My kids gleefully squeal as I put the announcement on the speakerphone. Snow Day. No school tomorrow. I don’t have to worry if my employer will follow suit or will I have to find last minute child care because I am a teacher. It’s one of the perks of a career in education while you have small children. My previous career would have me in the middle of the snow chaos and I would be struggling to find child care in an unpredictable situation. Stability: one of the perks of being a teacher. With telecommuting and more legitimate work from home jobs, moms have more opportunities than before to have flexible schedules are balance work and life. In my line of work, that situation would mean freelancing, no benefits, and no stable pay. I did consider that scenario but that’s when an opportunity landed in my lap: become a teacher. It was by no means easy, but changing careers is one of the best things I’ve done for my family.
Is it right for me?
Teaching is not for everyone, it is not the perfect solution, there are good days and bad days but as mom, it works. Ask yourself these questions: Are you a good teacher? Have you had to train people on equipment or procedures? Have you taught your own children? Have you taught other children through church, scouts or other volunteering? Did you enjoy those experiences? Do you enjoy learning new things? Most importantly, do you like the age group you are interested in teaching? Are you willing to work hard, incredibly hard?
Twenty years in my field did not prepare me for teaching high school. I knew my field, but I was used to training people with a genuine interest. As a teacher, my job is to grow that genuine interest, it is usually not there at the start. Knowing your field is not enough. Knowing pedagogy or the theory of teaching is another thing. Then there are the compliances: the IEPs, 504s, EBD, exceptional education and all of the federal rules that basically state that every child deserves a free appropriate public education. No matter your subject, you will encounter students with these accommodations. Of course there are bureaucracy, politics, programs that don’t work but you have to do anyway and other distractions. Ask yourself this, can you look beyond that and see that your students benefit from your presence in the classroom even if everything is not perfect? Then keep reading.
Pathways to teaching
I didn’t wake up one day and decide to be a teacher. It is something I considered for a long time. My grandmother was a teacher and a principal, my aunt, a librarian. It’s sort of in my blood. Every program I looked at wasn’t possible to do and maintain a job, but then I got laid off and the stars lined up in my favor. I took the path of Teacher Alternative Preparation Program to get certified (this program is offered in Georgia but there are similar programs offered in other states). First you have to talk yourself into a job. Then you take a two week intensive boot camp followed by a full school year of classes, observations, mentor sessions and on-the-job training. Then all teachers in my state are required to take a college level course on exceptional education (special education). It costs about $5,000 and because I don’t teach a core class, I only needed one year for certification. This program is for people who have a bachelor’s degree in the subject they intend to teach and need the teaching classes to get certified.
Getting a master’s degree in education with teacher preparation is another way to become a certified teacher. These programs include online classes and “seat time” every other Saturday or an intensive summer session. It takes about two years to complete and includes the same observations, on-the-job training and mentoring. The best thing about this program is you get a master’s degree and you get paid at that level when you earn that degree. Once again, you talk yourself into the job, begin teaching and do this program as you teach. This program is in the $10,000-$15,000 range depending on which university you choose.
You could always dive in head first, quit your old job and go back to school full time. This may be appropriate for you if you never completed a bachelor’s degree. This more traditional method will have you student teaching your last semester and graduating a certified teacher.
What if I don’t have a bachelor’s degree?
A four-year degree is required to be a certified teacher, however, if you have experience but no degree you may look into being a paraprofessional. Para-pros serve as teachers aids in large classes, assist with special education students, and library assistants. Some para-pro jobs come with the employment benefits of being a teacher, such as insurance.
Is it worth it?
Teaching allows me to home with my children most of the time. I have breaks when they have breaks. I have the summers (really, the best part) and I am home at a reasonable hour. The employment benefits are great and I’ve found other teachers to be kind, supportive and genuinely caring people. Do you have to jump through hoops, do a lot of paperwork, and attend meetings and such? Yes. Are you expected to spend some time after school either tutoring or sponsoring a club or assisting with events? Yes. Is like the movies? A big fat NO. But is it rewarding to show a kid who may not be good at writing or math that they can make a career with their creativity? Absolutely. Then I pick up my kids while it’s still daylight, make dinner and do homework with them… grateful for the opportunity.