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Pros & Cons of Being a Teacher

People are drawn to teach for a variety of reasons, though common among them are: to change the lives of and inspire students and to give back to the community.[1] The education sector encompasses a vast array of different kinds of teachers, encompassing K-12 schools as well as many institutions of higher learning at the college and university setting. In 2018 alone, public schools in the United States employed about 3.2 million full time teachers in the elementary and secondary school setting and taught approximately 56.6 million students. [2]

While education is a necessary public service, it’s also an incredibly lucrative industry, generating revenues upwards of $400 billion in the United States alone. [2] Considering that formal education used to only be available to a small percentage of the population before 1850, these numbers reflect a desire for education that continues to grow, offering more opportunities for new teachers every day. [2] There are, however, pros and cons to being a teacher.

Benefits of Being a Teacher

The best benefits of being a teacher are the least tangible. Perhaps the most important benefit is the ability to directly affect and change students’ lives. [3] Many teachers report numerous intangible rewards, such as receiving love and admiration from students, the ability to influence the minds of tomorrow, [4], the freedom to create a work environment they love, and the ability to inspire others. [5].

There are also concrete reasons to be a teacher, such as earning a decent living at a meaningful profession. According to the Bureau of Labor statistics, as of 2017 in the United States, K-12 teachers earned between $58,000 and $91,000. Many teaching jobs also offer health benefits, and some offer pension plans. [6]

We are also living in a time of increased access to resources and digital tools that can help teachers expand their own knowledge and teaching style [7] as well as help with stress management for teachers.

Disadvantages of Being a Teacher

Of course, even the best jobs come with downsides. There are many challenges of being a teacher. Education budgets are often the first to be slashed, forcing schools to have to do more with less, putting a greater burden on teachers. They often have to work longer hours or take on too many students to make up for reductions in staff, pay out of pocket for supplies the school can’t fund, or go without supplies. One U.S. Census analysis found that 29 states provided less funding overall per student in 2015 than they had in the 2008 school year. [8]

These burdens trickle down to teachers’ personal and professional lives. They may struggle with sleep, feel overworked, or suffer mood disturbances, which can affect how they teach, as well as their relationships with students and colleagues. [9] Teachers need to be proactive in keeping ahead of their stress and workload in order to be the best at their job.

How To Be A Good Teacher

The most successful teachers learn to take advantage of stress management tools when they recognize the signs. Studies have shown that such techniques as self-reflection, cognitive restructuring (reframing negative thinking) meditation, massage, and exercise can help break the stress cycle to improve how teachers feel and thus teach. [9]

However, in general, there are some essential skills needed to be a teacher that anyone thinking about this career should build and work on in advance:

  • Be resilient. Resilience, the ability to bounce back from challenges, is essential to being a strong teacher. In order to be resilient teachers need to be able to identify their emotions, look for and tell empowering stories (rather than negative ones), build a support network of peers and colleagues who can show up in troubling times, and remember to practice self-care.[10]
  • Stay organized. Organization is simply a necessary key to running a classroom environment where anyone can effectively learn. Organization prevents waste of time and materials, and helps keep students on task. [11]It also provides a strong framework for students to learn, facilitates better classroom management, and gives a teacher confidence in their work. [12]
  • Be a good communicator. Teaching is communicating, in a nutshell. Strong communication skills allow a teacher to effectively reach the greatest number of students at once. Good teachers learn to reduce barriers to communication, hone interpersonal skills and, and listen as much as they talk. Good communication is built upon clear, well-reasoned thought processes. [13]

Teaching can be one of the most rewarding careers a person takes on, or the most difficult, depending upon how you approach it. There  are also many different forms of teaching if you are looking for something more specialized. You can be a special education teacher, teacher of the visually impaired, or even a sign-language interpreter!

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