Now that I’m halfway through my first year of teaching, I’ve reflected on how my very limited amount of wisdom could help those who are thinking of becoming teachers or already becoming teachers. As always, take these with a grain of salt and share them with others you know who are contemplating the teacher biz.
1. Recognize that you don’t go into teaching for the money.
2. Recognize that you do go into teaching for the psychological income (i.e., the gratification that comes from helping people) and that your paycheck is rarely ever on time.
3. If you are in a preparatory program, save everything. Sample lesson plans, books, notes—save it all. If you happen to have time during your first year of teaching to look at it, it has the potential of being very helpful.
4. Make a list of things you will not compromise in your career. Keep it and refer to it often.
5. Understand that you will be teaching in the Era of Accountability, which means that almost every move you make in and out of the classroom will be scrutinized—for better or for worse.
6. Evaluate whether you are intrinsically motivated or extrinsically motivated. If you’re extrinsically motivated, you may have trouble justifying the amount of work it takes to be a teacher. You may end up being a horrible teacher because of it.
7. Evaluate whether you are introverted or extroverted—both types thrive in a classroom environment. However, if you are introverted (like me), make sure you give yourself restorative alone time to decompress and recharge so that you can use your people-energy in the classroom.
8. Do not go into teaching just because you like your content area but you don’t like the teaching part.
9. Take the college courses on educational leadership seriously, even if they feel like a joke. The social justice aspect of them makes you understand your students better no matter where you teach—inner city or ritzy suburb.
10. Ask yourself what your life-long goals are. Teaching may not be your life-long career, and that’s O.K. After your student teaching, if you know for certain you don’t want to teach, don’t do it. Don’t liken your possible future students’ educations to backpacking across the world so you can embark on a personal journey. You can use your education degree in many different ways, if you’re industrious enough. Having an education degree means you can work in groups, you have a valuable knowledge base, and you have a desire to work towards the betterment of the nation’s youth.
11. During your time as a pre-service teacher, take advantage of the options for you to be involved in a K-12 environment, whether it’s tutoring, volunteering, etc. The face-time with other teachers is important, as well as learning how to interact with students prior to your field experience and student teaching.
12. Double major. You’ll bust your butt while doing it, but I really wish I would have. The education degree is important, but the exposure to your content area is too—especially if you want to teach upper level students! If you’re doing Early Childhood, double major in Special Education. You’ll have greater marketability.
13. Journal in any capacity. Blog, jot notes and ideas, or photo journal. Reflecting on your experiences helps you see personal growth, which gives you perspective on what you want your career to be.
14. Make sure you have a support system of people you can vent to on a regular basis (especially if you’re a verbal processor), because there will be many things you would like to say to other teachers, parents, or administrators, but saying these things would probably get you fired. And NEVER post these things online!
15. Protect your online identity! Pictures, Twitter updates, or Facebook status updates you post before you even become a teacher can incriminate you. Best way to tell: If you have a doubt that allows you to question whether or not to post it, you probably shouldn’t. I am fairly certain not following this rule contributed to me not getting a teaching position this summer.
Good luck out there. Those Who Can, Teach blog is always here for not-so-sage advice. Did I miss anything? Add in the Comments section!