Should I be a Teacher? Questions to ask before committing to the profession

Every semester a student asks me the question, “Should I be a teacher?” The answer isn’t a clear “yes” or “no.” It’s a hard profession where you’re under constant ridicule from parents, students, other teachers, and society at large. Most days, you will go home exhausted. But, when you truly touch a student’s life in a meaningful way, suddenly it all seems worth it. 

Are You Ready to Work Hard?

When I started teaching 20 years ago, the statistics were daunting. More than half of all K-12 teachers stayed in the profession less than two years. No one is sure of the reason. Some think it’s because new teachers underestimate the amount of work it takes to teach effectively.

Sure, you might get to go home at 3 p.m., but you have to be at school around 7 a.m., and chances are, you’ll spend your evenings at home grading papers and preparing lesson plans. You’ll spend your weekends binge watching Netflix while grading essays. You’ll spend holidays planning for your next semester. Every new teacher underestimates the amount of planning it takes to teach effectively.

In truth, even I left K-12 teaching after three years. I finished my first master’s degree and became a community college professor and instructional designer. I didn’t want to leave teaching—I wanted to leave parents. College teaching is just as hard and don’t let anyone tell you differently. But, I can stand behind FERPA laws and avoid talking to parents, at least, most of the time. I did have a 30-year old’s mother yell at me for flunking her daughter for plagiarizing Wikipedia in a final essay.

These days, teachers need specialized teaching courses to land the best jobs. Competition is high in some areas, and low in others. If you choose to teach in a rural or high-need area, there are benefits like student loan forgiveness. Still, it’s hard work, and if you’re going to survive, you need to have clear expectations. 

Why Do You Want to Teach?

Teaching is not an escape hatch you jump into just because you can’t figure out what you want to do with your career. It’s not a “just pay the bills” job. Those who are successful at teaching do it because they can’t see themselves anywhere else. 

Some people come into the profession because they like being students and don’t know what to do outside of academia. Just because you’re a good student doesn’t mean you’ll be a good teacher. It’s a labor of love. It’s an uphill fight to do what’s right for your students in the face of all adversity. 

If you think you’ll retire rich as a teacher because you read in The Millionaire Next Door that the largest group of self-made millionaires is teachers, you are delusional. Those who retire rich pick up side jobs in the summer, publish books, and hire financial advisors to make sure they’re saving all they should. 

As for me, I have other skills that I’ve been able to use to supplement the ridiculously low wages teachers are paid. When you read statistics about how teachers are paid $30,000 per year or less in a lot of areas, believe them. Don’t buy into the BS about how teachers “only work 9 months per year, so their salaries are fair.” Teaching is a year-round job, even when you’re not in front of your students. 

While I’m on my soap box, shame on every politician who doesn’t work to raise salaries for teachers and improve the conditions of schools for students. 

The right reason to want to teach is because you want to become the champion for your students’ education. You want to inspire your students. You want to support them through the challenging days and rejoice with them through the victorious ones. You have to want to put your students first, even when standardized testing, pushy parents, burned-out colleagues, and administrators who have never taught a day in their lives do everything possible to distract you from your purpose. 

It’s not for everyone. For most of us who do it well, it’s a calling.

 

Can You Explain Things Well?

Teaching means finding new ways to explain tough concepts. When a student doesn’t “get” something, you have to find alternate ways to explain and demonstrate a concept until you find common ground that the student can grasp. 

This is especially tough in black-and-white subjects like math. Math teaching jobs are some of the easiest to find because they are tough, and not everyone loves math. Think about what you’ll do when a student doesn’t understand a math problem. How many different ways can you find to explain it? You will need real-life examples for a lot of learners. 

Never forget: Everyone learns by doing. Never be the teacher who just stands up at the front of the room and talks. You have to engage your students and challenge them to try what you’re explaining. This can take unbelievable patience. 

Do You Have Patience?

You will need more patience than you can imagine. You will need the patience to listen to your students when they come to you with a problem. You will need the patience to not to scream at parents when they tell you their child doesn’t have time to do your homework because they have baseball practice, cello practice, or have to water the plants when they get home. 

You will need the patience of a saint when the principal pulls you into his office to discuss why your test scores are lower than the national average, when your class came to you with reading scores two years behind where they should be. 

I’m not going to lie to you. There will be days when you go home angry. There will be days when you can’t do anything at all to help a student in a bad situation and you will cry. 

