by: Rose Pompey
If you’re reading this post you probably already know something about the state of education in the US today, and you probably have some idea of all the pressures and struggles teachers are facing now. I’m not here to dispute any of these problems; in fact, I face them every day. I teach at a large title one middle school in the Denver area, and even though I’ve only been teaching about a year and a half I’ve been through and witnessed most of the problems commonly discussed in education today. Despite all of the crazy stories, long days, and the sheer exhaustion of being a first year teacher, I am here to tell anyone who wants to hear it that teaching is still a profession worth going into. Really, I mean it. Teaching is the best job I have ever had and I’ve had a lot of jobs.
Now, the first reason to go into teaching is a rather cliched one: to make a difference. I am starting with this because as cliche as it it, I believe it is one of the most important reasons. If you are thinking about teaching, you have almost certainly thought about the prospect of making a difference in a student’s life. It’s why most of us go into teaching, and it’s the most rewarding part of the job. It’s also one of the hardest parts of the job. I work with middle school students, mostly 11 and 12 year olds. My students are not easy to get through to, and they don’t always think they need or want help. Their lives are hard and school isn’t always a priority for them. The rare occasions when they admit that you helped them, though, make it all worth it. I’m not going to lie. I have days when I get frustrated. Days when it seems that not even one single student will listen to me, days when the endless meetings and paperwork make me question if I will ever have the time to work with an actual student, and days when all the things like the low salary, lack of professional esteem, and long hours make me want to quit. Then I remember the student who told me he now loves history because of my class, or the student who told me that my class makes her whole morning better, or the student who told me I saved his life after I made him go see a counselor.
My second reason to go into teaching is because it’s fun. I get to spend my days working with kids. I laugh every day, sometimes it’s with the kids and other times it’s not, but either way they make me laugh. I know there are twitter accounts dedicated to the funny things little kids say, but you know what, middle school students say some funny stuff too. Also, I don’t have to work in a cubicle all day. I get to be in my classroom walking around and talking about stuff I’m interested in. Sometimes I even get to go on field trips. Oh, and don’t forget about the long breaks that make things like traveling and hobbies easier to fit into your life. Now, I don’t want you to get the idea that I’m saying teacher work fewer hours. We work the same number of hours, they are just distributed differently. If you’re okay with extra long days and some weekend hours during the school year, in exchange you get things like winter break, spring break, and summer vacation. This is an exchange that works well for me.
Last, but not least on my list of reasons to go into teaching is education reform. The fact that our education system is a mess is not a reason to stay out of teaching. It is the number one reason to go into to it. One of my all time favorite quotes is from Margot Mead: “Never believe that a few caring people can’t change the world. For, indeed, that’s all who ever have.” These two sentences perfectly encapsulate why we need people to go into teaching, especially young people. Millennials are the generation who have been raised in this increasingly dysfunctional educational system. We are the people who have been affected by this and we are the people who can change it. If we want the system to change then we have to stand up and change it. Not everyone wants to fight this fight in large part because it is not easy and a lot of people are saying it’s impossible to win. I disagree. This is a fight that we can and will win, but we need more people to step up and join the ranks. If you care about the future of our children and our society then we need you to join in and help us make these changes.
If you are thinking about going into teaching, I hope this has given you some food for thought. If you’re not and you thought it was interesting, I hope you think about passing this one to someone who is. Thanks for giving this a read, and I hope you come back to the site.
Rose is a December 2013 graduate from the University of Northern Colorado. She is finishing her first full year of teaching at a large title one middle school in the Denver metro area. Rose teaches 6th social studies and sheltered 6th grade social studies for English language learners. She loves teaching and reading. She is also a huge trekkie.