Elementary, Middle or High School Teacher
The Real Poop
So you want to be a teacher, huh? Why, you selfish, money-hungry, good-for-nothing.... Wait, actually, that's pretty admirable.
In fact, we can't think of anything more admirable. Even becoming an Admiral is less admirable. (Bet you can't say that one time real fast.) But don't expect to make anywhere near as much money as you are worth to society. That's not how America works.
Also, we hope you're not super-excited about the prospect of three months off during the summer. The fact is that most teachers are so poorly paid by their school district that they need to teach summer school or take another job for some supplementary income during that time anyway. And this is no 9 to 5 (or 7:30 to 3:30) job either. Once you get home you have to grade homework, plan lessons, grade tests, and wash the chalk off your clothes.
You'll also have to wash off all the kid cooties.
There are huge ranges in teachers' lives depending on where they teach. In a high-end neighborhood private school with lots of rich kids whose mommies and daddies read to them every night and care a lot about grad school, it will likely be a vastly different teaching experience than slappin' chalk in a poor neighborhood where you actively worry about your tires being stolen while you are lecturing on The Great Gatsby to visibly hungry kids.
Regardless, it takes an incredible amount of dedication and commitment, a love of children, and a blind passion for the art of teaching to want to stick with it after much of the heartache you are certain to endure. At any school, some kids are uninspirable. You will soon find that you're no Michelle Pfeiffer in Dangerous Minds. Other kids are so naturally brilliant that they have probably intellectually passed you by the time they turn 12, and you'd best just stay out of their way for the most part, and try not to screw up a good thing.
Don't follow in the footsteps of a couple of screw-ups like these ladies.
It's the kids in the middle—the malleable minds of the masses—that you will strive to motivate, affect, and enthuse. Some will just need a gentle nudge in the right direction—others will need a giant shove. (Just don't let the principal catch you shoving them.) But if your heart is in it and you are up to the challenge, we applaud you and wish you the best of luck. We will see you in the breadline.
Yet, despite the lack of financial security, the tremendous commitment, and the difficulty of inspiring the stubbornly uninspirable, teaching continues to be a huge draw. It's not hard to figure out why. It really doesn't get more rewarding than this. You are a conductor of knowledge, channeling your own experiences and wisdom into the minds of a whole new generation of thinkers. Years from now, some very successful people may attribute much of that success to your influence. Feel important much? And while teaching at the college level is also obviously important, there is something to be said for having access to these fresh, untainted minds before they grow too cynical, lazy, or corrupted. In other words, before they've gotten a taste of the cold, cruel world. It's the difference between sculpting a fresh gob of Play-Doh, rather than a gob that's been sitting out far too long, has been mixed with other colors, and is just a wee bit crumbly.