I am sending you a quick note asking for a little advice on becoming a social studies teacher.
A little about me: I am a college junior majoring in secondary education with a concentration in social studies/history and I have an overwhelming passion for U.S. History and government! As I begin to think about life after graduation, I have been asking for advice and talking to several educators and administrators, including a few of my high school history teachers. The majority of responses I am getting are making me terrified of becoming a teacher. From the low pay, to new common core standards - I am being very negatively influenced on the profession. One of my favorite teachers has now quit teaching after just four years in the school system and has made me question my college major. I feel overwhelmed because people say teaching is the hardest job and you aren't rewarded and compensated like teachers should be. I understand that I won't become rich being an educator, and I am OK with that :)
I am hoping you can share your teaching experience with me because you seem to love what you do, and you look so very happy! I admire you and I only hope to be the crafty teacher you are someday.
It took me a little while to respond as it's sort of a daunting question...what advice can I give those looking to enter the teaching profession? Here was my response:
First, thank you for the lovely compliment at the end of your email...I am, for the most part, very happy in my life and chosen career! I, too, majored in secondary education with a concentration in social studies (focusing on US History) and was very excited and passionate about my area of studies! I'd like to disagree with what others have said to you about the low pay, low recognition, and high stress, but I can't. Those are all very real downsides to this profession. I'd also like to say that I hadn't seriously considered leaving the teaching profession for some other career choice but I can't say that either because I have, at one point or another, thought about other career paths.
I've heard and read that over half of all new teachers quit within the first 5 years (so it doesn't surprise me that your favorite teacher quit after only 4 years in) and I, too, personally know friends/colleagues who quit after only a few years. It's an extremely demanding career field where you will work harder than you ever imagined. There will be lots of days where you will work yourself ragged and will be so very patient but still wonder 'am I really making any difference here'? Some teenagers can be ruthless (I use the word 'some' because others are thoughtful, helpful, and kind) and can be very quick to complain. It's hard to not take that personally but you will eventually realize that it's often times not really about you and really more about them.
I still remember my days as a student teacher where I would spend hours coming up with what I thought were such creative, fun, engaging lessons and activities only to have my bubble burst when some kids would still complain about what we were doing and wouldn't complete their classwork, homework, or any work at all! I almost gave up right then and there because I thought 'what's the point of working this hard if they're just going to complain'? But, luckily my mentor teacher told me he thought I was going to make a really good teacher and that I should stick with it.
Here I am 11 years later and I'm still in the trenches! So, here's the good side...if you can learn to tune out and/or tolerate the bureaucratic nonsense that is public education, the parents who enable their kids to be lazy and entitled, the increasing demands from administration to do more with less time, the aforementioned complainers, and every other person who thinks they can do this job better than you (because obviously having once been a student means one is an expert on teaching), there's a lot to love about this job.
It feels really, really good teach someone something they didn't know before (like really good). It feels really good to show a kid kindness and patience and to see them make progress and reach goals. It feels really good to laugh out loud almost every day (because my kids can be so funny, witty, and clever). It feels good to put in a hard day's work and know that your life is dedicated to serving your community. It feels AMAZING when, every now and then, you get a letter or an email from a former student thanking you for not only teaching them something they are now using in their life but for teaching them to be kind & hard working people, especially when it's from a kid whom you never expected to receive such a note.
I am a more patient, more tolerant, more industrious, more creative, more enthusiastic, and better-educated person because I am a teacher. Until the cons outweigh the pros, a teacher I shall remain!