always wanted to do.

Now, however, I’m having doubts based on the teaching experience of a good friend of mine. It isn’t so much the students that aggravate her so deeply (although apparently there are few who try her patience) but the administration. The horror stories she tells me on a weekly basis are pretty horrific and pretty much add up to an unpleasant working environment. It seems that one view point is pretty limiting. If I go by her experience alone, I can’t see why anyone would WANT to teach. So I’m hoping some of you dopers who are (or were) teachers would be willing share your opinion/experience, both good and bad. Thanks much!

“Ohhh! NOW I get it!” trumps administration BS every time. Seeing that light bulb come on is the greatest reward of all.

Go for it. And enjoy.

I’m not a teacher, unless you want to count my teaching assistant days in graduate school, but my wife was a teacher and my sister is a teacher.

My wife enjoyed teaching well enough. Like any jobs, there were some aggravations. Budget pressures can make school districts do stupid things. At one point her middle school had to cut every non-tenured teacher. There were few enough teachers that groups of 3 teachers taught the 4 “core” subjects: english, math, science, and history. (I’m sure they were all called different things, however.) That meant the vast majority of teachers had to teach a subject they weren’t qualified in. She actually had a principal tell her that “anyone can teach math”. :rolleyes: Of course, it turned out that the one subject all the teachers struggled with the most was math. (She was a math teacher, so this wasn’t an issue for her, but only the science and math teachers could still solve algebra problems.) The first year was rough, as she had to learn how to get the students to work for her. On the whole, she seemed to enjoy it though. Especially that light bulb effect, or the very sweet kids.

Not that she has wanted to go back to teaching. She quit when we started having kids. We have 5, and the youngest is now well into elementary school. She enjoys a mindless, low responsibility, part time job so she can talk to adults but be ready to help our kids at any moment.

My sister enjoys teaching less. In the first place, she is not one of those naturally happy people. In the second, she is lowest on the science totem pole in an urban high school, so she kids the classes no one else wants. In one of her classes, something like half the students are on parole.

I’m also on a committee for our kids’ suburban elementary school. I get to know the teachers a bit better. Their job satisfaction seems to be at least as high as that at my company. It might have something to do with the (excellant) school and the principal, or it might have something to do with them. At any rate, teachers retire from that school, but they don’t quit or transfer, which says quite a bit.

I love my job. I left the private sector for this, and I’ve never regretted it. Teaching is what makes a civilization survive, and I make a difference.

Administrators come, administrators go…I remain. :smiley:

It’s a calling, like the priesthood. If you aren’t sure you want to do it…don’t! The job will just eat you up. You have to be willing to sacrifice all that you are for all that others may become. You are fighting sloth, ignorance, inertia and fear every day. It can be grinding, depressing and painful at times.

On the other hand…seeing the light go on in a kid’s eyes is worth any pain. Knowing that you make a difference means you can sleep at night. The hug of thanks at Graduation is worth a million dollars.

Besides, it’s indoor work with no heavy lifting. What do you want…egg in your beer? :smiley:

I teach AP English in a medium sized school in a large urban district.

I love, love, love my job. I feel lucky every day that a job exisits wherein my personality quirks are actual strengths.

I love the fact that my job takes every iota of creative problem-solving energy I have.

I love my kids-they are funny and self-centered and earnest and moody and amazingly open. I give participation group credit to kids who host or attend after school discussion groups on controversial topics, and I love just sitting back watching people learn to think-they are clumsy and cute with their brand-new adult brains.

I love warping young minds.

I love starting over every year. New group of kids to laugh at my jokes, new chance to do right all the things I did wrong last year.

I love the fact that I am never, ever, ever bored.

I love the power to make my own decisions-- my room is my world, and I decide how it works.

I love the fact that I get to buy school supplies every year for the rest of my life.

I love that I actually enjoy commencement, because where other people are waiting on one or two names, I get to bite my lip and blink my eyes for a hundred different kids.

I love that I have finally excized all my high-school era ghosts, by firmly putting my adolecence in perspective. Teaching allowed me to finally forgive myself for being young and stupid once.

