Yesterday I visited a new blog being written by a young lady in college. She enjoys writing, but that is not the full-time career she is pursuing. Instead, she is currently majoring to be an elementary school teacher. You can read the post that caught my eye here https://mycollegeodyssey.wordpress.com/2015/01/13/back-on-track/ This blog post reminded me a lot of a question that I and other veteran teachers get asked pretty regularly: would you recommend teaching as a career to a student today? Everyone has their own opinion. Many of us that are cynical will reply that we would never recommend this career to someone today because of the current political climate of "blame the teacher" or whatever difficulties are going on in their local district. Still others, almost with tears in their eyes, will reply that it is the greatest job you could ever have because you get to see the light in children's eyes as they learn. I'm not denigrating or disagreeing with either of these answers. Sometimes it depends on the grade level that you teach. Sometimes it depends on the school you teach in. Sometimes it even depends on what time of day you ask the question.
So, as a teacher, what would I answer. My answer is that it depends on who you are. This career is not for everyone. There are those that believe that anyone can be qualified to be a teacher. There are even those that believe that teaching shouldn't be a career, but instead something else you do after you have a lot of experience in another field. I say that people who subscribe to those beliefs haven't been in charge of a classroom. The truth is that teaching requires a special type of person that has a very specific kind of patience. It isn't necessarily the patience to do your grading or deal with upset parents or politicians making policies that pile more onto your workload, although that patience is necessary as well. You have to be the kind of person that has patience to wait for inspiration.
Inspiration for a teacher usually comes from only one place: our students. Better pay would be wonderful. More respect from policymakers would be glorious. If you get into the field of education for either money or respect than you will not remain long, even if those things were in abundance. You have to be in education for your students or you will not stay. I don't mean that your entire life should center around your students. Heaven knows that teachers usually sacrifice their social lives for their careers. I mean that when the day is over and the lights are off and you are trying to find that blissful sleep, you should be able to bring a smile to your face because of something that a student has said for you. Some teachers are fortunate enough to find these little bits of inspiration every day with their students. A lot of the teachers of higher grade levels find the inspiration a little more rarely but just as powerfully when they receive a note, letter, e-mail, or contact from a former student that wants to thank them for some long forgotten gesture that helped steer that student in a new direction. This must be the fuel that keeps you going each day.
So whether or not I would recommend this career to someone depends on who that someone is. Are they someone who can wait for that inspiration? There are times when you might go for a full year or two before finding that inspiration again. Do you have the patience to stick it out, put everything you can into a school year that might be stressing you to inhuman levels, and still push your students towards success? If that one letter can inspire you for years, if that one smile or flicker of understanding can get you through the day, then welcome to the Teacher's Club. Our dues are steep, but membership definitely has its privileges.