The Footnotes


Why become a teacher?

Given the choice between teaching and ANYTHING else?

Teaching is polarising. It can be a love/hate relationship (depends on what day you ask me) and more and more now, I’m finding teachers or former teachers telling anyone who will listen to never pursue a career in education. What happened?

Why did this teacher quit after 30 years? 

Sure, some of these teachers do have some valid points be it “increasingly untenable career choice due to ludicrous policy, lack of autonomy and unrealistic expectations.” The issues in the industry obviously need to be addressed by those who coordinate our education system, but without sounding too predictable (or overly dramatic)- what about the children? How about they actually ask the teachers what’s the problem so we can address the real issues that impact the children. What’s the expense to the future generations if all the teachers pack up and haul out of the staff room onto the streets in the interim while the ‘suits’ sort it out?

Despite the testing and the paperwork, and the obvious shift in the system from the ‘student’ to the ‘student’s data’, I think there’s still a lot that a career in teaching has to give. Amidst the headaches of funding and funding, don’t give up your day job just yet!

Enthusiastic, timid and even over prepared- everything is colour coordinated and compartmentalised. You’ll never see a lesson plan like that of a new grad. If I was cool enough to hang out with the young teachers, or those still studying to become one- I’d have some things to tell them. These are those things…

I once heard someone compare the following careers and then advise on which you should pick, if not teaching. It made sense.

“If you’re deciding between being a lawyer and being a teacher, and both careers sound equally appealing to you, then be a lawyer. You’ll make more money and have more freedom and you’ll definitely be able to make a bigger difference in educational policy, if that’s where your interests lie. If being a chef or a teacher both sound great, be a chef. And every now and then donate some really good pasta salad to the school near your restaurant. Teachers will eat the hell out of some pasta salad. And if you love working with kids, but you can’t decide whether to be a teacher or a therapist, be a therapist. If parents are paying you directly, they might actually listen to what you’re saying.”

As a teacher, you’re going to be dealing with policies, cooking and talking to a lot of people about a lot of problems- so why not take the higher pay-package to do so?

Perhaps you’re not tossing up between different careers though. Perhaps teaching is your be-all and end-all but everyone is in your ear telling you to run? Well I’m the angel on your shoulder telling you not to doubt it; it’s really not as big and bad as you may have heard. Stay put little teacher. My advice to students on a career in teaching: do it anyway.

The ‘bad news’ or the ‘realistic’ side? Every story has more than one side, and this one is that regardless of what school you are at, you’ll be dealing with teaching scripts and instructions, over-tested children, insistent parents, mostly pointless paperwork, overcrowded and underfunded classes, or hopeless leadership- just as a start. If you’re lucky, you won’t be dealing with al of this at the one time, but over the course of your (wonderful) career, you will come up against it. The lack of supplies, time, energy and autonomy that you may face each day can be disheartening. You’re trying to help the kids- that is your first and foremost mission- but you’re not allowed to purchase that new program that will help a child finally understand something.

The holidays are great though. Haha, joking. Maybe you’ve had to pick up a second job or you’re doing a professional development course the school signed you up for.

The thing is, you’ve been told all of this one hundred times. Processes and pay isn’t the reason you pick a career, yet somehow it’s become the focus of teaching.

Even if it took Cameron Diaz a while to realise it in the film Bad Teacher, this is the real focus of teaching, and somehow it’s overlooked…No matter how overbearing your administration is, when you step through the door of your classroom, it’s you and the children. You make a world for that group of kids, and you have the chance to create what could be the only safe space they experience all day. You give them room to take risks and fail and you teach them to support each other and build each other up, and you see them come alive during that time, even if you do have to quickly revert to the script the minute your principal opens the door for an observation. You really do have the power to change the future path of every student in your classroom. Why get caught up on the admin and throw this away? Know what you’re getting into, all of it, and still become a teacher. You AND the children deserve it.

Why become a teacher?
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