What's good (or not so good) about being a teacher?

So I’m thinking about a career change and I’ve been considering going back to university and doing secondary education. It seems like it would be an interesting job, challenging and rewarding.

Any doper high school teachers want to let me know how you got into teaching and how you have found it? Best and worst moments?

I’d especially love for Aussie teachers to put in their two cents, but give me experiences from all over! :smiley:

Manda JO will be along in a minute to really answer your question, but I’ll give it a shot in the meantime. For me, teaching was genetic. Both of my parents were teachers and I grew up in the environment. I actually went out and worked in the private sector for 10 years before I sat down and decided to return to college and pursue what I had always wanted to do: teach. I’m in the middle of Year 22 now and wouldn’t change jobs for anything. I have 4 Single-Subject credentials, but I’ve taught in the Social Studies department for the last 13 years almost exclusively.

The kids are the reason I keep coming to school every morning. They are what makes it all worthwhile (Well, that and the fact that I have full Medical, a great retirement system, I work indoors and there is no heavy lifting! :smiley: ) My 1st period Govt/Econ class may be full of thugs and losers, but they are my thugs and losers.

There is something very special about seeing the light come on behind a student’s eyes. Makes your whole life meaningful, it does.

As a former would-be teacher, I’ll agree with that.

To answer the “not so good” portion of the OP, I’ll add that it’s the rarity of experiencing that special event that made it a career I couldn’t endure. To each his own, and good luck!

Kids are great - schools aren’t.

I left teaching after ten years. Never got tired of teaching, but was extremely fed up with being micro-managed by the school district. This took several forms:

  • Endless meetings to make sure we did things a certain way… which would be forgotten and changed the next year or so. Lots of wasted energy there.

  • Over-emphasizing minutia, like how bulletein boards were created. Put one up in a way the principal didn’t cotton to and you’d get written up.

  • General us vs. them attitude by administrators, which in turn caused the teachers’ union to act like asses.

I don’t expect to work without oversight, but things just got ridiculous. My feeling was that as a teacher with ten years experience, a master’s degree, and a published book in my field, I was still never going to be trusted to simply do my job without endless interference. There was no acknowledgement of basic professionalism.

So I left, and now work as an instructor / teacher of sorts in the private sector where I’m actually permitted to do my job.

It’s sad, but I tell people that I had to leave a school in order to be a real teacher again. I think something is seriously wrong with the field if they are losing enthusiastic people like me.

I’d be glad to go back if I saw changes because I never got tired of teaching kids. Unfortunately, that’s not what it seems to be about these days.

Shortly after getting a Master’s in math, I realized that I simply wasn’t cut out for Ph.D. research. I got into teaching by a combination of logic and luck. Logically I realized that I needed a job which used my math and science skills and brought me into contact with lots of people on a daily basis. Luckily there was a recruiting poster for a teacher placement agency in my building at the time.

I assume that anyone who’s thinking about teaching must enjoy working with children, and must realize that a great deal of hard work is involved. Here are some of the advantages and disadvantages that I’ve seen.

Advantage: I get a brand new classroom full of kids ever year. New faces, new personalities, new sets of skills and talents. Even though I teach most of the same classes ever year, nothing ever repeats.

Advantage: The parents are great. I have never met a parent I did not like. This flies completely against the stereotype of bossy, over-weaning parents. All the parents I have known have been deeply concerned but also intelligent and willing to cooperate.

Advantage: Lots of stuff to participate in. All kinds of stuff happens at schools: athletics, concerts, plays, dances, field trips, senior trips, charities and fundraising, and the list goes on. There’s never a shortage of activities, and teachers are always wanted to help out.

Disadvantage: No rest time. As long as you’re in school, you don’t get a break. You can’t stop and relax for five minutes while you have a class.

Disadvantage: Behavior issues. Even the best classes will push the boundaries at times. Most teachers have to be stricter than they want to be; there’s no alternative.

Disadvantage: Some students fail. There’s no getting around it. Some just won’t make the necessary effort to do their work, pass their classes, and stay out of trouble.