Are You Empathetic?

If you teach K-12, your teaching job is far more than imparting knowledge. Teachers spot health problems and anxiety in their students. You have to be on the lookout for signs that things at home might be putting your students in danger. You have a legal responsibility to report signs that your students may be abused. So, the question is, can you recognize signs that things aren’t quite right with your students?

Beyond our legal responsibilities, empathy is important for watching the room when you’re teaching to try to gauge how well your students are grasping the lesson. You should be able to spot when a single student is struggling so you can reach out to him individually. 

Can You Juggle it All?

The final question you should ask yourself before committing to the life of a teacher is, “Can you juggle all it takes to be a good teacher?” At school, you are mentor, confidante, champion, shield, endless grader, endless planner, and yes, sometimes you are a babysitter. But what about at home? Can you juggle all that being a teacher entails on top of your home roles like mother, father, wife, husband, and child taking care of elderly parents?

Some teachers have an innate ability to turn off their teaching role outside of the classroom. I never found that, and honestly, the best teachers I know never find that either. If you’re thinking about committing to the life of a teacher, you might do best to find a partner who understands the demands of your career. 

Should I be a Teacher?

If you feel called to be a teacher, realize that it comes with a huge weight of responsibility. The good days are the best of your life, and the bad ones are some of the worst. It won’t make you rich. But, about ten years into your career, you’ll start to see the impact you have on other people’s lives. Your former students will thank you at their graduations. They’ll credit you as their inspiration. You’ll watch them step into their careers as strong, beautiful people that you had some part in creating. 

The best part will be the former students who, inspired by your passion and dedication, follow in your footsteps to their own classrooms, where the cycle starts all over again.

If you’re still not sure, try a Career Fitter personality and career test to see what careers would work best for you. 

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Should I be a Teacher?

If you’re in need of a side hustle, you should consider a job as an adjunct teacher at a local college, or in the case of online classes, maybe even a distant one.  The entry barriers may be fewer than you think.

Colleges generally require teachers to have a master’s degree in the subject they’d like to teach or any master’s degree plus at least 18 graduate credit hours in the subject.  However, hiring committees may also consider candidates with alternative qualifications such as high school teaching experience or industry certification.  Past formal teaching experience is also usually not required—the interview will likely include a follow-up teaching demo. 

Here are the pros and cons of adjunct college teaching.

The Good Things About Adjunct College Teaching:

Fulfillment

If you love helping people (and especially love sharing your knowledge or skills), there’s no field as rewarding as education.  Ask yourself if you’ve sought out opportunities to teach informally—perhaps by training colleagues at work, leading a Sunday school class, or volunteer tutoring.  If so, you’ll probably find this work very gratifying.

Reduced Commuting Time

You generally only have to be on campus when your class meets and a bit before and after to answer student questions and/or hold office hours if they’re required by your school.  Most traditional college classes meet once, twice, or three times per week, and colleges are increasingly offering more and more online and hybrid (reduced meeting time) classes to keep up with the evolving way today’s students learn. 

Convenience

In the same vein as a reduced commute, much of the work—grading, preparing for class, answering student email, etc.—can be done at home.  This is handy because, as we’ll discuss in the next section, you’re probably going to need a separate full- or part-time job.

The Things You’ll Want to Consider Carefully:

Low Pay

It’s no secret that teachers don’t choose their careers for the money, but unfortunately adjuncts earn the worst pay of all.  They’re paid per class taught, not per hour worked.  The adjunct rate of pay at the college I taught at was $1,700 per class.  Classes are generally four months long (a semester), so the harsh reality is that depending on how much time your teaching duties take, you could end up making less than minimum wage.  This means that for most, adjunct teaching can only be a side hustle.

What’s more, colleges often limit the number of courses an adjunct can teach per semester—the one I worked for had a cap of three per semester.  You may be allowed to work as an adjunct at other schools (check with your college to make sure), but keep in mind that you might have to adjust your material to meet their requirements.

No Job Security

Adjunct teaching is contract work, so there’s no certainty about the number of classes you’ll get to teach or if you’ll even be hired next semester.  Also, the full-time faculty at the college are required to teach a certain number of classes each term, so if one of their sections doesn’t fill up, a class that was originally assigned to you may be given to a full-timer at the last minute.