I love the repsect I get. People say that teaching is not a repected profession, but it really is. People are always interested in what I do, and I can’t tell you how many people–strangers–I have had out right thank me for being a teacher.

I love the vacation time. I work a lot in the summer-no doubt–but it is at a very different pace. I have 14 weeks a year (counting Xmas and Spring Break) to lounge.

I love my fellow teachers–teaching attracts strong personalities, and so confers a certain freedom to be, shall wesay, quirky, that you just don’t have in the work-a-day world.

On the other hand:

I hate the administrative b.s.: the faculty meetings, the in-school trainings, the endless, endless paperwork. But what job doesn’t have these sort of things?

I hate the complete lack of breathing space. I teach six classes a day and have 45 minutes to plan and grade. Short of an emergency, I can’t go to the bathroom between 10:15 and 4:00: theoretically, I could go during lunch, but as lunch is only half an hour (a luxury, up from 25 minutes last year) and the bathroom a five minute walk away, I have developed the infamous teacher bladder.

I hate my other co-workers–the bitter, tired, cynical jerks who hate the job, the school , and the kids, and seem to want to drag me down into their misery.

I hate that you can’t go to the doctor or the DMV without organizing a three-ring circus. I hate that I can’t leave a message with a doctor or lawyer or plumber to call me at work.

The only other thing I would mention is the workload: it’s not a love or hate issue for me–I like to work, but I also like summer. But anyone going into teaching needs to understand about the workload. It is not a 9-5 job–it’s a job, and a hobby, and a second job. Drama teachers routinely work 80-90 hour weeks for the 5-6 weeks leading up to a show, and they never, ever work a short week. The first couple years, especially, there is little or no time for involvement in other theater projects. Remember that the drama teacher has to be there for every rehersal, every minute the set is worked on, and also teach classes all day. As an English teacher, my burdens are different, but they are there for every teaching field. If you think that your job should not define you, don’t go into teaching.

I like my job now (in a private Korean high school), but I have had teaching positions that I didn’t like so much. It is sort of a calling, like silenus said, and I have a strong enough calling to enjoy teaching in a school where the administration is supportive and the students motivated, but not in just any school. No job is perfect, but mine is quite good.

In Korea, high school admission is quite competitive, and I’m lucky enough to teach in what many consider the top humanities high school in the country. (Other subjects are taught, but language and humanities are the focus. Other schools focus on science, and most public high schools are more generic.) My students are often excessively motivated–I teach mostly sophomores, and they sometimes ask me for advice on PhD programs. Many write extra essays, unassigned, and ask for my advice on improving them, just for practice. These are kids who are in school from 8am till 10pm four days a week–on Wednesdays they go home at 4pm, and on Saturdays at noon. They are so far beyond what I was in high school that it’s absurd to compare. They read stuff that I read in grad school.

If teaching is something you’ve always wanted to do, I’d say there’s a good chance you’ll find it rewarding. Even in average schools, there are many rewards. As others said, seeing a kid start to “get” something is a wonderful thing, and the vacations are nice too. (You’ll probably really appreciate them, but going back to class after a vacation is fun, too.) The first year may be hard, but it gets much better. I think a balance between realism and idealism is necessary. A little light-hearted cynicism is okay, but don’t let it become serious.

I had many other jobs before teaching, and this is the only one I’ve ever felt cut out for. I’ll admit that there’s a certain “performance” aspect of teaching that I enjoy, at least most of the time. I’ll probably leave teaching as soon as I get that rock star job I’ve been dreaming about for 30 years. Bigger audiences, you know.

I teach k-5 computers in a private American school in Italy. I love, love, love it. Some of my computers crashed over the summer, so after two weeks chasing technicians around the school, I’m finally back in a classroom with kids, and I can’t tell you how good it feels. I teach 400 kids a week, and I love the variety and challenges that my job throws at me. My colleagues are supportive and collaborative, so it’s a nice environment to work in.

Before this I taught English in a private language school, and in Italian public schools, teching everything from pre-schoolers to adults. The job satisfaction was the same.

