Posted in Secondary Education Preparation

Choosing to Teach

Two summers ago, I visited BYU for the first time. Having earned my associate’s degree from Eastern Arizona College, it was time for me to move on to a university where I could earn a bachelor’s degree. While I wasn’t sure what I wanted to declare as my major, I knew I loved teaching and so I thought I’d check out the McKay School of Education for some guidance. I can imagine that as the summer is quickly coming to an end there are several transfer students and upperclassmen that are looking for the “perfect” major, just as I was two summers ago. I must admit that when I walked into the McKay Building that hot July afternoon I knew little of educational programs or the teaching profession. I had gone to public school and had watched my teachers work, but I really didn’t know what teachers did or what skills they needed in order to be successful. Now that I’ve had more experience with the program and a better exposure to the profession, I thought I’d create a list of questions one should ask if considering a major in secondary education. While this is by no means an exhaustive list, I hope it can give a few students some guidance.

Question 1: Do I work well with teenagers?

Teaching is more than inspiring students and having them stand on their desks shouting, “Carpe Diem!”  It is true that teachers can and do inspire their students, but there are kids who simply do not want anything to do with you or education in general. As a teacher, what can you do to reach out to these students? What are you going to do when they will not stop talking after you’ve asked them what seems to be a thousand times? How will you control their behavior while still trying to teach the rest of the class? These are the real situations and questions potential teachers must investigate in order to know if this is the right profession for them.

Question 2: Do I work well with others and in different capacities?

In addition to working with students, teachers also work with parents, administrators, and other educators. In many of these interactions, you are required to have responsibilities other than teaching. For example, when meeting with parents you are not just seen as a teacher, but also as a representative of the school district. Are you flexible enough to play all the roles that are expected of you from the different people you work with?

Question 3: Am I willing to spend time outside of school to work?

Presenting to a classroom of thirty students is only part of a teacher’s job. There are lesson plans to make, papers to grade, collaboration meetings with other teachers, reports to fill out, and many other things that need to be done when the students are away. One of my friends who finished her internship told me that she spent many nights in her classroom doing lots of “homework” of her own, preparing for the next day of instruction.

Question 4: Am I involved in politics?

Believe it or not, this is a very important question to ask yourself if looking into the teaching profession. Teaching in the public schools is a government job. You work for a school district that receives public funding. Where there is public funding, there are representatives in Washington who make laws regarding that money. New laws regarding teacher competency, student achievement, and school performance are passed every year. As a teacher, you will be required to learn the laws regarding education. You should also be prepared to drastically change the way you teach if a new law requires a new set of classroom procedures. With this in mind, it is crucial to stay in the know of who is in office and how their policies will affect your profession.

I spent a great deal of time thinking about these questions as I tried to decide if teaching was right for me. I, in no way, have all these questions answered, and that is okay. It is appropriate to move forward within an education major even if there are some unresolved fears or concerns. The wonderful thing about a college education is that it gives you the experience and knowledge needed to make informed decisions. The teaching classes will also provide you with opportunities, through self-assessments and personal reflections, to think critically of your ability as a teacher. As you progress through your specific program, you will come to know if teaching is right for you.

I welcome comments from other secondary education majors or current teachers. What other questions do you suggest prospective teachers ask themselves in exploring the profession?

-Curtis


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