Not sure the teacherly path is the one for you? Far along it already and wishing that when you'd seen two roads diverged in a wood, you'd taken any one except for the one traveled by the prepubescent brat army? Somewhere in between?
Whichever of those you are, you're in luck. Whether you're curious about the career or need a pick-me-up, here are ten of the most generic rewards of being a teacher. Because every child is a reward, right?
If you answered "wrong," start reading immediately.
Reward #1: Your students learn stuff.
Duh. We know. But in case you weren't so sure (or forgot), it's super baller to see kids who showed up at the beginning of the year not knowing what a number was suddenly getting all the way up to 100. Not a kindergarten teacher? No problem. Seeing them dissect a Hamlet soliloquy is just as big a thrill. And for all the little details in between, don't you worry—they're constantly picking things up, and whether you're observing a sea shift or picking up on itty bitty gains over the year, seeing how they grow (and knowing you're at least mostly responsible) is always rewarding. That's why we put it at #1.
Reward #2: You learn stuff.
Sure, you learn the things you teach them (who doesn't need to brush up on state capitals?), but you also learn surprising views or responses to things that adult-you may take for granted. Whether it's a different interpretation of To Kill a Mockingbird, an unconventional approach to solving an algebra problem, or a whole new outlook on life, you can learn as much from your kids as they will from you.
And yes, we're looking into writing for Hallmark.
Reward #3: Discover how people half your size can be twice the fun.
We're not going to knock accountants or techies, but don't all those grown-ups hanging out with grown-ups get on each other's nerves sometimes?
You can get a fresh perspective when your daily life involves dealing with people who aren't trying to make a sales pitch and don't know how to invent an app yet (just give 'em a week or two). Between teaching them the multiplication tables and getting to know them as human kiddos, you'll find yourself having some personal connections and some conversations that are pretty interesting. And/or surprising, moving, terrifying, you name it.
Reward #4: Build a vocation, not just a way to pay the bills.
You build your skills over the years, too. Some folks may say that teaching must be monotonous, what with teaching the same information but to a different set of little 'uns year in and year out, but we say that those laypeople know not a whit of what teaching is really about. (A) Because of all that constant growth stuff we were talking about in the first three. And (B) because as you keep teaching, you find out how to better yourself, too. Whether it's developing an innovative new way to introduce the Bank Bill of 1832 (yawn), rising up the ranks in the school system, or realizing that now you actually can discipline a classroom, the rewards along the way will keep a-comin'.
Reward #5: …But, you know, also pay the bills.
You may not be rakin' in the big bucks, but teaching will pretty much have you covered. You can make solid bank in some states, and salaries go up as you gain experience (want more deets? Here ya go). But that baseline salary generally isn't so bad, plus you get health insurance and a pension pretty much guaranteed. That's more than a lot of professions can say. You'll have that Lamborghini in the driveway in no time.
Jk. No Lamborghini, dudes.
Reward #6: There's always something new.
Be it a student who is really, really into the material (don't we just love those?) or a subject in which you have a light bulb for an innovative approach that will get everyone involved in a new way, teaching is full of surprises. Some that you'll have to respond to on the fly, but others that are a whole lot of fun. And if you're lucky, plenty of both.
Reward #7: Gain buckets of hilarious "you'll never guess what this kid said" stories to entertain your buds.
Sure, you don't want to be that broken record who's always talking about how Bobby said this smart thing and Jenny has come soooo far and wow you really should have seen Mary's snot bubble today. You do still want some adult friends, after all. But every teacher has at least a few battle stories—be they awkward, preposterous, or actual battles—that can help you fill up a blah conversation with grown-ups. Just watch out for when they start calling you Teacher or associating your presence with potty humor.
Reward #8: Feel good about yourself for being a contributing member of society (take that, suckas).
But really: teachers make a difference. You can tally it up as philanthropy for all the people you'll help out or social because you're building the little leaders of tomorrow. Whatever label you want to put on it, you're putting things into kids' heads that can totally transform their world, give 'em direction, show them how fascinating dinosaurs are, or convince them everyone is waiting for them to be the next David Foster Wallace (well, not totally). So you can set your sights on changing their days or changing their lives—and chances are that, either way, you'll do at least a little bit of both.
Reward #9: Get pretty stinkin' resilient.
We're not saying every year is going to gift you a future Einstein or a mentee from a bad neighborhood who will become president thanks to your inspiration. (Maybe every other year). But you don't need to see those results to know they're there. And sometimes you'll even get a blast from the past when some kid you almost forgot about comes back to say thank you. Well, we'll cross our fingers. Anyway, the actual thank-yous may seem a little few and far between, but when you get them, it feels awesome. And when you don't, that is exactly how you build a thick skin.
Reward #10: Autonomy, people.
Sure, you teach however many hours a day. Of course, there are some guidelines (whether set by district, state, or Common Core) that you've got to stick to. But in terms of your own free time (hello, summers!) and in terms of how you command your class, well, you're in charge, pardner. Take the reins and giddy up into the sunset.
Um, and you don't have to be a cowboy (or girl) to do it. Necessarily.
Reward #11: Did we mention you're making a difference?
Just thought we'd drive that one home. Whether you're introducing a subject they'll study the rest of their lives, opening up a new way of looking at the world, or teaching them how to make oobleck, don't you forget that you're doing something meaningful. And don't let them forget it either.
Now you can ride off into the sunset.