Motivations for Teaching

Often, it is expected that new teachers have a reason for wanting to teach. In this post,  we will look at several common reasons why people choose the occupation of teaching.

Money

This is probably a reason for not teaching. Teachers normally make enough money but not much more than that. Generally, there is an increase over time but it is often difficult to get ahead financially in the teaching profession. However, if you take the skills you develop as a teacher (communication, planning, leadership, etc.) you can pivot these skills into side jobs or other career fields.  Many famous writers and musicians were at one time teachers (JK Rowling, Stephen King, Gene Simmons, Sting).

Towards the end of one’s career the salary can be lucrative. This often takes 20 plus years in many countries and requires additional professional development in order to continue to progress of the step salary. If continuing to study appeals to you than teaching might be the right choice as a career.

Prestige

Despite the apparent association with how poor the educational system, is teaching is still considered a highly respective occupation. Often, people speak highly of teaching in general but often have sharp criticism of the teachers of their own children or even of the teachers they experienced as a student.

The amount of prestige varies depending on the discipline and level of teaching. Often science and math are more prestigious than the humanities due in part to the higher expect salary of science and math majors. Teaching at the university level is often considered more prestigious than teaching K-12 due in part to the higher level of education required and the assumption of greater talent that is necessary to teach at the tertiary level.

In many ways, the respect given to teachers is almost tongue in cheek. People are suppose to say that teaching is important and respectable even if they rarely appreciated the hard work of their own children’s teachers or the teachers they studied under.

Authority

Teaching comes with a large amount of power and authority over students. The students  spend several hours a week with you as you play a critical role in shaping their character. This can be good or bad depending on the type of teacher. There is also a great deal of academic authority over students. As a teacher, it is not hard to find ways to fail hardworking students are to pass lazy ones. The difference is in the integrity of the teacher and how they use this authority.

Schedule

Teaching still allows for a better work life balance when compared to other professions. This in part due to the holidays and built in vacations. However, during a given week in a semester a teacher is putting in about 50 hours a week in the US which is comparable to other occupations in America.

This means that once Christmas, Easter, and holidays are removed from the equation teachers a worker just as hard in terms of hours given to their job as others. However, there are additional burdens on teachers with meetings, clubs, field trips, and other extra-curricular activities at the school. Someone has to watch the kids during recess, lunch, etc and this is in addition to the teaching load of the teacher.

Students & Colleagues

Many people become teachers for the chance to interact with students and colleagues. For students, it is a chance to help them to develop and grow intellectual and socially as well as a chance to spark interest in learning in general. This opportunity to have an impact on the lives of young people is a primary motivation for entering the teaching field.

There are downsides to working with students as there are times when behavior becomes an issue. Nothing is more draining to a teacher than dealing with a group of students who do not want to learn. Navigating this disinterested in education can be discouraging to say the least.

For the colleagues, it is a chance to wok within what is usually a non-competitive environment. Unlike other industries where there is a best salesman or best manager, in teaching every teacher can be a great teacher because there is normally no ranking. However, with the pressures of standardized testing teaching has become more competitive.

Conclusion

Everyone must determine for themselves what is their motivation for becoming a teacher. This is really a personal decision and there is rarely a way to state conclusively that someone’s motivation to teach is wrong. The examples provided here are for giving reasons to think about why someone may want to teach.

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