Becoming a teacher can seem like a pretty sweet gig. School holidays, work days that go from 9am till 3pm and a break at recess and lunch can seem better than your regular 9-5 job. A four year university degree doesn’t seem too hard, plus, if you’re going into a primary school with young kids surely it’s not going to be that hard to teach ‘em the basics?
But let me tell you, teaching isn’t the breeze everyone seems to think it is and if you’re becoming a teacher just because it seems easy, or you can’t make a decision about what you’re actually keen on doing, you should probably reconsider.
1. Teaching requires a tonne of work
Those 9am till 3pm hours? Never happens. At the bare minimum you’ll be in your classroom by 8am (but probably earlier) getting prepped for the day. Recess and lunch will be prime time for marking, catching up on paper work or getting ready for the afternoon lesson–that’s if you manage to dodge playground duty or drama practice in the school hall. And don’t think that as soon as the school bell rings at the end of the day you’ll be out of there with the kids- you’ll have marking to do, reports to write, parents to deal with, faculty meetings, school discos, excursions and lesson plans for the next day to create.
Say goodbye to weekends, especially while you figure out how you’re going to handle your work load and be prepared to cart worksheets, notebooks and folders home with you, so you can catch up before the next week starts. Photocopying, making worksheets, washing paintbrushes, sticking up art projects and collecting egg cartons become a part of day to day life and your internet history will be made up of Google searches for textbooks, Pinterest boards with good ideas for the classroom and constant purchases from Officeworks.
2. School holidays? Not for you
On top of the usual four weeks of annual leave, teachers don’t have to head into school while the students are holidays. But don’t think that this means becoming a teacher means you’ll have a massive amount of time off. While you won’t be in your classroom teaching, chances are you’ll spend a fair chunk of your ‘holidays’ working- you’ll be talking to other teachers about what kids will be in your class, packing up your old classroom and getting settled in a new one. Plus, while you can get away with not having to mark or chat to parents during the holidays, there’s still a heap of stuff you’ll need to do to get yourself ready for the next year.
3. A teacher will see the best and worst of students
Teachers are pretty lucky that they get to some of the best parts of working with kids. From lightbulb moments where kids suddenly get something and it all clicks into place, to seeing tiny faces completely mesmerised by the book they’re reading or managing to snag an invite to a six year olds birthday party because they genuinely want their favourite teacher to be there.
But teachers also see some of the worst parts–when students are frustrated, or angry, sad, hysterical and silent. They see first hand what happens to a kid when their grandparents die, or their parents get divorced. They spend hours after the final bell has rung, waiting with kids whose parents turn up over an hour late to pick them up. They have conversations with counsellors, and parents and principals about students who are having a rough time at home and have to make heart breaking reports to protection services when students are in trouble.
Teaching can be incredibly rewarding. But it’s also incredibly tough and deserves more than just being considered as a ‘back up’. Stats show that teachers are ditching the profession in massive numbers- with the ABS research suggesting that 53% of people who hold a teaching degree don’t currently work in education. There’s plenty of reasons for this (lack of resources and support being a major one) so it’s worth pointing out that teaching isn’t the effortless job you might think it is. Every teacher that has had a major impact on your life has invested a tonne of hard work, energy, money and dedication into a career that is so important, but also so undervalued and underestimated.
If you read all this and realise that despite all the hard work, possible tears and exhaustion, teaching is something you genuinely want to do then go for it- we need more teachers like you.