Paperwork and bureacracy are a pain in the ass, and the money is a joke. But it’s still worth it to wake up in the morning happy to go to work.

Theatre seems to me to be an amazing thing to teach; you will be helping many kids discover an aspect of their personalities they didn’t know they had; giving them a chance to use their creativity and express themselves.

You don’t have to sacrifice yourself and your personality, but you do have to be geared towards the greater good. You have to be very clear that you want to offer kids something - what you get out of the job in terms of material gains is very little, what you can get out of it in terms of emotional satisfaction is immense. I’d suggest you try to get involved in some kind of extra-curricular teaching before launching yourself into the wonderful world of schools, to find out if the joy of teaching outweighs the swamp of paperwork. Kids of any age have no trouble at all working out your level of commitment.

High school science teacher here, and I absolutely love my job. Others have already posted many of the wonderful things about being a teacher, so I’ll just share one thing:

I hated my first year of teaching. HATED, HATED, HATED it. I woke up every morning dreading the day ahead. I was miserable and I thought I had made a huge mistake going into teaching.

I don’t give up easy, though, so I decided to give it one more year. And I fell in love with it. Things were SO much easier the second time around. Getting my lessons better organized and not having to “shoot-from-the-hip” every day decreased my stress factor and allowed me to have fun, and my students responded positively to my own enthusiasm.

I’m in my ninth year now and while there are a LOT of tough things about being a teacher, the personal rewards are well worth it. I’ve got a collection of letters and hand-made cards from students over the years who just wanted to let me know that I was their favorite teacher :). From time to time I’ll read through them and get a little teary-eyed. (I can’t believe I just admitted that)

I’m not a teacher but I know some, and I gather that a teacher’s level of work satisfaction is shaped enormously by the particular school where he/she works. Teaching in an elite private school is very different from working in most public schools, and working in a prosperous suburban school system is light-years away from working in schools where teen-agers shoot each other in the halls. You are much more likely to have interested students and greater independence in a good private school, but in public schools you will probably get higher pay, more benefits and stronger job security. There is probably a lot of satisfaction in setting young people on the right path, but kids are pulled in so many directions by so many other forces that teachers often feel like they’re pounding their heads against walls.

One thing I’ve never understood is why teaching at the high school level is considered more prestigious than teaching at the elementary levels. If I were running a school I would want the best teachers I could find in grades 1 to 3. That’s where kids decide that reading is fun or drudgery, that’s where they form images of themselves as valuable human beings (or not), that’s where they develop the patterns that will stay with them forever, that’s where they begin to decide whether they can hope to accomplish things in the world or not. By the time you’re teaching 11th grade algebra the die is cast. If you really want to make a difference (and probably have more fun too), go with the little kids.

Another one for loving it.

I teach at a DAEP, Disciplinary Alternative Education Program, for an ISD that’s nestled up to Fort Worth like a tick behind the ear. We’re a small district, 3,800 students in six schools. 69% of our kids are economically disadvantaged. 60% are African-American, 23% Hispanic, 14% White and the remainder a mix of Asian and Native-American.

At DAEP we get the kids the other teachers can’t handle. We get the felons and drug-users. We get the kids who get into fights or who have non-disability linked behavioral problems. We get bad kids and good kids who just made a mistake. I teach science and my students are in grades 7-12. The courses I teach are Life Science (7th), Earth Science (8th), IPC or Integrated Physics and Chemistry, Biology, Chemistry, Environmental Systems and Physics. I also pick up the Health classes and the junior high PE. Yes, it’s a lot of preps. The veteran teachers are no doubt wincing at this point but don’t worry; I don’t have to do the in-depth lesson planning that’s required at the regular schools.

So why do I love it, since all of the above is less than wonderful?

I love it because out here every kid is a DAEP kid. There’s no stigma attached to them that they so often experience at their home campus for being a Bad Kid. It’s a great equalizer.

