The K-12 education system in the USA has been dealing with a teacher shortage for close to a decade.
Teachers have never been more in demand, and colleges are offering attractive programs to encourage more people to choose a career as a teacher. Combine that with the prospect of a stable workload, a guaranteed income, and the personal fulfillment that comes from teaching.
Understandably, you’re considering the question, should I become a teacher?
Read on to find out why the decision to pursue a pedagogical path could be right for you.
- Lots of Variety
Today, being a teacher means you’re a dynamic educator. Classrooms are flexible spaces of learning and education extends beyond the school environment–into homes and online. School administrators expect teachers to teach to each child, making sure they meet their learning potential.
To achieve this, a teacher must be flexible, put in place a variety of teaching strategies, create a student-centered classroom, and develop a rapport with students, parents, and fellow staff.
Even the students themselves say that variety in teaching helps them learn better, as a 2019 Norwegian school study points out.
- See Immediate Impact
Being a teacher, you can see the impact of what you do immediately on the faces of the children in your care.
You are there for the moment a 6-year-old child learns to spell a new word. You are there when the school swim team you coach takes home their hard-earned medals. And you are there to mediate when students clash, helping them to learn better ways to deal with bullying, anger, or peer pressure.
- Flexible Hours
Once you’ve done the hard yards (the first five years are make-or-break), you’ll be in a good position to negotiate the terms of your contract. You can also look around for positions like substitute teaching that better suit the hours you want to work.
Teaching overseas can be lucrative for US-trained teachers. From teaching in Taiwanese ESL schools with lots of time off to working as a highly paid teacher at an international school in Dubai, the opportunities for travel as a qualified teacher are almost endless.
- Job Security
Teachers, particularly those in the special education field, consistently rank in top-ten lists of jobs with the best security. Why? Because strong unions campaign for better pay and working conditions while a near-constant teacher shortage looms.
Even if the state cuts funding for your school, forcing you out of a full-time teaching position, you have options available to you that other professions don’t. You can explore teaching overseas, online teaching, working as a substitute teacher, or even as a private tutor or nanny.
- Continual Learning
Like other essential professions–doctors, nurses, firefighters, and lawyers–school boards ask teachers to continually relearn their craft. They are constantly revising teaching standards and assessments.
It goes way past thinking about what to study to become a teacher. Once you’re qualified, you’ll get access to training programs, conferences, and other skill-building opportunities that people in other professions have to pay for out of pocket.
You’ll also stay more up-to-date with the latest technological advances than your peers. Schools are constantly upgrading their equipment and teachers need to learn how to use it.
- Get Involved in Crucial Research
Increasingly, institutions at all levels are encouraging their teaching staff to engage in research about their profession. Professional organizations also offer incentives to allow teachers to delve deeper into the science that lies behind what they do day-to-day.
The Center for Advancing Opportunity offers HBCU research roles through the Albany State University Center. The grant aims to offer educators the opportunity to research K-12 school communities isolated through poverty or social challenges.
Similarly, the Fulbright Teacher Exchanges program offers K-12 teachers the chance to undertake educational research outside of the USA for six to eight months.
- Community Connection
In suburbs, towns, and cities across America, schools serve not only as a center for learning but also as a community hub. Parents, children, and teachers come together for school plays, sports days, parent-teacher conferences, and much more. In this setting, the community views teachers as a pillar.
Pioneering programs like Step Up by Illinois State University are trying to foster better teacher-community relationships. They pair student teachers with a host family living in one of Chicago’s poorest neighborhoods. The teachers are then more likely to understand their students upon graduation.
- Respected Role in Society
Despite a world ranking of 16th Teaching is still a highly-respected profession in the USA. Teachers are also widely seen as trustworthy. One could argue that the states where teachers get the most respect are the states where they receive the highest pay: New York, California, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Alaska.
The RESPECT program, launched by the US Department of Education in 2012, aimed to recognize teacher success to build professional respect.
- Teaching Keeps You Young
Teachers use enormous amounts of energy to keep their youngest students engaged. They need to keep fit. Teachers also need to stay on top of the pop culture references relevant to the age group they teach: from video games and TV shows to YouTubers and sports stars.
Children are constantly asking questions, which means you’ll always be looking at the world through fresh eyes.
- A Career That Suits Family Life
If you have (or are planning to have) a family, a career as a teacher might just be the solution to achieving work-life balance. You’ll likely have the same vacation days as your children, which will make planning family outings and road trips a breeze.
And in some cases, your children might be able to attend the school you teach at. A boon if you work at a private school or international school overseas.
- Inspire Future Generations
The path to becoming a teacher has shifted immensely over the past century-and-a-half. Teachers no longer stand at the front of a classroom barking commands to students sitting politely behind neat rows of desks. Teachers in 2020 have the opportunity to be instigators of change on crucial issues like climate change, politics, and animal welfare… Just to name a few.
- You Really, Really Love Teaching
Some people have a grandparent or parent that was a teacher and always wanted to follow in their footsteps. Others knew they wanted to be a teacher ever since they lined their teddy bears up in front of their mini blackboard at home. Still, others decided when they were in high school or university, cheered on by a particularly inspirational teacher.
If this sounds like you, you’re one of the lucky ones. Over half of workers surveyed by CareerBuilder in 2017 said they didn’t feel like they had a career.
Should I Become a Teacher?
After reading through all the reasons listed above, you should have a clearer picture in your mind of what a career as a teacher might look like for you. It’s time to ask yourself that crucial question once again: Should I become a teacher? The answer should be crystal clear.
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