Given the issues that schools have been dealing with in the past year and a half, it's not surprising that some people might be wondering if it's still a good time to think about becoming a teacher.
It's a legitimate question. Remote learning, hybrid classes, poor student attendance, academic failures, and health concerns are just some of the challenges teachers have had to face since the start of the pandemic.
Further Reading: Should I Become a Teacher?
But as Americans continue to get vaccinated, teachers are gaining confidence in the outlook for the upcoming school year. And many are looking forward to returning to in-person classes and connecting with students the way they used to.
Becoming a teacher now will help you improve students' lives when schools reopen.
The Best Part of Teaching
The best part of teaching is still connecting with students.
When Education Week asked teachers why they stayed in teaching, most of them said it was because they loved their students.
The 2021 National Teacher of the Year agrees. Juliana Urtubey, a special education teacher in Nevada, made clear her love for students in a segment on CBS This Morning. Her students returned the feeling, talking about her kindness and the impact she's had on their lives.
"I haven't seen so many of those students in such a long time," she said. "It's so beautiful. They have made that same kind of impact in my life."
Brian Soika, a writer with the University of Southern California's Rossier School of Education, wrote about the importance of caring teachers in eCampus News.
"If the pandemic has taught us anything, it's that leadership is crucial," he wrote. "During turbulent times, it's easy for students to become distracted from academics, or become emotionally untethered. A good teacher can act as a kind of leader, providing stability, confidence, and reassurance for children."
"Simply put," he added, "the classroom is arguably just as important to a child's emotional development as it is to their intellect."
Change and Innovation
Still, we know there will be new challenges when schools reopen. If you're thinking about becoming a teacher, remember that with challenge comes opportunity. Teachers are essential components of rebuilding the education process—not just for next fall, but for the future.
Teachers will need to develop strong bonds with students disillusioned with remote learning. Focusing on students' mental health will be more important than ever, the nonprofit Child and Adolescent Behavioral Health notes. Teachers will also need to address learning gaps that developed while schools were closed and figure out how to reach students who disappeared from school attendance rolls. They'll also have to reassess the skills and understandings essential to academic progress.
These are just a few of the challenges ahead. But with each comes the opportunity to revamp what we've been doing to educate students.
If ever schools needed committed and creative teachers with energy and new ideas, it's now.
The Job Market
Teachers were in short supply before the pandemic hit in early 2021. But the shortage has only gotten worse, USA Today reports.
Eighty-four percent of teachers surveyed by Education Week said that teaching was more stressful during the pandemic than before it. That extra stress is taking its toll. Before the pandemic, 34 percent of teachers said they were somewhat likely or very likely to leave the profession in the next two years. In 2021, that number reached 54 percent, Education Week found.
But Education Week notes that it's uncertain whether teachers will actually leave the profession, given that few want to lose their benefits and pay if they're not eligible to retire. And with adults and teens getting vaccinated, remote learning, which teachers in the study identified as the major cause of stress, will no longer be the chief mode of instruction. About half the teachers who left the profession after March 2020 said they might return to teaching after people were vaccinated, a 2021 study by the Rand Corporation found.
Still, given the existing shortages and the usual attrition, there should be plenty of teaching jobs available for the foreseeable future.
Weighing the Benefits
Ultimately, the students are why teachers stayed in education. Urtubey calls it "work of the heart."
But pay is important, too. When Education Week asked what would keep teachers who were thinking about changing careers from leaving the profession, 57 percent of them said the same thing: give me more money.
In recent years, teacher activism led to higher salaries—but some of those increases were reduced or withdrawn when state budgets shrank during the pandemic. As the economy recovers, some states, including Tennessee, Virginia, North Carolina, Arizona, and South Carolina, will be working to restore those pay grades. Others are using federal stimulus money to offer one-time bonuses to teachers who worked through the pandemic. The push for higher salaries isn't over.
Further Reading: How to Become a Teacher with a Bachelor's Degree
Is becoming a teacher still a good idea? Absolutely. If it's your dream to work with students and to make a real contribution to their future, the future of education, and the future of the world, this is an exciting and hopeful time.