Dreamworker has taught in schools nationwide for 26 years in grades 6-12; including blind, handicapped, at-risk, and ESOL students.
If you are thinking of becoming a teacher, there are several important things you need to know about if you wish to be successful.
Far too many people think teachers have easy jobs where they just show up, take roll, put a lesson on the board and set the kids to working while they simply watch over their students.
This is far from being the truth about what really goes on in a classroom.
Teaching has become a difficult, dangerous and often frustrating job that drives newbies out the door quickly because it is nothing like what they expected it to be.
This article is meant to let people who wish to enter the profession know what they may be facing.
I taught school for 26 years, so I ought to know!
1. Training Never Ends
Most people who enter the field need a minimum of four years of college, but in recent years, many states have upped the ante and now require people to have Master's Degrees (which means that they must take one or more additional years of costly schooling).
As if this isn't enough, school boards then require every teacher to take something called "In Service Training', which means they have to continually sit through classes that are taught locally.
Worse yet is that they have to update their teaching certificates every 5 years or they can lose their jobs!
The great irony is that most of these things have absolutely nothing to do with how successful a person will be once he or she is on the job.
2. Education, In Itself, Means Nothing
Yes, you read that subtitle correctly.
Earning your credentials gets you in the door, but not much more. You can have all the book learning in the world, and still not succeed as a teacher.
One of the biggest reasons is that knowing information is one thing, but having the ability to convey it to children is quite another.
If you are not the type of person who communicates well, has compassion, knows how to deal with young people and can make students behave, you might as well take all of that education and training you worked so hard to get and throw it in the trash can, because it will be totally useless.
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3. You Have to Learn to Be a Politician
Most teachers absolutely hate politicians because they make their jobs unbelievably difficult.
We are not just talking here about government officials, but also about school board members and school administrators.
Dealing with them is tricky business, and if you are not a politician yourself, you're never going to succeed because those calling the shots simply won't let you, no matter how good you really are at what you do.
Years ago a supervisor in my school district took a dislike to me because I had an independent nature and often ignored her directives. She did everything in her power to get me fired and stand in my way. Fortunately, I had tenure (and I also had a few people who respected and liked me that had some authority), so she never did get her way. However, tolerating her put a great deal of stress on me and made my job more difficult.
It is a terrible irony that some of the worst teachers get all of the accolades simply because they play politics with those in charge. It's also ironic that they had to become like the politicians in order to survive!
This is true for many workers these days, but teachers are supposed to be treated like professionals and be given the authority to make their own decisions about how to work with their students.
If you think this is so, then you had better find a different type of job.
Tenure used to protect teachers from the politics, but it no longer exists in many states, so if you want to be successful, you basically have to learn how to brown nose!
4. Dealing With Parents Isn't Always Easy
This also holds true when dealing with parents.
The ones who come to school rarely do so to praise. They want what they want, and if it means trying to get a teacher fired, they will not hesitate.
School administrators generally support the parents no matter how wrong they are because they know if they don't, these angry, obnoxious and pushy people will report them to the school board.
Thus they are not about to put their own jobs in jeopardy to protect yours!
There are many ways for teachers to finesse parents, and it behooves them to do so.
In most instances, parents realize they are out of line and can be mollified, but some will not work with you no matter what you do.
This is why it pays to join a teacher's union. In many instances they can step in and arbitrate for you. It costs money to belong, but paying it could help you keep your job.
5. Discipline Skills Are Important
When you are in a room with 40 young people, you must know how to control them. If you can't, there will be no way you can get them to learn anything.
This is why knowing how to discipline students can make or brake your success as a teacher.
Far too many teachers try to be "friends" with their students, thinking that this will make things easier for them. It doesn't.
A successful teacher is one who lets the kids know he or she is in charge, demands order, has strict rules and does everything possible to make sure that students learn their lessons.
Since children are manipulative by nature, this is no easy task. Discipline may require
- trips to the front office,
- or calling and meeting with parents.
Using a certain amount of friendly peer pressure, creating seating charts and using reasonable amounts of appropriate praise are also helpful techniques.
Each teacher finds his own ways of dealing with students, but the trick is to develop one that works.
6. Organization Really Matters
If you are teaching 150 plus students each day, creating lesson plans, ordering supplies, grading papers, taking roll, going to meetings, taking classes, dealing with politics and putting up with parents, you had better be well organized.