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Possible Lack of Autonomy

In attempts to ensure uniform student experience and outcomes, your college may require everyone who teaches a course to use the same materials, exams, etc.  If so, full-time faculty are usually in charge of choosing and creating these items, so as an adjunct you may feel as though you don’t have much say in how your class is taught.  On the other hand, it’s easy to see how receiving a highly-structured premade course could be a blessing for first-time teachers.

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The Verdict on Adjunct Teaching Jobs

Did the cons in the last section scare you straight?  Just remember that although working as an adjunct is low on financial rewards, it’s big on personal ones.  While adjunct teaching is more viable as a side hustle than a way to earn a living, if you feel called to teach, it’s a great way to try out a career in education and make extra money without a big commitment.  In any case, please thank a teacher in your life.

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One of the biggest perks of being a teacher is having a couple months off every summer. The first week or two feels awesome as you adjust to life without early mornings and strict routines. By about the third week, you need something to do. Why not earn some extra money this summer?

Educators are strong communicators with extensive knowledge on a variety of subjects. We’re lifelong learners, and we love to share our research with others. The world is full of excellent summer side hustles for teachers, if you know where to look.

1. Become a Freelance Writer

One of the easiest summer side hustles is freelance writing. You can find hundreds of gigs in all subject areas, and most of the time they pay rather quickly.

Freelance websites like  Fiverr and Upwork are a good place to start your search, but I’ve found many gigs on Flexjobs.com. They charge a bit to view their listings, but it’s worth it to find legit, at home jobs. Look around for a discount code.

Most of the freelance writing I’ve done the past ten years has been ghostwriting. It can be as simple as writing a blog post for someone to as complicated as drafting an entire book.

2. Teach Online

Online teaching is huge! You can find jobs in and out of your subject areas just by searching indeed.com for “remote faculty” or “online teacher.” Places like ConnectionsAcademy hire certified teachers all year, but there’s a large summer demand for students trying to get ahead in their studies or those tackling complicated subjects in the summer when there’s less distractions.

If you have a graduate degree, you can teach for online colleges. Any master’s degree gives you the credits you need to teach student development courses like “Student Success Skills,” and a lot of colleges require all students to take them, so there’s a high demand for good teachers. You can find these jobs by going directly to the university’s websites.

3. Tutor Online

You can tutor for any subject online, but there’s a high demand for English language tutoring. Children and adults in foreign countries need practice with native English speakers to refine their language skills. Look for jobs on places like VIPKid and FlexJobs.com.

You might also apply to tutor at your local community college or university. Most have online tutoring services as well as on-campus tutoring. SmarThinking is always hiring tutors, too.

4. Create Online Classes

Creating classes online is amazingly easy these days. Anyone with even basic computer skills can create online courses, and people pay for them, too.

You can create a course on any topic using a lightweight learning management system like Teachable. If you’re looking for a creative outlet for your teaching skills, this is a good option, and Teachable is free to start.

The only caveat is that online, make-a-profit learning management systems are not as robust as the ones we’re used to using. You don’t have a grade book, and you have to recognize that your learners progress through your materials at their own pace. I suggest starting a Facebook group so your learners have a place to connect with you and each other.

5. Write an eBook

eBooks don’t have to be 15 chapters and 100,000-words long. You can create a small novella or tutorial ebook at around 10,000 words and make a tidy profit. The best place to publish your ebook and see returns quickly is Amazon’s Kindle store.

Kindle promises that you can create your book in as little as 5 minutes and it will show in their stores in 24-48 hours. As far as pricing, most people who do this for a living recommend pricing your book below $9.99 because Amazon pays royalties of 70% for books in this price range.

6. Start a Podcast

You can make money through advertisement, sponsorships, and even subscriptions by creating a podcast. People look to podcasts to learn about most any topic, from entire foreign languages to basic grammar. One of my favorites taught me the basics of conversational French. Très bien!

You’ll need a good microphone, but “good” means “clear,” not “expensive.” You can upload your podcast to a variety of places, from the iTunes Store to SoundCloud.

7. Become a Virtual Assistant

Small businesses don’t always need full time assistants, so they look to hire someone part time to complete specific tasks. Employers are starting to realize they can save money by hiring virtual assistants who never come into the office at all. With your strong communication skills, you could pick up a summer gig as a virtual assistant with relative ease.

Take a peek at this task list from PennyHoarder. As you can see, virtual assistants perform tasks like proofreading, light web design work, customer support, and social media promotion.