I taught a couple of years. I left because I felt I had another vocation, but I loved it and I miss it.

The kids and helping them to better themselves.
The feeling hat your making people’s lives better in a direct way.
The good and helpful parents.
Good administrators that make your job much easier.


Bureaucracy, bureaucracy, bureaucracy. At least in my school system.

Also in my public school everything was about the test scores. That was frustrating.

The kids that have given up and you can’t reach. I cared greatly about my students and it was almost painful to watch some completely squander incredible talent.

Those parents that don’t give a damn.

Poor administrators that make your job much harder.

This was how I was going to start my post, only about you . . .

This is what I said in a threadabout this a few years back:

Now, I would add a few other things:

One, schools vary tremendously. And I don’t just mean that you want to make sure you teach in a “good” school–good schools can be the worst for beauracratic BS. You want to be in a school that suits you well, where the particular sort of BS they have is the sort you can take, where they want the type of teacher you want to be.

Two. subject matter varies tremendously. I teach AP Econ now in addition to AP English, and it’s like a completely different job–the same kids a year later are like totally different animals, and teaching a limited set of content is a world away from teaching kids to write.

I will probably think of more later. I really do enjoy teaching.

I’m in my first year of teaching. So far, my job doesn’t feel like a job. I work pretty hard planning lessons, but I find that fun.

It’s weird for me; I’ve spent the last 17 years of my life going to school and now it’s like nothing much has changed except getting paid for it. Yeah, I’m on the other side of the desk now, but my daily life is the same: pack a lunch, go to school, come home, do “homework” rinse, repeat. I still get my weekends, summer, and holiday breaks.

I teach English (both regular and AP) and Theater. I’m in a small rural school, so I am the only one teaching the two grades I teach (juniors and freshmen). That’s both intimidating and freeing because the previous teacher didn’t leave much in the way of a schedule and there isn’t another teacher I can follow along with: I am almost completely in charge of what units I teach, what stories/novels I use, and the order in which I teach them.

My district does have some petty political games going on among the staff; I’m trying to stay out of it has much as I can and use my status as the new one to be friendly with everyone: I can plead ignorance about any past disputes and feuds. I got incredibly lucky in that I “clicked” with the environment and atmosphere of this school to the extent that I did.

My only complaint so far is that the textbooks suck; I made so many xeroxes and did a lot of reading aloud so that I wasn’t limited to the story selections in the text. I’m very grateful for Project Gutenberg so that I can have my students read classic novels online when I don’t have a classroom set for them.

I just started teaching high school math this year, after passing the qualifying test 20 years ago but postponing the credential until now. My degree is in architecture, but I’ve been a civil engineer, construction manager, software development manager, technical writer, massage therapist, and a few other things in between.

It’s early on yet, but despite the fact that I work over 100 hours a week (seriously) to stay on top of things and my salary is lower than it was 20 years ago when I took that test, I can see that eventually this will be a very fine life.

Getting inside the kids’ heads is just fascinating, and often enough completely and utterly rewarding (punctuated by instances of frustration, sadness, and brutal brushes with reality).

I’m incredibly fortunate to be in a school district that doesn’t suck too badly. There are problems that would be intolerable and unforgiveable in the corporate environments I’ve been in, but it isn’t a corporate environment.

I know other mid-life career changers who left teaching after a year or so. I don’t think you can know in advance if it’s for you (I may not know for another few years myself). But I can heartily recommend it if you have the desire and aren’t intimidated by the long hours and small pay. There really are much greater rewards in life.