I love it because we have well-defined standards of conduct and there are immediate and firm penalties for misbehavior. It sounds harsh but a lot of the kids begin to thrive on having some structure in their lives. They learn what they have to do to be good and that they are praised and rewarded for it.

I love it because I have a principal who backs me to the hilt unless I’m a complete idiot or flat out wrong. And when I am either of those things, he tells me right away and we deal with it as professionals. We don’t hold grudges or play passive-aggressive games with one another.

When a kid is mad at me all day, or all week, for me applying consequences to his misbehavior, I love it when they finally accept responsibility for their own actions and, in a small way, grow up a little.

I love it because I’m no longer teaching at a rich suburban district where one student’s greatest worry was she couldn’t have both a new car and a plasma TV for her birthday; she had to choose one or the other. My kids are happy when I spot them forty cents for a reduced price lunch or when I come up with some baby clothes and bedding for one of my many pregnant female students.

I love it when a kid shapes up and tells me “Mr. Hippopotamus, you’re the only teacher who ever noticed I was doing something right as well as wrong, and you turned me around.” Man do I love that.

I love it when all of the teachers are together at lunch and we decompress by sharing the antics of our kids. It’s not just complaining though. Inevitably we mention students who have really fixed their behavior and attitudes and are really picking up their academics.

I love it when I can get rid of a kid determined to be a troublemaker and send a clear message to my students that I won’t put up with it. I love it when I can correct racial slurs, profanity, sexist comments and bullying and make it a teachable moment.

I love it when a kid challenges me and it ends up being funny. The other day we had the drug dog come through. My students were required to stand up, empty their pockets onto their desk and line up in the hallway. I went with them and when a kid popped off “Mr. Hippopotamus, you didn’t empty your pockets!” I just looked at him, smiled and said “You’re right.” I put my stuff on my desk, pulled my pockets out like rabbit ears and joined the kids while the drug dog sniffed the room. The student then told me “You didn’t empty out your shirt pocket.” I told him “If you think I have anything in there other than my Science Nerd pens you’re sadly mistaken” and the other kids hooted at him for being roasted.

I love it when these kids, many of them tough as nails gangsters and hardcases, scream like little girls and jump on the desks when a rat waltzes across the room. I of course just stayed at my desk and continued working quietly, determined not to show them a reaction even though I was as creeped out as the rest of them.

I love it when my annoying, passive, whiny fellow teacher across the hall tries to foist her work off on me, or make me her disciplinarian and I just smile and say “Sorry, that’s your job. Make like Nike and just do it.”

I love it when we see a bird in the tree outside my window and the kids all clamor for me to tell them what kind of bird it is and tell me things about it. I love how they beg to see my ostrich egg, rock collections and other fun science toys.

I really, really love it when I’ve worked hard and the kid has worked hard and all of a sudden they get it.

I don’t love it when one of my kids gets arrested, violates their probation and gets put in kiddie jail, fails a drug test or comes to school with signs of abuse.

So help me I do love it when they come to school high. It’s not good, but it’s often funny. Once I tossed a kid a bag of Cheetos from my lunch as I sent him out of my class because he reeked of weed and was flying. “Here. For when the munchies hit.”

I love it when the kids get to go back to their home campus.

I love it when I find drawings, notes or other things. They’re often funny, sometimes sad but always a window into the students’ lives I wouldn’t have had otherwise.

And, like Manda JO, I love buying new school supplies every year. Now if we just used that old purple ditto fluid I’d be in heaven; man do I miss that smell.

Like I said…it’s a calling. I for one could never teach below 8th Grade. I just don’t have the patience or desire to deal with the problem sets of the younger crowd. But the older kids…there I can shine! I love getting sophomores fresh from an unchallenging junior high in my AP European History classes, where I can do some serious molding and shaping. Mine is usually the first class they ever get a grade lower than an “A” in. (Yeah, yeah…I know. I ended a sentence with a preposition. Bite me! :smiley: ) I love teaching senior AmGovt., where I can put a final polish on them before they get released back into the wild. I love my debate kids, who are a completely different challenge and always keep me on my toes. I loved teaching Resource Science classes, filled with kids who have minor learning problems. They try so hard, and are so much fun to work with!

