There will always be children who need to be educated, providing a steady stream of opportunity for educators. With good benefits and job security in the form of tenure, teaching may seem like a good alternative to less-secure careers in the private sector.
Despite such thinking, many professional educators argue that teaching should not be considered as a back-up career. In order to succeed as a teacher, an individual must possess certain qualities and talents above and beyond the academic requirements for the job.
Teaching Is Not A Back-Up Career
Effective teachers must be well prepared and yet flexible enough to modify their lesson plans when the occasion demands. They must be able to make fair, consistent decisions and remain firm once a decision has been made. An effective teacher also must be confident and engaging enough to hold the attention of students.
A key component for a successful teaching career is a passion for education. The daily emotional demands on teachers and the challenges of working with children can be uniquely stressful. Public scrutiny in most school districts requires teachers to prove their abilities by motivating students with a wide variety of abilities to perform well on standardized tests.
Only teachers who are passionate about their profession and realistic about their expectations are able to succeed despite the obstacles that are part of the job; those who aren’t passionate face burning out within their first few years.
According to Edutopia, about 30 percent of teachers leave the profession within their first three years and more than 45 percent leave within five years.
A New York Times article asked several education experts about the practicality of teaching as a fallback career. Pam Grossman, professor of education at Stanford University, advises those who are thinking of teaching as a second career to prepare themselves for a steep learning curve in their first few years on the job.
Although career-changers may bring experience and maturity to the job, they will be faced with culture shock in the classroom. The best way to lessen this shock is to learn as much as possible about the work of teaching before making a career shift. Grossman mentions classroom volunteering and the completion of additional classes as smart ways to prepare to become a teacher.
In the same article, Patrick Welsh, an English teacher in Alexandria, Virginia, points out the notion anyone can become a teacher is pure myth. No matter how much knowledge a person has or how much they want to teach, they must also posses the temperament to work with students.
Welsh thinks that schools should welcome mid-career teachers whose practical knowledge and life experience allow them to bring more to the classroom than many younger teachers fresh out of for-profit education programs.
The National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future (NCTAF) is working to develop new models for teacher recruitment and training. Allowing new teachers to work together in classrooms and to spend more time with experienced mentors could help reduce the rate of attrition in the teaching profession and make teaching a viable mid-career option for more people.
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