[li]Watching some of the kids learn and grow[/li][li]Parents who are willing to help[/li][li]Some administrations really do ‘get’ that you know what you’re doing and support you[/li][li]You can do what you love all day long and share that love with others[/li][li]I have a couple students who would stay in for lunch, after school, and on weekends if they could, just to do extra work or help me out.[/li][/ul]

[li]Respect from students is NOT what it used to be, not even from 10 years ago[/li][li]Students are not held responsible for their actions and often know how to ‘play the system’[/li][li]Some parents will do everything in their power to place anything wrong with their child on you[/li][li]There are no breaks during the school day, save the 30 minute ‘lunch’. If you’re like me and having planning and lunch over the same time as the grades you teach, sometimes you do not get a break from kids due to lunch detentions or trying to give extra help.[/li][li]There is never enough planning time, and you will spend a lot of your personal time grading, planning and, depending on your subject, doing after school activities with kids[/li][li]Some administrations don’t get it[/li][li]Some administrations don’t do anything (my old district) and leave everything up to the teacher, to the point where you can’t even remove a troubled student from your classroom[/li][li]Some students just do not want to be there and can derail your entire class if you let them[/li][li]Some subjects have become highly neglected in the minds of others and in funding, such as the arts (in some areas)[/li][li]Some parents could not care less about their child in school or will make excuses for their child’s behavior[/li][/ul]

Don’t get me wrong, I like my job most days, but like many teachers, I would like it much more if I could do my job without wondering what kind of bureaucratic b.s. I would have to sludge my way through next and if the kids would be taught some respect and responsibility at home.

first year English teacher in Japan here, and i gotta say I love my job. I decided to do the ALT (assistant language teacher) thing because I wanted to test the waters with teacher, and I wanted to get away from my old life which I felt was stagnant. I love my students, I love the fact that every day is different, and that every day I have a challenge on my hands at one point or another. I also love that if there’s a disciplinary problem I can hand it off to another teacher if I need, but usually I just kinda poke fun at the student and that shuts him/her up good :stuck_out_tongue: I also love when teachers tell me students behave better in my class then when I’m not there, and when parents come up and tell me they just wanted to meet me cause their kid talks about me when they get home. That sort of stuff really makes your job worthwhile. I also love when students come up to me and just TRY as hard as they can to ask me questions and such in a language that they don’t really speak. I have one student who hates english, but she always writes down questions to ask me whenever I teach her class. Plus it just makes me feel like a kid again in a lot of ways. I can goof off in class just to entertain myself (and the kids, I guess) and no one looks at me like I’m crazy :smiley: Plus you get over your fear of just about anything and everything. I sing and dance randomly in front of students and even their parents (if they’re watching a demo lesson or something) without a second thought, or even a first thought for that matter.

I’d definitely recommend doing something like teaching oversees or teaching english to foreigners in your country as a testing ground, see how you like it, see if you’re cut out for dealing with students all the time and that sort of thing. It’s VERY different from any other job I’ve ever had

I’m teaching English in China, and just finished two years of teaching in Cameroon. I’ve taught at the University and high school level. So far I am really enjoying teaching.

Good stuff:
[li]Students are fun, and sometimes they end up teaching you stuff.[/li][li]You have social contact beyond your office mates. Plenty of people to talk to.[/li][li]You get to be the authority on something.[/li][li]It’s brain work, but it’s not just sitting around in front of a computer.[/li][li]Every day is a little different.[/li][li]Plenty of time off. [/li][li]It is meaningful work. In the thread “what profession has done the most to make your life better”, teachers were right up there with doctors. Teachers make impacts that last for years. [/li][/ul]

Bad Stuff:
[li]Lazy and undisciplined students can eat up a lot of your time and just be really annoying.[/li][li]There are some things you can’t fix in these people’s lives. [/li][li] Beauracracy.[/li][li] Teaching is performance. Which means if you are having an off-day, you can’t just watch the clock and go through the motions. You gotta put your heart into it every day. [/li][/ul]

The rewards keep coming in long after retirement. I found out the week before Thanksgiving that one of my inner city students from long ago had won the Small Business Award for Tennessee. He was invited to the White House and later interviewed on television about his work. He was well-spoken and seemed at ease talking about his business.

These stories are the ultimate reward for teaching.

I’ll try to mention somethings that haven’t been said…

Good things:

Kids are goofy as all heck, and make me laugh daily. A kid asks me… “You work at four schools…so you must get paid four times as much!” Ha!

Activity! I like moving around!

