Maybe you've heard the saying that the average person switches careers seven times during their lifetime. Perhaps you're considering making a change. If you've enjoyed leading teams, helping colleagues improve, or instructing team members in your current role, a teaching career might be an appealing option for you.
But in order to be fully prepared for the profession, there are a few things you should keep in mind before making the switch.
1. Teaching is hard work.
Some people assume that teaching is easy. Although teaching is a deeply rewarding profession, it requires skill and dedication. A teacher’s first responsibility is to deliver effective and engaging academic instruction. Ever-changing pedagogical strategies require teachers to stay on top of new methods and lessons, PayScale says, which may at times increase the workload. And with the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act, teachers must maintain the highest teaching standards and adhere to standardized testing schedules.
In the classroom, teachers have to quickly navigate technology issues and other types of disruptions, and the lack of resources often requires clever work-arounds, so that teaching and learning are not compromised.
It doesn't stop there. Teachers fulfill a variety of job roles beyond classroom instruction: They are mentors, confidants, role models, and cheerleaders for every student they work with. This level of commitment to students means providing constant care, compassion, and attention—even after school lets out.
Teachers must also navigate complex issues involving school administration and parents.
With all these factors in play, you must be committed to the profession and to your students to be successful. If you're looking for short, easy workdays, teaching might not be for you. But if you're willing to commit to the profession and all it entails, you could be embarking on a highly rewarding career path that allows you to change children's lives.
2. Teachers must be technologically savvy.
Kids today are technophiles—even the youngest students are plugged in. Most students are glued to their smartphones, and many communicate through and get information from social media. To reach these students, today's teachers must use technology inside the classroom and after hours to connect students with resources and systems that help them learn. Making effective use of technology to engage students and keep them and their families up to date on classroom happenings can give you an advantage.
Messaging apps, virtual coworking spaces, and collaboration tools can all be effective teaching tools. The Tech Edvocate notes that tech-savvy teachers use technology to communicate effectively with students, evaluate assignments efficiently, and collaborate with other teachers. Teachers must also be proficient in teaching with technology. If you're considering making the switch to teaching, take stock of your tech knowledge, brush up on any tools or devices you might need in the classroom, and start thinking about how you can engage students using technology.
3. Teaching is a year-round profession.
It seems as though teachers have a lot of free time. After all, teachers get evenings, weekends, and summers off, right? But the work doesn't end when the school day does. Teachers often take their work home, grading papers and planning lessons after school hours. Though the average work year for teachers is around 180 days, that number doesn't include the unofficial work hours spent preparing for class, helping students, and managing families on the weekends and during the summer, The Atlantic says.
The idea that summers are completely work-free, too, is a misconception—though unless they're teaching summer school or leading an extracurricular activity, teachers generally have a lot more flexibility during the summer because they're not constrained to a course schedule. If you're coming from a traditional nine-to-five job, the flexible summer schedule could be a treat, despite the work that often comes with it.
4. Teaching involves more than academics.
You might be a math whiz and want to share your knowledge with the next generation, but if you're hoping to switch careers to teaching, you'll need to be prepared to do much more than instruct. Teachers interact with students with all kinds of backgrounds, families, and experiences, and the best teachers are able to be mentors to and confidants for their students, helping them through their struggles, academic and otherwise, and guiding them to grow and be better.
A study published in Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis found that students whose teachers provide strong emotional and organizational support are happier and more successful in school. Being an emotionally intelligent and compassionate mentor means reaching students beyond the subject matter.
5. Teaching is a craft.
Teaching is a unique profession, and not everyone can do it—or do it well. Helping students reach their potential takes a great deal of enthusiasm, dedication, and drive. Because children learn differently, teachers must find a balance between instructing the entire classroom and helping individual students grasp complicated concepts. Your professional experience will help you succeed in the classroom, but be prepared to spend time learning the art of teaching before you make the switch.
Making the switch.
When you make the switch, you'll be among a group of instructors who appreciate their roles. The most recent Teaching and Learning International Survey from the National Center for Education Statistics found that 90 percent of lower secondary teachers in the U.S. are satisfied with their jobs. If you're considering switching to a teaching career, now is the perfect time to explore your educational options. Programs such as the Bachelor of Arts, Elementary Education program at Western Governors University help you earn your teaching degree and take your first steps into your new career.