To avoid chaos in your classroom, you have to maintain order on all levels.
This not only helps you, but it sets a good role model for your students.
Years ago a teacher suddenly retired in the middle of the school year. I was asked to take over her classes, but when I got to her room, it was a total disaster. She had so much junk lying around that there barely was room for the students.
I told them that I would have to get organized before we could start formal classes, asked them to be patient with me and also help where they could.
After three weeks the room looked nothing like it had before:
- stacks of newspapers were gone,
- unnecessary furniture had been moved out,
- the teacher's personal belongings were stored elsewhere,
- excess books and materials were sent back to the school board warehouse
- and roaches, bugs and filth were cleaned out of closets and bookcases.
We became the talk of the school with people, adults and kids alike, often peeking in to check on our progress.
The kids were extremely proud of their "new" room and worked very hard to catch up with their work.
They had been learning nothing with their old teacher, and they knew it.
I believe the lessons they learned from this experience stayed with them because all of them went on to do well in the future. Oh, did I mention that this was a class for at risk students?
A Successful Teacher Wears Many Hats
As you can see from what I have written here, teachers have many jobs, some of which are dirty, difficult, frustrating and downright nasty.
There are good perks, no doubt, but most teachers earn them.
They work longer hours than most people realize, spend a great deal of time counseling children and their parents and yes, even find themselves in danger at times.
I know people who have had furniture thrown at them, been spat upon, and bitten. These are the lucky ones because others have also been raped, beaten and killed.
The truth is that teachers have few protections when they are in a classroom, and the children they teach can have all sorts of problems.
If you are thinking of entering the profession, you'll find out that what I have said here is the truth.
You can work hard, tolerate all sorts of issues, be well educated, caring, organized and good at discipline and never be publicly recognized for what you do.
Your success will have to come from within yourself, and it will, if you are the right person for this type of work.
You'll see your students light up when they finally learn something new, change for the better and go on to do well in their lives. It will never be all of them, but there will definitely be some.
Every teacher lives for that moment when a former student shows up to thank them and share their accolades with them.
That is real success.
Questions & Answers
Question: Why should teachers learn about politics?
Answer: Teachers don't have to learn about politics, and are not supposed to discuss their political views with students. However, it's good for them to understand what is going on in the world, but whether they learn about these things or not is up to them.
Sondra Rochelle (author) from USA on March 11, 2017:
Al Greenbaum: I think it's important for people to know both the good and bad of any profession before deciding to become involved in it. Nothing is perfect and things rarely are what they seem. Thanks for stopping by to comment.
Al Greenbaum from Europe on March 11, 2017:
Great hub, frank and honest. I like the way you face up to some of the unpalatable issues like politics within a school.
Sondra Rochelle (author) from USA on July 01, 2016:
LouiseTeach: Actually, my own teaching career began in PA! Small world, huh? Don't blame you for leaving. It's bad just about everywhere these days. I've been mostly out of it since 1999 and have never missed it. Life is far too short.
LouiseTeach on July 01, 2016:
I am a teacher, but I have recently decided to leave the profession. I have been teaching for about 15 years, two of which were in VA, and the rest in the state of PA. I have experienced problems because of certain administrators, I have had a parent basically harass me for an entire year, and the administrator did nothing, I have had great administrators who left the school. In PA, you are usually dragged through three interviews, and can still end up without the job (if you want to learn more about the process in PA, check out my articles). In jobs where things have gone well, I have experienced furloughs and position cuts (both private schools and Intermediate units), and I have been highly underpaid for my years of experience. I'm done working myself so hard for nothing.
Sondra Rochelle (author) from USA on April 14, 2016:
lions44: I retired years ago and have watched with horror the steady decline in the way teachers have been treated. This is a nationwide trend that started back in the early 80's and is doing tremendous damage to our kids and our country. I am sorry for your wife's problems and hope she can get out of there if possible. Thanks for commenting.
CJ Kelly from the PNW on April 14, 2016:
As the husband of an elementary school teacher, I'm giving a big "Amen" to this hub. My wife has seen her workload triple over the past 20 years. She is now working 70-75 hours per week at a minimum. This week she will reach 80. Combination of increasing/changing standards, turnover and kids/families have changed dramatically since just the 90s. Cutbacks have hurt too. No more specialists for things like science, art or music. High school is different. More specialized. Tough work. It's become a blue-collar profession. Shared. Good job.