Most teachers find that there is no other career as rewarding as this one. Many of them stay in the classroom for a lifetime, even remaining as a substitute after they decide to retire. Fran Zimmerman from New Glarus, WI is one of many teachers who fit this description, having 64 years of experience in the classroom. Even though she officially retired in 1997 according to the Post Messenger Recorder, she continued to stay active in the district. In 2019, Mrs. Zimmerman received a Crystal Apple Award, one of only five teachers in the state to do so.
Teaching is a labor of love. Those who enter this career are looking forward to a long career that involves education students, seeking administrative positions, and a positive impact on curriculum development. Some teachers even get involved with school system planning, charter school creation, or private school development.
If you want to work in a public school in the United States in the K-12 educational system, then you most hold at least a bachelor’s degree. Anyone teaching students under the fifth grade will need to have a focus on elementary education. The only exception would be a preschool teacher who can begin with an associate degree in some states. High school teachers must usually major is a content area, with some states pushing this requirement for fifth grade and higher.
Do you want to follow in the footsteps of Mrs. Zimmerman and teachers like her one day? Then there are the pros and cons of this career to consider.
List of the Pros of Being a Teacher
1. Teaching at any level allows you to have access to multiple job opportunities.
When you decide to pursue teaching as a career, then you can find a job almost anywhere in the world. You have an opportunity to chase after a subject that you’re passionate about while inspiring others to kindle their own love for the material. If you decide to teach children, then you will give them the core lessons that will help them to pursue their dreams. Teaching adults allows you to prepare others for their next step in life or stage of their career. That means you can enjoy some flexibility in where you choose to settle while never needing to compromise on what you do.
2. Teachers have access to a generous compensation package.
Most teachers receive a reasonable remuneration bundle which includes vacation time and sick pay that can be taken throughout the school year. The healthcare insurance perks are usually above what workers would get in other careers, although there can be some disparity between the private, charter, and public institutions with this advantage.
Being a teacher in the United States qualifies you to store more cash into tax-advantaged retirement plans in some circumstances as well. That means you get to take some time off when you need it without disturbing the connections you form with your pupils.
3. You will always experience something new every day as a teacher.
There is something different which invariably happens during each school day when you work as a teacher at any level. Although you are repeating the same curriculum to several periods during the day, you will see that no two classes are the same. Each collection of students will exhibit a unique personality that you correlate with during that time. You’ll find yourself looking forward to the conversations and responsibilities that happen in each hourly period every day.
No two students are identical either, which can generate some unusual challenges at every level of learning. It also means that you’re always thinking on your feet, ready to come up with a brilliant solution to a problem that someone might have. There can be some annoying elements to teaching, but you’re not doing it right if you feel bored by your occupation.
4. Teachers get to decide the subjects they wish to pursue.
When you decide to become a teacher, then you can choose to instruct in a specialized field if you wish. Even an elementary education degree allows you to focus on a specific segment of the educational process. You may notice an administrative expectation to have more expertise in your chosen field than the other subjects you’re asked to carry, but you are always in charge of this process. Even when you need to develop time-consuming assignments for students at the high school or college level, you’ll discover that an opportunity to pursue what you love will help you to enjoy a lifelong career.
5. Besides their parents, teachers are the heroes for the next generation.
There are times as a teacher when your students will see you as the only person that they can rely on to give them relevant advice. You will see moments when a small effort at positivity can produce dividends for many years down the road. You are serving as a role model with your work in this career, but you are also someone who is much larger than life. You are a hero, a listener, a mentor, an instructor, a coach, a friend, a leader, and a source of strength.
If you work in a rural school district, then you get to fulfill these roles for a couple hundred students or so each year. Some have the privilege of influencing thousands of students with their positive energy. This career really can take you as far and as high as you want to go.
6. Teachers tend to get more days off each year than other career options.
You will get a lot of time off each year if you decide to start working as a teacher. There is no other career that will give you the entire summer off with a guarantee that you can come into the same position. There are also several different holidays that you can take off each year where other jobs would ask people to come to work. You’ll get a week off during the spring in most districts, two weeks off during the holidays in December, and a guaranteed 4-day weekend at Thanksgiving (if not more).
Even with all of this time off, you still have the option for vacation days, sick time, and other benefits that other careers offer. You might find yourself working longer hours during the week, but you’ll have plenty of time to rest at the end of the year.
7. You get to embrace your love of learning every day as a teacher.
Your work as a teacher means that you get to learn something new every day. Whether your focus is on elementary education or you’re a college professor, there will be regular moments that force you out of your comfort zone. Students can ask tough questions, and you might not have any answers to provide. There could be daily moments when you’re forced to re-evaluate who you are, what you think, and your opinions on a variety of subjects.
You’re also working with a fantastic set of co-workers who are passionate about the same things you are in this career. The diversity of subjects and experiences can help you to gain a new perspective on life that you can then relay to your students.
8. Teachers help to create moments of understanding for their students.
One of the great joys of being a teacher is that you get to see your students piecing the dots together every day with the lessons they go through. They can experience the wonder of historical stories, test their ideas and theories in meaningful ways, or embrace the satisfaction that occurs when a difficult math problem is solved correctly. How you decide to approach life will become part of each student’s identity. That means you get to have a positive impact on people at any age level in ways that can last for a lifetime. Not many other careers offer that kind of opportunity.
