“I Am Thinking of Teaching”

Recently a friend and loyal PressingPause reader confided in me that he was considering becoming a teacher. Cool dat.

Here is the best book I’ve ever read on deciding whether to teach.

At some point during their teacher prep coursework and internship, every teacher-to-be I’ve worked with over the last two decades concludes “Teaching well is way harder than I ever imagined.”

So my first suggestion is to think again if you perceive teaching as an 8a-2:30p, summers off, easy gig. I’d bet a sizable portion of my modest teacher’s salary that teaching well is considerably more difficult and exhausting than you might imagine.

Having said that, our prospective teacher friend has attributes that would translate well in the classroom. He’s a deeply committed and caring parent of elementary age children, he’s resilient, has impeccable integrity, and rich life experience.

Given the bevy of thoughtful educators here, he probably doesn’t need the aformentioned book for guidance.

There are technical and qualitative ways to approach the question of whether to teach. Among the questions: 1) What are the technical professional requirements? 2) What are teaching’s challenges and rewards? 3) What do the best teachers have in common?

The technical requirements vary a bit from state to state and they change overtime so I’m a little hesitant to offer much specific counsel to our friend because he’s seven years away from wrapping up his first career.

In short, one has to decide whether they want to pursue elementary or secondary (middle school and high school) certification. The best way to do that is spend time with both groups in and outside of schools. If secondary, one has to decide what content area(s) to teach. In Washington State teachers are required to have 20 academic credits in any particular content area, called an “endorsement”, (e.g., English, social studies, math, biology, Spanish) and pass the corresponding West E, a content knowledge exam. Backing up a bit, one also has to pass the West B exam, a basic math/English/reading literacy test. The “B” is relatively easy, some candidates have to take “E’s” more than once before passing.

Then, you have to apply for, be admitted to, and complete a licensure program. They tend to vary in length from one to two years. Some are certificate or licensure only programs, others, like the one I coordinate, enable people to earn their certificate and a Masters degree simultaneously. All programs are a mix of coursework and an internship that culminates in full-time student teaching.

That’s a quick introduction to the technical professional requirements, but what about the equally if not more important qualitative considerations?

What “matters of the heart” guidance would you offer our fellow reader? What are teaching’s challenges and rewards? What do the best teachers have in common?

1 thought on ““I Am Thinking of Teaching”

  1. Beyond the obvious skills such as communication, dedication and work ethic, the key skill is patience. Teachers who do not have patience and want progress to be quick without having to repeat themselves get very frustrated.
    I teach elementary because I like havinng a variety of subjects to teach rather than just one or two and I wanted to be with the one group for long enough to maximise my influence rather than have short stints with multiple classes.
    Good luck with your decision. If you choose to become a teacher I hope you enjoy it every bit as much as I do.

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