This is my fourth year of teaching. For the first three years, I was in a public school–it was NOT a good experience. I am now at a private school and love it! I teach high school English–juniors and seniors–in west Texas and adore my work. However, if I didn’t happen to get this job, I would not have made it another year in public school. I know that it mostly depends on the state in which you live and what area of the city you are in, but teaching public school was pretty awful in the south. I had friends who were in “better” cities and enjoyed teaching more but spent A LOT of time stressed (did you know that most public school teachers quit within 5 years of joining the profession?). I love English, but I worry about how I will be able to handle the workload of a family–when I get to that point–and grading papers all night. English definitely has the heaviest workload–not a lot of multiple choice going on in my classroom, and my kids write BOATLOADS of essays/research papers!
When I took my first teaching job, I applied to thirty districts (and I had student teaching experience), and only one district called me for an interview. Of course, the DFW area is having a really hard time with the education system in general–layoffs, pay reductions, etc. It is a hot mess. Teaching in an “inner-city” school (yes, I know it isn’t Detroit or the South Side or anything) means that you will have a lack of parent involvement, a lack of student interest, and will be worked to the bone. My friends in better school districts still had issues with kids not caring (since that is everywhere) but had more leverage with principals and parents.
I would definitely go do some observations–make sure to observe a variety of grade levels and teachers with different levels of experience. Be aware that the kids will be better because you are there, even if it is a surprise drop-in observation. I couldn’t imagine doing anything else–I was meant to be a teacher. There were definitely days I drove home and said I would never go back, but the highs made it SO worth it. When a kid tells you that you are the only person who cares about them and believes they can succeed–wow, so tragic and heart-tugging! It really depends on where you are and how much you put into it (and how helpful the teachers you work with are–you HAVE to have resources). People always say teachers have it so easy because we have summers off. But I do an INSANE amount of work outside of work during the school year and also in the summer.
If you have a bachelor’s degree, look in to alternative certification programs. These are short-term programs–make sure you student teach though. Here in Texas, public schools don’t want anyone who hasn’t been in a classroom before…not sure if that will be the case in your state. Having a master’s degree and being bilingual is a huge leg up here. If I didn’t have those two pluses, I would have never been offered a job at a private school.
Please note that I am not trying to discourage you in any way; I just want future teachers to be prepared. Everyone sugar-coated things and made it seem like teaching was just a bed of roses, and I didn’t prepare myself for reality. If I had proper expectations, I might not have been so overwhelmed at times. I feel as though people should always do what they love…if you think that this is what you are meant to do, go for it. If it doesn’t work out in the end, it may just end up as an expensive mistake. But at least you have a fallback career, which most teachers do not have. If you don’t try, you will never know–which is worse than trying and changing your mind, in my opinion.
P.S. If you want to know what my transistion has been like…my old school was like “Freedom Writers,” and my current school is like “Dead Poets Society” or “The Emperor’s Club.” Hehe 🙂