9. The bonds that you form with students never go away.
Whether you see your students for about an hour each day or you’re with them for six hours going through core elementary instruction, the relationships you form with the prolonged contact over a semester or calendar year will stick with you just as much as it does with them. Your love for learning can take the entire classroom toward lessons that you may have never imagined at the start of the school session.
When you can convey this love and make it infectious, then you can have the same level of impact on your community like Mrs. Zimmerman had with hers. Not only can you teach today’s kids the lessons that they need for success, but you can also teach their kids one day, and even their grandchildren in some situations. No other career has that level of influence.
10. You get to enjoy a friendly workplace experience in most schools.
When you have a classroom full of kids all staring at you with some level of expectation, then the experience can feel intimidating during your first years as a teacher. Some people even wash out of this career because they feel like their administrators put them on an island instead of giving them the help that they feel they need. Even with this challenge, you will discover plenty of support is available from your fellow teachers, TAs, and administrators in most school districts.
There are people around you who will listen to your concerns. You can ask others for ideas on how to solve challenging behaviors As a teacher, you get to be part of a team that works together to improve the lives of your students every day.
11. Teachers get to be a confidante for some students.
Teachers should never put themselves into a position where they keep the secrets of their students. What you can experience in this role is an opportunity to listen to a student when no one else seems to care about their needs. You can help some kids to start managing their challenging family situations. If one of your pupils chooses you as their trusted advisor or mentor, then that is one of the best feelings in the world.
List of the Cons of Being a Teacher
1. You must take a realistic look at the hours you are going to be working.
Teachers at every grade level put in a full eight hours in the classroom every day in some way. Even in the elementary grades when the kids are at a specialist, you’re going to be working on grading papers, updating the curriculum, or preparing for the next instructional lessons. There are after-school meetings that teachers often need to attend as part of their work day. It is not unusual to be at school an hour before the day begins and 2-3 hours after the final bell. Then you might be grading papers at home, reviewing test results, or creating the lesson plan for the next day.
Most teachers put in more than 50 hours per week during the school year. It is not unusual for some weeks to stretch into 60 or 70 hours when there are mandatory educational meetings to attend and long assignments to grade.
2. Specialized teachers instruct the same lesson multiple times per day.
Even at the elementary school level as a specialist, you are going to be teaching the same lessons to multiple student groups every day. There is less variety in your curriculum because you are juggling multiple classes or periods. If you don’t like the idea of offering the same discussions 4-6 times daily, then a path toward elementary education or teaching in college might be a better option. Your boredom with the routine will translate into a lack of passion for your students, which creates multiple struggles that can even trigger classroom behaviors.
3. You will struggle to reach a handful of students every year.
Classroom behaviors are more challenging today than ever before to control because there may be individualized educational plans for multiple students to manage. There will be kids who never invest themselves into the learning process, no matter how much potential they display otherwise. Even those who achieve good grades consistently can get bored with the classroom environment and choose to misbehave as a way to cure their boredom.
You can pull your hair out as a teacher trying to find ways that will inspire students to continue learning. Each year, there will be someone who doesn’t care what you have to say or what you like to teach. It’s still your job to try to reach them, which can be challenging if you’re rejected so often.
4. Professional development days can suck the life out of you as a teacher.
School districts today offer an educational development process for their teachers that can take them out of the classroom for some learning opportunities. All-day sessions can even get you a paid day without students. You might prefer being anywhere else than there with some of the content you will encounter with these developmental days. You will have that one professional presenter who rags on what you do. Some administrators might question your loyalty to the school. You’ve still got papers to grade too. It can feel like a complete waste of time even when there are some interesting points to take away from the conversation.
5. Most teachers encounter an issue with their administration team at some point in their career.
There are times as a teacher when you need to make a gut call on what is right in the classroom. Even when you know that the solution you’ve implemented is the correct call, your administration might see things differently if a parent complains. Disruptive students typically have the most vocal parents supporting them, which means your hands can get tied if you need to take a corrective action while teaching. Your lesson plans might not be approved, or there might be an issue with the curriculum where there is no movement. Some ideas might receive vocal support, but not voting support. Frustration occurs frequently in this career, and you must find a way to cope with it.
6. Teachers don’t receive the best of pay.
The average salary for a teacher in the United States is around the median wage for what people earn in every industry across the country. Some schools are exempt from state compensation laws, which means you can earn less than $30,000 per year sometimes. If teaching is part of a public-sector union, then the cost of your healthcare benefits might be significantly higher as well. Although it is something that most teachers can make work for them in some way, it is a challenge compared to what some other people go through in their careers.
7. Most school districts don’t pay you during the summer.
You might get the opportunity to take the summer off as a teacher, but that doesn’t mean that you’ll be getting a paycheck during that time. Unless you are designed as administrative staff or have your salary parceled out all 12 months, the summertime requires extensive budgeting throughout the year to make it through successfully. One unexpected emergency can have you tapping deep into your savings account or credit cards. That’s why some teachers decide to take a part-time job during the summer – it helps them to make ends meet.
The pros and cons of being a teacher will challenge you for better and worse, but this could be said of most careers as well. For teachers like Fran Zimmerman, there is nothing that they would rather do. When you step into their shoes, you will usually find that the benefits far outweigh any of the disadvantages you might find.
Crystal Lombardo has been a staff writer for Future of Working for five years. She is a proud veteran and mother. If you have any questions about the content of this blog post, then please send our editor-in-chief a message here.