Talk to a teacher for any amount of time and you’re bound to hear some grumbling. The pay stinks, the hours are unforgiving, the students can be unbearable and the parents can be even worse. And they’re right — being a teacher is frequently frustrating, often thankless and always tiring.
It’s also the best profession on earth. Here’s why.
Teachers Change Lives for a Living
An accountant might draw pride from getting the numbers right, and pilots might feel good when the wheels hit the tarmac and everyone arrives safely. But only teachers boast a job description that reads “change lives.” We are shepherds leading our flock out of the darkness. We are the flames that ignite the passion for learning. What we do in the classroom will echo in our students’ lives for decades to come.
It may be hard to see it through the fog of chaos and clamor and exasperation that the job brings. But we get the rare privilege of shaping pliable minds, boosting self-esteem and removing barriers.
Teachers Change the World
We often talk about politicians, corporations and major organizations making the seismic shifts that alter our society and shape our world. Teachers affect society in incrementally smaller but no less impactful ways. In fact, you could argue that in a broad sense, teachers are the most profound change-makers, paradigm-shifters, and world-shakers around.
The knowledge we impart to our charges grants power. With this power, we are altering their trajectory in life — they can reach higher education, find meaningful jobs and fulfill their potential. And it’s more than just reading, writing and arithmetic or rote memorization.
While those things are important, it’s our position as role models and guidance-givers that tells students they can follow a dream; they can find a passion and use it to contribute to the world in significant ways regardless of their circumstances, their lack of economic might or their impediments.
If all of that sounds flowery, don’t worry. There are hard data coming up.
Teaching is Fulfilling
Despite all the challenges, the strikes, and the well-earned complaints, teachers are a satisfied lot. The Institute of Education Sciences at the National Center for Education Statistics conducted surveys of American teachers in the 2003–04, 2007–08, and 2011–12 school years.
When asked if they were satisfied with their jobs, at least 9 out of ten teachers responded “yes.” Teachers in private schools were generally more satisfied — 95 percent, 93 percent, and 95 percent in 2003–04, 2007–08 and 2011–12, respectively — but even public school teachers were more satisfied in their jobs than many other professions (91 percent, 93 percent and 90 percent in 2003–04, 2007–08 and 2011–12).
A study conducted by the University of Chicago found that Psychologists (66.9 percent), Operating Engineers (64.1 percent), Office Supervisors (60.8 percent) and Security & Financial Services Salespersons (65.4 percent) all had lower levels of satisfaction. The key to this sense of satisfaction? Experts say it lies in finding work that’s engaging, involves helping others and contributes to the world — all of which teaching does.
Americans also see teaching as prestigious. A study by Harris Research found that people see teachers on the same level as military officers and above police officers, athletes, architects, and even clergy.
How to Land a Job as a Teacher
Look at your hands — they’re already dusted with chalk in anticipation. Now that you’re convinced, here are a few clever ways to find the perfect teaching job.
Look for shortages. One of the best ways to increase your chances of getting hired is to look for the places teachers are needed the most. The U.S. Department of Education runs a site dedicated to this. Pop in your state, enter the year and it will spit out the areas with the most need.
For instance, for the 2020-2021 academic school year, the state of Arizona especially needs early childhood special education teachers and Texas may be on the lookout for English as Second Language teachers. This is a great way to find a job tailored to your niche, whether it’s art, music or math. You can also find historical areas of need here.
Keep the resume but get a digital portfolio. Resumes can be a great tool and they’re still the standard, but they can only go so far when it comes to showcasing your experience, demonstrating how you’d thrive in a classroom and letting potential employers know what makes you tick. Digital portfolios can accomplish this if you use them correctly.
ePortfolios aren’t just a resume and cover letter uploaded to a portfolio hosting site. You’ll want to include things like your teaching philosophy, letters of recommendation and education-related experience (even if it’s just from an educator prep course). Many aspiring teachers get creative and add narration, video, graphics, and links to other works.
Of course, no one needs your entire life story. Keep everything professional and focused on what would make you a great teacher. If you’ve got a passion for it, it’ll translate here better than a resume.
For your interview, prepare, prepare and then prepare a little more. Once you’ve landed an interview, preparation is critical. They’ll want to know about you — how you’ve handled challenges, how you might respond to hypothetical classroom issues and your approach to teaching — but you should know about them, too.
What were there standardized test scores last year? What programs do they offer? How many children are on the reduced lunch program? All of this info is available on state education websites and it’ll give you a chance to let your new employer know how you can be a part of the team.
Teaching is tough, challenging and full of disappointments. But for the select few who answer the call to be leaders and devote their lives to generations of children, it’s also supremely fulfilling.