The younger kids are just too much work for a lazy man like me!

Ex teacher here…

First and up front: I liked teaching. I liked the kids. I was my districts nomination for beginning teacher of the year and placed runner up for the state. I can humbly say that I didn’t suck.

I still left teaching…


If you are thinking of teaching these are the ‘irritations’ that I can still remember well after 16 years of not teaching. There are many of them but it generally boils down to two factors: Standard of Living and respect.

Now, I was very young. The ‘respect’ irritations probably wouldn’t bother me now but they were a BIG deal to me then. If you’re young, I can’t see how they wouldn’t bother you at least somewhat.

Irritations with teaching:

  1. Salary. I taught in the West where teacher salaries were pathetically low. Maybe if I had been paid a reasonable amount things might have been different. My first year salary? $14,000. Now, you may not teach in such pathetic states and so you might be comfortable with your first year salary, but that brings up the next two points:

  2. Salary does not rise above inflation/no promotions: Unless you wish to leave the classroom, there are no real ‘promotions’. Promotions with a large and sudden increase in salary. Most other careers have not much of a year-over-year increase in salary but you can expect to ‘move up’ (by promotion or job hop) and therefore make more. With teaching you do not have that. You only have your ‘steps’ and maybe get a token cost of living adjustment from time to time. Many teachers true salary decreases year after year adjusting for inflation.

  3. More experience makes you less marketable. Beginning teachers have it rough to get in a good school. However, at 3-5 years experience you are at your best marketability. After that, your marketability drops off. Reason? They might have to pay you more. Schools that do not have to pay you more will hire you and wish to pay you like you have 5 or so years of experience.

  4. Easily replaced. In my current job, if I was to walk out it would cause discomfort. I can be replaced but it would require time and expense. Therefore, they put more effort into keeping me satisfied and not jerking me around too much. A teacher can literally be replaced IN SECONDS with very little disruption. Even if you have 15 years experience. People in that situation do not need to be paid well or much effort made to keep them satisfied. Why bother?

  5. No empathy/sympathy for the teacher’s situation. Since you are thinking of being a teacher, you probably hear many stories/people talking about how terrible it is that teacher salary is low. Nope. The vast, VAST majority of people do not care and, if they do think about it, think you are paid just fine. Maybe even overpaid. Most everyone thinks they should make more than a teacher. I mean everyone.

  6. Low social status of teachers. Again, you are thinking of being a teacher so you have a high opinion of their value. The vast majority of people consider teachers on the lower end of a social status variable. This appears even more apparent if you are male.

  7. Speaking of being male…<grin>…now the following may seem silly but it was irritating to me at the time. I was young and wanted to meet someone and settle down. The problem is that young females (20’s) are not particularly attracted to ‘teachers’. I guess I can’t blame them. Teachers don’t make much and they want to meet someone that can support a family. Teaching is not a ‘manly’ profession I guess and certainly not exciting. Maybe there is a bit of “Oh my God I’m old enough to date a teacher…I’m getting old!” fear going on…I don’t know. The bottom line is that if I met someone and, when asked, said I was a teacher she would find an excuse to leave shortly after…and when I said I was a programmer (hot stuff back then) I would usually hit big.

All the stuff above wore on me…that society on so many levels did not feel teachers were worthwhile.

Other things:

  • If I did find someone and start a family, I wanted my children to have a comfortable lifestyle and not be deprived. No way I could do that on what I was making. I did find someone so I had to make a decision…

  • Too many ‘second income’ folks around. People doing it and not needing the money because they weren’t the primary breadwinner. This helps keep salaries down.

  • Too many ‘IT IS A CALLING’ folks, both teacher and non-teacher. People believing that teachers should be paid little because we don’t want teachers going into the field for money…they would be bad teachers! Funny…I don’t see the same argument used for doctors, lawyers, accountants etc…

  • Do not think otherwise…teaching is a stressful job. Probably more stressful than most. Stress can wear you down. I did fine but saw many other hurting.