Look for this type of job on places like Fiverr and Flexjobs, but don’t be afraid to post an advertisement for your services on places like Craigslist and Moonlighting.com.

8. Become a Notary

Notaries are always in high demand because court and business documents require notarization on almost everything. You can charge what you want for your services, and we’ve seen some notaries charge more than $6 per page!

Requirements to become a notary vary from state to state. Here in Florida, the cost is about $100. Notaries attend a 3-hour course and must seek bonding by a state agent.

9. Start a Blog

Blogging can make you a good amount of money in the long term, but it takes a lot of work. You could use your summer vacation to get your blog set up and established, and look for a good chunk of Christmas spending money if you keep up with your posting, promotion, and monetization.

InMotion Hosting is my favorite for blogging. They make everything super easy, from setting up WordPress to buying your domain.

You’ll need a good topic that you can write about a couple times per week. Stay away from topics that might get you fired, like “stupid parents” or “best homework answers.” Think about a topic that you know quite a bit about and write helpful, meaningful posts each week.

You’ll need a good topic that you can write about a couple times per week. Stay away from topics that might get you fired, like “stupid parents” or “best homework answers.” Click To Tweet

10. Become a Tour Guide

If you live in a town with historical or entertainment value, you can use your presentation skills to become a local tour guide. Create your own tours and promote them online via websites like Vayable and ToursbyLocals.

You can charge what you want for your tours. An Orlando-area tour guide charges $600 for an eight-hour tour of Winter Park and Mount Dora. His calendar shows bookings, so it’s definitely a viable business venture.

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What to Wear to a Teacher Job Interview - #whattowear #jobinterview #career #careeradvice #teacher

You’ve landed a teacher job interview at the school of your dreams. Congratulations! Now, what are you going to wear? Remember, the people interviewing you are looking at more than your shiny college degree and your resume. They want to know they can trust you with their students…and their students’ parents.

You have several outfit options that will work for this interview. The goal is dress in a way that shows you’re fun, but also serious. You have to find a balance between professional and approachable. You can’t just wear black and call it a day.

Impress the Principal with a Colorful, Long-Sleeved Dress

Color is important for any outfit for a teacher job interview. One outfit that could work for this interview is a dress in a jewel-tone color like dark green or dark blue. Long sleeves always look more professional than short sleeves, so if you can find a long-sleeved dress, go for it.

In this example, we are pairing a dark green dress with a fun pearl necklace. Nude pumps with a low heel are not only comfortable, but elongate the line of your leg and make you look taller and more elegant.

 

Notice that the neckline on this dress is conservative—it hides cleavage—but the shape of the dress shows off your figure in a flattering, feminine way. The hemline of this dress falls just below the knee. Look for dresses that flow at or just below knee level for the most flattering silhouette.


Be Memorable and Approachable in a Sleeveless Dress and Wrap Sweater

If you have a cute (but sleeveless) dress already in your closet, you can pair it with a wrap or ballet-style sweater for an approachable look.

In this outfit example, we found a navy blue dress with a feminine shape, and paired it with an off-white wrap sweater. Red shoes and dangly pearl earrings complete the look with a pop of color and a classic, polished accessory.

A Skirt and Blazer Raise You to the Top of the Class

If you like wearing separates, find a colorful blazer that fits you well, and pair it with a neutral-colored skirt and a lacy camisole.

If You Hate Dresses, Wear a Slacks and a Blazer

You don’t have to wear a dress to a teacher job interview. If you want to wear slacks, pair them with a blazer and a colorful camisole or blouse. Always wear a shoe with a bit of a heel. Flats make you look “flat” when you wear them with slacks.

  

This example outfit pairs grey slacks with a black, fitted blazer and a red camisole. Black pearls and a low-heeled Mary Jane pump polish off the look.

 

Rules for Teacher Interview Outfits

When you’re picking out your teacher interview outfit, follow these rules:

  • Feature color prominently either with a colorful dress or blazer.
  • Wear classic accessories like pearl necklaces and earrings.
  • Keep your necklines conservative.
  • Hemlines should fall at or just below your knee.
  • Fit is king. Make sure everything you wear fits you well. If it doesn’t, your dry cleaner has a tailor who can make alterations inexpensively (usually for less than $15).

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What to Wear to a Teacher Job Interview - #whattowear #jobinterview #career #careeradvice #teacher