I was a teacher. Both my parents were teachers. I thought it was in my blood.
So I spent years at college, I got my certification, and I went into the classroom.
And within 2 years, I quit.
I thought being a teacher would be a good job because:
- It pays a middle-class wage (where I lived).
- You get summers off.
- You can spend your vacation with your children.
- There’s excellent job security.
- I enjoy teaching.
- I get along pretty well with children.
And I still think all of those points are true.
Some people love being teachers.
But it just wasn’t for me. And here’s why.
Is Being a Teacher a Good Job?
Being a teacher is a good job for many people. Many people absolutely love the profession. They get to wake up every day and motivate, educate, and even have fun with their students.
But I think you do need some essential skills and key qualities to be a good teacher. You need to:
- Enjoy hard work.
- Be patient.
- Be able to handle kids.
- Be creative.
- Be motivated.
Notice that I didn’t say you need to “be smart” or “have gotten top grades at school”. I do think you need some essential skills and knowledge (the spelling problems I see on teachers’ notes are dreadful). But I don’t think these are the core skills you need.
You can teach yourself to spell. It’s harder to teach yourself patience and motivation.
Advantages of Being a Teacher
1. The Creative Freedom
This was my favorite aspect of teaching.
While there’s always a busy curriculum that you need to follow, you can also insert your own personality in all of your lesson plans. Coming up with fun and educational lessons for your students really satisfies that itch for creativity.
A teacher can really be as creative as they want. Personally, there was always a lot of art and craft in my classrooms. I always tried to find a way to make my lessons engaging and interactive. And I relished in the creative aspects of my teaching.
2. The Fulfilment
This is possibly the biggest long-term benefit of being a teacher.
When a student learns something new or thanks you for helping them achieve a breakthrough, it feels really good. Even teaching a highly successful lesson feels great.
And then there’s the compounding effect of this over years. By the time you reach retirement, you can look back at a highly successful career where you genuinely did good for this world and your community.
3. The Pay
Being a teacher doesn’t pay all that well. But, in many places, it pays a good middle-class wage. The strong union roots of the teaching profession means you usually have a decent seat at the bargaining table to keep you wages in the middle-class bracket. My friends and family who are teachers work in Washington State, and they get paid quite well. But according to WalletHub, teachers don’t get treated nearly as well in states like New Hampshire and New Mexico.
4. The Holidays
It’s true – you do get nice long summer holidays. You also usually get a bit of time off here and there throughout the school year, such as over the Christmas break. A savvy and budget conscious teacher could do well with those holidays by taking camping trips or even cheap overseas vacations.
5. The Job Security
There’s no doubt that some teachers do lose their jobs. If school districts merge or a town population shrinks, you’re in trouble.
Furthermore, finding a full-time gig can be tough straight out of college. You’re often jumping from one short-term contract to the next for a few years before you really land that full-time job you want.
But, look, we’re in a different world today. It’s not 1985. There isn’t an endless supply of jobs down the street in the local factory.
The one thing I can say is this: compared to other careers, there are a lot of good permanent jobs in teaching and there always will be.
We will always need teachers. So you’ll be able to find work somewhere. And with time, you’ll land that full-time salaried position that will last for decades.
6. The Fun
It’s true. Teaching can be really fun.
And I think that’s the primary reason most people go into teaching. They feel as if they have fun with children and young adults. They like seeing young people enjoying themselves and bettering themselves.
Just beware that your job isn’t primarily to have fun, or even to make sure your students have fun while learning. They reason you teach is to educate students, and that sometimes comes above ‘having fun’.
7. The Family Time
Being a teacher is often a great choice for parents. Your work time and your child’s school time perfectly overlap. If your kids go to the school you teach at, you can drive them to and from school so easily. There’s little need for babysitting, really.
And when your children are on holidays, so are you. So you can spend that great family time together, which can be amazing for your kids growing up.
8. The Sense of Community
You really do get a sense that you’re part of a community. The job is very social. You get to know the parents, who are all members of the community who you run into at the shops all the time. It doesn’t take long before you’re a well-known member of your community, especially if you teach in a smaller town.
Now that I’m not teaching anymore, I do genuinely miss the social aspects of the job. I don’t have nearly as big or busy a social presence now.
Disadvantages of Being a Teacher
1. The Pay
I mentioned the pay as an advantage (above). I’d also class it as a disadvantage. It’s decent, but never great.
As testament to this, many teachers use their Summer off to get a part-time job that can top up their income. I remember my father (a former teacher) working a second job to pay the mortgage at one point while I was growing up.
Furthermore, if you’re a financially ambitious person, you’ll find the pay very disappointing. There’s not much of a chance to pursue high income or early retirement. You’re resigned to working into your sixties unless you have another income stream.
As someone who’s motivated by money, I’m much happier running my own business where my income grows with the more effort I put in (which is what I do nowadays).
2. The Children
Here’s another thing that I thought was going to be a big pro of teaching. I do genuinely get along with most kids.
But then I realized there are some really rough kids in this world. In fact, children don’t have very good emotional intelligence at all. They will try to manipulate you, catch you out if you contradict yourself, and ask prying personal questions.
Just remember – the kids you teacher aren’t your kids. They’re not going to be well-behaved, obedient or even fun to be around all the time.
