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The Pros and Cons of Teaching

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An extremely accurate meme that’s been circling the interwebs lately.

Thinking about becoming a teacher? Want the low-down and dirty? (Well, not the truly dirty, that could be another blog post altogether.) But ever wonder why 50% of teachers leave the profession within the first 5 years of teaching, and others visibly light up when they talk about their calling?

Once I had a friend ask me why her teacher friends were reluctant to talk about their work. She was considering teaching and wanted an honest answer about what it was like. Apparently, no one was willing to open up to her.

But I had no such qualms–ha! Because I firmly believe that some people are meant to be teachers, and they wouldn’t be happier doing anything else. And those other 50% who quit early in their careers? Maybe someone should have given them a more honest view of the profession BEFORE they spent all their time and money on schooling and entering a profession they were ill-equipped for.

(In case you’re wondering: I’m currently completing my 5th year of teaching, and I’ve taught English to 6th, 9th, 11th, ad 12th graders.)

Before I get into specifics, just know that the first year of teaching is terrible. It requires a sort of manic energy and a little bit of craziness to survive. You will reconsider your life choices: all of them. The second year, too, and possibly the third.

You will reconsider your life choices: all of them.

But after that, things even out a little. You find your groove. Learn what works and what doesn’t. I’m still learning…

So in honor of Teacher Appreciation Week, here is the list of pros and cons I passed along to my friend:

Cons:

  1. Kids do not like learning. Even if your children do, most kids do not. And they automatically resent you for trying to make them smarter. (Some parents do, too. I have never understood this.)
  2. The state and district will put unimaginable amounts of pressure on you to make these unwilling participants smarter. The demands are unfair and unrealistic, but you have to make it happen or you can lose your job.
  3. The pay is not great, considering all the extra hours you will spend at school getting everything done that has been required of you.
  4. The day does not end when the students leave. Be prepared to stay late or take work home. Invest in large, sturdy tote bags.
  5. Policies and expectations change constantly. Once you think you’ve got it, it changes.
  6. As in any job, not all coworkers will pull their load.
  7. Kids will cuss you for trying to make them better. Parents will undermine you and cuss you, too, for trying to help their child.
  8. Due to NCLB, the district will pass kids who have not done one ounce of work all year, so the kids know they don’t have to do anything to move on to the next grade.
  9. The type of administrator you get is a lottery.
  10. In larger cities or more urban areas, you will deal with gang influences in the system and find that these children have no regard for human life–and little compassion for others.
  11. In smaller school districts, politics are the name of the game. Silly, “good ole boy,” politics. Prepare yourself.
  12. Many, many students cannot read. Even in high school. Really.
  13. Most teachers I know are on anxiety medication.
  14. Discipline problems in the classroom will not be fixed by sending the kid to the office. Kids who disrespect you will have no respect for the principal, either.
  15. Meeting the parents explains EVERYTHING.
  16. Sometimes you do the happy dance when certain children are absent. It literally makes the whole day better, and you think this teaching thing isn’t so bad, after all.
  17. Any time off is necessary to regain your sanity.
  18. Time off is often spent preparing for the next round.
  19. You WILL have to call parents. For a happy introvert such as myself, this is pure torture. I included it because I would rather be home with the flu than call a parent.
  20. Sometimes you would rather be home with the flu than go be a teacher.
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Pros:

  1. You DO get nice time off.
  2. After the students leave, I can either stay at school and work, or I can take my work home and do it after I run errands and eat supper. Once the kids are gone, you are free to leave.
  3. Some days I leave with almost everything done (this is the secret to happiness).
  4. I can grade papers and do work at home in my PJs.
  5. That moment when a child hugs you makes your day brighter.
  6. When a child finally does “get it,” there really is an almost visible light bulb above her head.
  7. Kids are funny at any age–you just have to know if it’s appropriate to laugh.
  8. You will meet wonderful coworkers.
  9. The time off is great. Did I mention that?
  10. If you have a heart at all, you will love your “kids.” They annoy you and stomp on you and sometimes disrespect you, but you know it when they love you.
  11. You learn constantly. I like learning, so I put this under “pros.” (If you don’t like learning, don’t be a teacher. This would seem common sense, but you’d be surprised the number of teachers who complain about having to learn stuff.)

Have more to add? Drop it in the comments!

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