I’m a Canadian high school teacher so I’m not sure if my perspective is a bit too different, but I’ll offer my two cents anyway. I always recommend to anyone thinking of going into teaching to get themselves into a classroom for a few days. Whether it’s as an observer or as a volunteer, being in the classroom will give you some idea as to what you’re getting into. There are aspects about the job that nobody really talks about or there might be things that you just never fully realized until you see it in front of you.
Anyway I’m a ninth year high school teacher. My teachables are English and Visual Arts.
What makes a good teacher?
People are going to tell you a lot of things about what makes a good teacher, but I find that oftentimes it’s all perspective. Some students will consider you a great teacher, but some will think you’re eh. But that’s the reality of human interaction and the job is very much about human interactions and relationships. (Not even the Pope is liked by everyone.)
That’s not to say there aren’t some core ideas that you should consider. You should definitely like your job. Definitely care about students and keeping up with your professional duties. You’ll need to be flexible, creative, and diplomatic with a good sense of time management.
But I think a good teacher is a good human being. A good human being is fair, empathetic, generous, and caring. That doesn’t mean you can’t be strict, principled, and professional. A good human being can also be all those things.
What grade do you teach?
I’ve taught from grade 9-12. We don’t get to choose our timetables so I get moved around a lot.
How did you get into teaching? (degree, volunteering, etc)
I worked at a private art school for a few years and then later decided to keep my options open by getting my Honours B.A. in English and Visual Studies. I took another part-time job at a remedial school before I decided to take the plunge and got my Bachelor of Education.
Do you like/dislike teaching? Why?
I enjoy teaching. There are aspects of it that I enjoy and there are things I really dislike. I enjoy the interactions, the challenge, and the stability of it. It’s a job that’s always changing, but also very constant and stable. I enjoy learning and building which are things you’ll do a lot as a teacher.
I’m going to be honest and just say it: I dislike marking. Marking is a necessary component of the job, especially if you’re an English teacher. I’m considered a pretty fast marker, but I had big classes so 10+ hours could be spent on just marking one set of assignments alone. I only mark because it’s part of the job and frankly I’ve yet to meet any teacher who gushes with joy at the thought of marking.
You’ll get parents, students, and even administrators arguing with you about grades, your homework policies, your assignments, whatever. You’ll have to learn how to navigate that. You’ll also have to learn to work with a limited budget and children who do not appreciate that.
You’ll also have to learn to manage your work-life balance. If you don’t, this job will eat you up. You’ll never be done everything. There’ll be a million things you have to get done and then June comes and oh well, guess it’ll get done next year unless you enjoy staying in a hot stuffy building in the middle of summer. I told my principal that thank God I don’t have children. They’ll be dead from neglect. And sure I joke about that, but I have colleagues who talk about how they hardly get to see their kids because the workload just gets too much.
Also be prepared for the public to talk poorly about you. They’ll love you when you throw yourself in front of bullets, but any talk about wages or increasing school funding and suddenly it’s “those who can do, do; and those who can’t, teach”.
But if you love being in the classroom, then everything evens out. I adore my students. They’re beautiful human beings. You’ll also have some of the best stories. You might not be able to share all of them, but they’ll be hilarious. And sometimes one of them will say something that’ll warm up your heart and you’ll spend the next couple of days gushing about it.
Would you recommend teaching?
That depends. Looking to get rich? Time off? Easy peasy work? Do you enjoy going to the bathroom any time you want and not have to hold it for 3+ hours? If so then I wouldn’t recommend teaching.
What should I consider that I may not be thinking of?
Definitely shadow a teacher if you can. I would also look into the job prospects. Is it difficult to get a position? Would you need to move? Is there a union? If so, what are the job hiring rules that you need to be aware of?