Take the above as you will. Just go into teaching with your eyes open. Maybe you’ll like it. Consider other options though.

Glad to see a lot of people loving it. My wife hated teaching. She taught second grade for five years here in the North Dallas area, and it got worse every year. A lot of her complaints mirrored andymurph64’s. It got around too - out of around 30 teachers at her school, something like 17 quit last year along with my wife. Everyone basically told her to get out while she could. :eek:

Depends on the day. . .

HS teacher here, going on 6th year. . . Every year is different, every class (not 1st period, 2nd period, but class of '05, class of '06) is differnt, last year’s was great, this year’s is crazy. I’ve heard good things about the class of '07 (I teach 11th grade, US History) though, so it’s something to look forward to.

I’ve thougth about finding something else, but don’t think I’m qualified to make a switch, besides, the time off is fantastic.

I had been considering getting a Teacher’s credential and becoming a teacher. Working at a tutoring center got me interested in the concept of being a teacher. However, I thought long and hard about it, and decided against it. Why?

-School: I’m 3 months away from getting my BA as it is. I could work towards getting a full-time job after I graduate and be on my feet earlier. The credential program would take me at least a year of both classes and intern work, which would mean I would have to quit some of my current part-time jobs, which would sap my income to the point where I would have to rely on my mom for financial support, and I don’t want to burden her any more than I already have.

-Wages: Getting hired as a manager at the job I am currently at would net me nearly TWICE the starting salary of most local teaching positions. The workload is about the same, albeit a bit different in terms of actual tasks/priorities. And I’d be able to work year-round.

-Promotion: The job I am working on getting strongly emphasises merit for promotion over arbitrary passage of time. This means that if I do my job well, I can get promoted very quickly; I don’t know if I can see the same kind of progress working as a teacher.

So in summation, I can get the same type of thrill one gets being a teacher, while actually getting paid a decent salary and having good potential for promotion up the ladder into management. I guess you could say its the best of both worlds :smiley:

Short answer: Hell, yes. Of course. I wouldn’t put up with the headaches if it wasn’t for the love of what I do.

It’s the children. It’s the grateful parents. It’s the whole families that approach you and say things like, “I want my child in your class… are you going to be teaching kindergarten next year?” It’s the aformentioned “Aha! I get it now!” look… as a kindergarten teacher, I see it nearly daily. It’s knowing you have the respect of your administrator and colleagues. It’s seeing the look of shock on a student’s face when they catch you outside the classroom doing something perfectly ordinary, like going to the movies, grocery shopping, mowing the lawn or riding your bike. It’s living in the same community as my school so schoolchildren who aren’t even in my class feel totally comfortable waving at me or coming to me with their problems. Yes, I am annoyed by the endless variations of bull that goes on in this profession… Oh, of course the salary could be better – but the respect and intangible rewards for excelling at your teaching outweigh the monetary gains.

Someday – not too soon – I will leave my kindergarten classroom and take a perch in the middle or high school so I can feel the intellectual rewards of working with an older group of students. Fr now, I am learning an awful lot about the essential rewards of this career, teaching at my current grade level.

People who toil away at jobs/careers they don’t genuinely enjoy absolutely bewilder me.

I’ve only ever taught community college and university level, but mostly it’s good–especially now that I’ve left behind the sucky campus and stayed with the better one. I had to make a choice and it was a very easy decision.
I like not having to deal with the students’ parents, and I don’t have to decorate any classrooms.
I have also found other work to do on campus to supplement my income.

What I don’t like: plagiarists; the bureaucratic paperwork; and students who can barely string two words together insisting that they must get a passing grade so they can transfer to a 4-year school! (Is that my responsibility?) :rolleyes:

But to reiterate: I am in a good place now and liking it a lot more than I did a few years ago.

Is this really true? I was under the impression that there is currently a huge teacher shortage. Does it depend on the subject–e.g., is it easier to replace an algebra teacher than a calculus teacher than a humanities teacher?


Take with a big grain of salt any news of any ‘teacher shortage’ you hear about.