They may not make star salaries, but teachers wield more power than most A-list celebrities. Think about it. Who else but a teacher can instruct a child to read, do long division and help shape their futures? Teachers have that ability.
And for the right person, teaching can be a very rewarding career. “It’s really exciting to work with young people and feed off their energy,” writes Brad Olsen, editor of The Teacher’s Toolkit.
Cris Nuñez, an instructor at a Philadelphia public elementary school, spends an entire day with one third grade class. He teaches a half-day in Spanish and another half in English. “By 3:00, I am exhausted. It’s a physically demanding sort of job,” he says.
Don’t expect a typical day as a teacher. From the moment you enter the classroom to the time you leave, you will be on call. When you are with students, you are teaching; when your students leave for lunch or recess, you are preparing a lesson plan for the next class. Parents, administrators, colleagues and students will constantly bombard you with questions, advice and reminders. Your day does not end after the bell rings. After work, you will grade homework, prepare quizzes and possibly meet with parents or students. As for those vacation days during the summer — some of that time will be spent developing lesson plans for next semester or teaching summer school.
Teaching qualifications vary by state, grade level and subject area. By and large, an undergraduate degree is a requirement to become a teacher. Elementary and middle school teachers must take certain education classes and practice teaching during college. Aspiring secondary school teachers will also need to take extra coursework in one subject, like history. There are often exams one must pass as well to receive necessary credentials. Other types of teachers, such as those who work in special education, may require additional certification.
Again, this varies by state, so be sure to talk to an admission counselor about the programs a college or university offers and how they fit in with state requirements.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov), salaries for teachers vary by region, level of training, experience and grade level. According to the BLS, the median income rests somewhere between $38,680 and $55,510. Special education teachers and those with a masters or doctoral degree can earn much more than a teacher fresh out of college.
Yet no one enters the profession because of the salary alone. Or in Nuñez’s words, “If you really invest time and interest in your classroom, going to work every day is fun. Kids are funny, engaging and, through your influence, they can grow.”