And because they’re kids, you’ve really got to endure it and can’t just get real with them and tell them what you really think of their attitudes.
3. The Discipline Aspect
Disciplining students really is no fun at all. In fact, even if you’ve got a really good group of students, there’s still a lot of time wasted reiterating rules and the importance of good behavior.
And if you’ve got a tough group, well, good luck. I’d hate to count the number of hours I’ve wasted in my life disciplining students instead of enjoying productive lessons with them.
And it’s not because I’m a “bad teacher”. Ask any teacher and they will tell you that they spend a lot of time setting rules and boundaries, then repeating them over and over again.
In fact, I can still hear that shrill teacher voice that we all manage to master: “Excuuuse me!! Do you think that’s the correct way to behave, Jason? What would your mother say, Jason?”
I found it insufferable before long. It was insufferable not only using that condescending tone of voice myself but hearing it from my colleagues across the playground.
Believe me – you think you won’t be “that teacher”. But every teacher is “that teacher” who uses the condescending teacher voice at some time or other. It’s hard not to, because that’s the only thing that cuts through sometimes.
This is one thing I did love about becoming a professor instead (that’s what I did after giving up school teaching). I didn’t have to discipline adults. They’d developed a bit more self-control by the time they got to college.
4. The Parents
Oh my, believe me. If you want to know why a kid’s got issues, just get on the phone with their parents.
That misbehaving kid? Yeah, there’s at least a decent chance they’re like that at school because they get away with it at home. Their parents are just as bad. They’ll come to you demanding things, defending their child’s attitude, and framing you as some sort of ‘bad guy’.
Most parents are great. Really, amazing! The delicious treats they send to school, the ‘thank you teacher messages’ they send, and the support they provide is amazing.
Even the parents of some tough kids are incredibly supportive because they understand what you’re going through with their child.
But no matter how good a teacher you are, you’ll run into these ‘storming parents’ pretty regularly. It’s just the society we live in today.
5. The Homework
Your work day doesn’t end when the bell rings. You go home, you feed your family, you put your kids to bed, then you spend another 3 hours preparing lessons for the next day.
And you do that year upon year upon year.
I’ve got to admit I know some teachers (just quietly – math teachers) who do zero work outside of school hours. They also usually have very, very boring lessons that haven’t changed in 20 years.
But growing up with a mother and father who were both teachers, I didn’t see much of them in the evenings. They were always locked away preparing their lessons. And I was the same when I was a teacher.
6. The Rules
I’ve never, ever, been in another job where during my lunch hour I wasn’t allowed to leave the grounds of the institution.
But as a teacher, it was sometimes like I was a child. I had to stay in the staff room during my lunch break. I couldn’t go down the street to buy a sandwich.
And if there’s a rewards night, you better bet you won’t be paid to attend. A concert night? You’re there. A weekend sporting event? You’re there. And you aren’t going to get any extra pay for it.
I really did feel like I was treated like a bit of a child by the higher-ups when I was a teacher.
Why are Teachers Leaving the Profession?
According to Forbes, teacher quit in huge numbers:
- One in six teachers quit within a year.
- One in four teachers quit within two years.
- One in three teachers quit within five years.
That’s a massive attrition rate for any profession. And there are some key reasons for this.
1. Lack of Respect
It’s a thankless job sometimes. Parents regularly blame teachers and take their children’s side on issues. Government and school boards don’t trust teachers and impose a lot of red tape on them. So teachers, feel squeezed in a position where they’ve got no support from anyone, anywhere.
2. Starting Salary
I’ve already mentioned that teachers can usually get middle-class salaries (depending on where you’re teaching). But there’s no doubting that the starting salary is usually pretty terrible, meaning there’s not much of an incentive to hang around.
3. Job Stress & Burnout
The hours are long. And it’s a huge responsibility to be in charge of 20 – 30 students for 6 to 7 hours per day. You’ve got to entertain them the whole time. And then you go home, exhausted, and instead of resting … you get to write lesson plans into the night. It’s a lot of work. Really. A lot. So, a lot of us burn out fast.
What Did I do After I Quit Teaching?
I became a university professor. Which I liked a lot better. But, I subsequently quit that, too. To be honest, I’m just not cut out to wake up and work on someone else’s time every day. I feel resentful for it. And I’m not motivated to work for others.
In other words, I’m too selfish to teach.
I’ve since started a business making content websites – like the one you’re reading right now. And I’m a lot happier in my business. I still get to create teaching materials in my business (it’s a large part of it, actually). But I also get to wake up when I want, do the work I want, and work toward my own projects and personal goals.
Conclusion: Is Being a Teacher Worth It?
After all is said and done, I’d say being a teacher is worth it if you were able to get to the end of this article and still say: “yes, it sounds good to me”. You’ve had an honest look at the profession from someone who decided teaching wasn’t for them.
And if you still think the profession sounds good now you have clear-eyed view, then you might be one of the many teachers who absolutely loves the profession.
You know about both the pros and cons of teaching, and that’s the most important thing.
The last thing I’d say is that you learn a lot of “Transferrable Skills” when you learn to teach. Among other things, you learn teamwork, patience, the ability to communicate, and the ability to defuse situations. So at the end of the day, if you do go into the profession, remember that you can leave and find another career at a later date.