Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Weighing in on Teaching

A blogger friend of mine has been debating if she should continue her pursuit of getting her teaching license.  She wrote a blog post about it and asked for feedback since she knows a bunch of teachers.  I wanted to share my response because people often ask me the question, "Should I be a teacher?" or "If you were to do it again, would you be a teacher?"

I think you know my answer based on my actions in my professional career.  I taught first grade in my own classroom for six years.  I absolutely loved being a first grade teacher, especially with the amount of growth and progress that kids make that year.  I loved, LOVED teaching kids how to read--to really read and and think--how to figure it out for themselves and get the meaning behind what they were reading.  I also substitute taught for several years and appreciated the different nuances of each age.  I will admit that I enjoyed the middle schoolers as much as the little ones.

However, K~ said it best.  I did not love being a teacher in today's society.  Teaching changed from the time that I entered the profession.  It is not what it was.  I know a lot of teachers say that, but I really think there is a huge difference in the profession in the last 10-15 years--more so than any other time before.  There is so much pressure with standardized testing, more is being asked of teachers with less compensation, and respect for educators continues to decline.  The system is broken and it does not feel like there is a real solution in sight because there is a focus on blame verses a view of continuous improvement that needs to be a community responsibility and effort.

I went back to school to study in another somewhat related field to give myself options, while also getting my certification in English as a Second Language.  As you know from my career search this summer, I was applying for jobs in Virginia for ESL and middle school math positions.  If I was going to go back to teaching, it was not going to be in a regular classroom.

As it turns out, the day that I was to submit my second requests for the Virginia positions to have the best chance at job interviews, was the day that I had my interview for my hospital job in Florida.  I am very happy with the path that I took and love my new job.  But I don't think I would appreciate it as much had I not been a teacher first.

There are times that I miss teaching.  I miss the kids.  I miss their wonder, surprise in themselves in their accomplishments, and the tender, funny and insightful comments without a filter.  I miss the conversations I had with my co-workers when we would spitball new ideas or chat about a new teaching strategy.  I loved building upon my craft.  But I was sad that I felt so restricted in being able to do what I could do best--building a community of learners who looked out for each other and learned to think for themselves--raising people up to keep chasing their dreams.

But, as I said, I love my new career because of my first.  Many of the teachers that I met that came into teaching as a second career were very happy in their work.  As new teachers, but not new professionals, they brought other strengths with them that helped them to shine.  Sometimes I wondered where they got their energy.  If you have a serious passion to do it, go for it.  You can always try it and if it does not quite fit, you can use your first degree to find a job that suits your needs.

Best of luck!


  1. Jamie, thanks for such a thoughtful, insightful response. I always appreciate your input and my plan for now is to keep on keepin' on with it.

  2. Jamie, you and I have had numerous conversations about teaching and I think we are both in agreement about the radical change in education over the past several years. I think the biggest issue plaguing education today is accountability, or the lack thereof. In my opinion, it starts at home with parents unable or unwilling to teach their children that there are consequences to their choices and behaviors. These same parents need to find a scapegoat and they aren't going to point the fingers at themselves, so naturally, they blame the teachers. Teaching has become less about teaching and more about getting good scores on standardized tests, so that districts can get state money. Therefore, teachers are forced to teach to the test, because if they don't and the students don't perform satisfactorily, they can be penalized. Until the nations' parents decide to go back and actually PARENT their children and support their education, the system is going to fail.

    I think your friend is going to need more than passion to do this incredibly difficult but rewarding job. You have to have a thick skin and not be afraid to speak your mind. You have to be tough, strict, and consistent no matter what age group you teach. The kids need structure and logical consequences to their actions because they don't get it at home. And there will be plenty of battles with parents because of that. She needs to be able to stand up for herself and her ability to teach because parents and administrators will constantly question it. They don't want to be to blame if the child doesn't succeed. If she continues to head down this path, I wish her luck and much success. I don't want to scare anyone away from what I consider one of the most important careers there is. But I want to make sure that people entering the field are well aware that more is needed than just a love of kids and a love of learning.

  3. Good input, Diane. And I agree that it does take more than passion. In Kerri's post there were several who responded with the suggestion not to go into teaching. So, my response may be somewhat more optimistic, but my view for those who want to go into teaching as a second career verses a first career is different. I hope that those who consider it for a second career are the kind of people who always wanted to be a teacher, but for whatever reason went another path. If that drive continues to speak to them after several years, then it may be something worth exploring. But as you said, people have to enter teaching for the right reasons...not for "summers off."