Teaching is one of the most rewarding careers you can have. Whether you teach elementary, middle school, or high school, every day, you can leave work feeling as though you have really made a difference in teaching your students something new and helping them to become fully rounded members of society. However, it is also an undeniably stressful career choice at times and should not be embarked upon lightly. To help you to make the right decision for your career and lifestyle, here are three things to consider before becoming a teacher:
1. What age group would you like to teach?
As a teacher in the U.S., you have the choice of teaching students in several different age groups. Elementary school is a kindergarten through fifth grade (children aged 5-10), middle school is grades 6-8 (children aged 11-13), and high school is grades 9-12 (ages 14-18). Children in each different age group and at different stages of their development require slightly different teaching and pastoral care approaches. When embarking on a teacher training degree program, you can choose to specialize in a particular age group; for example, a MED in Secondary Education at Merrimack College will enable you to teach in either a middle school or a high school. When making your decision, it can help you get some experience in different schools to see which age group you prefer.
2. Is there a subject you want to specialize in, or do you prefer a variety?
You might have a particular passion for history and an ability to put it across in an engaging and thought-provoking way, or you might enjoy theatre and inspiring kids to express themselves through drama. If you have a particular passion for individual subjects such as these, perhaps studying this as a major in your Bachelor’s degree and becoming a high school teacher of the subject could be the path for you. Alternatively, you might prefer the breadth of teaching that elementary school provides – with one class per academic year, you will teach most subjects from math to history. Bear in mind, however, that you could still put your specialization to good use in an elementary school setting. Teachers who can inspire kids in math, science subjects, and gym class are highly sought after.
3. Are you ready for the commitment?
As a teacher, you’ll work from 8 am to 3 pm, the hours that the kids are in school, right? Wrong. Teaching is not a job in which you can do your hours and then forget about it until your next shift. Rather, it is a vocation that requires a lot of hard work and dedication. In addition to teaching lessons, you have to make time to plan lessons and mark your students’ work and attend after school meetings and functions. However, this hard work is rewarded by relatively decent annual vacation time and salary level.