I get to practice my stand up comedy routines

I get paid to teach kids to play “mary had a little lamb”…wow!

Summer, Summer, Summer, Summer

The Bad:

Illness…man those kids are germy.

Marking, marking, marking, marking

Getting my car keyed (can’t prove it was my students…but I have suspicions!)

Kids smell sometimes…farting contests are really gross

I’ve just retired after teaching for thirty-seven years in Australian secondary schools. My career started as a Maths/Science classroom teacher then, after ten years a Science Head of Department (HOD) in Ingham in North Queensland. After three years as HOD in Australia I went to Papua New Guinea for two years as HOD (Science) at an international school teaching the International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculum. I then returned to Australia as Deputy Principal of a Catholic secondary school. Three years later I was Principal. I’ve worked at state level (Queensland) administration for the last fifteen years managing curriculum initiatives, equity initiatives and state-wide funding programs.

I give you all this, not to provide bona fides, but to indicate a sense of the variety of experiences that can be met in plodding the path that is a career in education. You are not replicating identical experiences from hour to hour, from day to day or from year to year. Just as every student you meet is a new and profoundly unique individual, every event in your life as an educator is a new and wonderfully varied experience.

I learned early the philosophy that is best assumed is a humble one. Assume the humility that you have just as much to learn from your students, colleagues and environment as they have to learn from you. And tell your students and colleagues this. My introduction to my classes, year after year, was the comment that, “We are all responsible for our own and one another’s learning. Each of us is a student and teacher for ourselves and one another. In this way we are a learning community.” Then teach and learn with the students with that thought upper-most in your mind.

The best part of teaching? Learning together with some of the most creative and humbling young people you would ever want to meet - in a large city (Brisbane) in the bush (Ingham) and in a third world country (PNG). Working together with sincere and co-operative young men and women to reach a common goal is always so very gratifying and awe inspiring.

The worst part of teaching? Political interference in the curriculum, the pedagogy and the teacher/learner interface.

If you have the will and desire to be a teacher, by all and every means go for it. There is no more rewarding career nor one that so encourages you to sleep well at night after a job well done.

Yeah, but with a little prep I can out-fart any of the little bastards! Gross, but sometimes necessary as a deterrent.

Although I will admit that my ability to belch on command has come in handy on many a varied occasion in the classroom. :smiley:

There are also lots of non-noble reasons to become a teacher:
[li]You are usually the most well-read, if not the smartest, person in the room. My kids think I could run the Federal Reserve. They ask my opinion about all kinds of things.[/li]
[li]You get to tell the same joke six times a day, and by the end you have the timing perfect.[/li]
[li]You get to take vicarious pride in all their accomplishments, even the ones you had nothing to do with (I can tell you which of my former students are playing semi-pro sports, or had a speaking role in a movie, or whatever. I’m worse than my grandmother when she’s going down the list of “where my grandchildren are now”)[/li]
[li]You can be quirky as hell. Teachers are not normal people. Once you’ve been around for a while you can build a persona and no one will question it.[/li]
[li]Summer summer summer summer summer.[/li]
[li]You can steal the very best of whatever the current “youth culture” is and reject the rest. This keeps you young.[/li]
[li]The soap opera of high school is hysterical when you don’t have anything invested in it.[/li]
[li]You get to tell people what to do, and generally they do it.[/li]
[li]You get great access to tradesmen and small businesses: I got a new air-conditioner unit at cost from a former student’s dad, another parent used to feed me for free at their bakery, one set of parents at are school was famous for giving people wine at Christmas–they owned a chain of liquor stores.[/li]
[li]Chewing students out can be . . . relaxing. This is really non-PC and I will probably be pitted, but teaching is one of the few professions where you can occasionally indulge honest-to-god rightous indignation. I’ve done so maybe . . .three times? five times? . . . .in almost a decade, when a kid I knew very well and had a good relationship with really fucked up and I was able to tell them so. This sounds weird, but in the polite, adult world you never get to tell people they fucked up. It’s not appropriate. But a teacher can, and while it can be wrenching, it’s also kinda fun.[/li][/ul]

Since everyone else gave you real answers, I thought I’d just give you some examples of why I love teaching (so far, at least). I took over a high school debate team last year as the head coach and this year teach one class on top of my coaching. Sure, I am only a part time teacher, but it’s fun none the less! Now, I acknowledge that I’m around the debate kids, who do tend to be the “better” kids in the school, but the students really are the best part of the job. Anyway, here my my rambling stories that show why I love teaching.

Even though I’m a high school teacher, our school does summer school for as far down as 4th or 5th graders. In my summer school debate class, I had 5th-11th graders, so I just sort of talked about philosophy and hoped the little ones would jump on (which, shockingly, they did. By the end of the class, they got it. If that wasn’t an amazing moment, I don’t know what is). Anyway, I had this exchange with a kid:

5th Grader: “Miss Bellissima!! MISS BELLISSSSSSSSIMA!!! Do ghosts have social contract?!”
Me: “Uh. . . Um. . . No?”

In my freshman rhetoric class for a debate with the topic “Ice is better than water”:
Student: “I present the following definitions for the purpose of clarity within this round. Ice is the Devil. That’s why it’s bad.”
Me: “Wow. What a compelling argument, Tommy. Thank you for your contribution.”

Same class, different kid:
Student: “The homo status of the polar bear is severely endangered.”
Me: “Well, polar bears are kind of gay, but I think you mean ‘homeostasis’, sweetie.”

Same class, yet a different kid (I SWEAR they are smart!):;
13 year old: Miss Bellissima! Who was that man they kept showing on TV who looks like a snail?
Me: Uh. . . what?
13 year old: Yeah! He looks like a snail and they kept showing him during Obama’s speech, he was crying a lot!
Me: Um, that’d be Jesse Jackson, sweetheart.

So, before the last debate tournament, this one kid was just terrified- he’s in my class and I was more or less forcing him to compete for a grade. He sent me this email about how scared he was, even if he is a total joker in class (which, he is). I told him to tough it out and reassured him that he was vastly more prepared than he thought. The next day, he went undefeated at the tournament and got first place! Yay, right? Well, Monday in class:

Me: Ok, so you were kind of scared about competing, right? But you ended up doing really well- first place! So, why don’t you tell the class about that.
Kid: Yeah, I’ll be honest: I was scared shitless.
Me: ((students name))!!! LANGUAGE!!!
Kid: Sorry, Miss Bellissima. I was scared. . . crapless? :confused:
I love them. It’s the most fun I’ve had doing anything in a very long time.

Oh, and by contrast, I should probably tell you my worst experience so far. I can happily say there is only one bad time, but I certainly I hope I don’t experience anything worse.

Some kids on my team talk to me on AIM from time to time so I can help them with their stuff, send them links quickly, etc. Well, one night at about 930, a student messaged me saying he was scared. I told him to stop being dumb. He explained that he really was genuinely scared, his mom was beating him and throwing things at him, he was bleeding, and she called the police, said he was hitting her, and then hung up and told his siblings to lie and say he was hurting her. I told him to wait outside for the police and I called the cops myself, called the principal (didn’t know what else to do), and called CPS.

I thought that maybe he was exaggerating, but then I saw him the next day. The poor kid had long, deep, swollen scratches down the side of his face (like someone dragged their nails down his face), two black eyes, a giant black welt on his forehead, and bruises all over. When practice was over, everyone left, and I said, “C’mon, kid, it’s time to go home” and he looked up at me, like he was searching for something and said, “But. . . I don’t want to go home.” :frowning:

It sounds selfish, but that night before- good God, I’ve never been more shaken up by something. I was literally shaking and sobbing when I called the principal. I mean, here is this incredibly intelligent, mature kid and him typing the words “I’m afraid.” struck me somewhere deep. It’s really haunting, honestly. That’s something I will never, ever forget. But, you know what? In some weird way, it was good: I was there to be a trusting adult influence in his life when he clearly needed one.

May I print this out and post it in the teachers’ lounge?