A Career in Teaching: Advantages and Disadvantages

Almost everyone feels qualified to list the advantages a career in teaching offers. In fact, the less these individuals actually know about the field, the longer their list of pluses is likely to be! Heading their list, of course, is the belief that teachers only work part of the year. According to these 'experts', teachers have long breaks at several points during the school year, and they also enjoy long, luxurious months off during the summer. These individuals will mention benefits such as health insurance, life insurance, bonuses and so forth. What rarely makes these lists is the number one item on all true teachers' lists of advantages: the opportunity, over the course of a lifetime career, to profoundly change the lives of hundreds of students for the better.

In fact, while teachers do have a few weeks off during the summer (unless they teach summer school or have a summer job to supplement their incomes), it's simply not true that they have long months of lolling about to indulge in. Realistically, after the students have completed their school year, the teacher still has a lot of work ahead. Oftentimes teachers are reassigned to another room, which means boxing and labeling every bit of material from broken crayons to reams of paper and clearing out the room so it can be cleaned and prepared for the next teacher. At some point during the summer (oftentimes a couple of weeks before school is due to begin), these teachers will have to transport their materials to the trailer or room they've been assigned, unpack everything and decide, yet again, how to best organize it all. Not only must the materials be unpacked, the room must be made comfortable and inviting for their new sets of students.

Their summer months are often filled with classes, research or independent study, since most teachers want to keep abreast of new strides in education. Pretty quickly, what looks like three months of sunshine and beaches rapidly is reduced to the same two to three weeks everyone else gets! For many teachers who make less money than comparably educated friends and neighbors, a vacation is out of the question if the house needs painting, repairs must be made, or other ‘fix- its' are due.

Another myth that those outside the education degree profession believe is that during the school year, teachers have weeks and weeks to themselves. While it's true they have time off for holidays and spring break, many, if not most, spend the bulk of this time preparing lessons, catching up with paperwork, completing evaluations and otherwise making sure their classrooms are in tip top shape so their students will be able to learn to the best of their ability following the break. However, it should be noted that for teachers with children, themselves, having a job that permits them time away from the classroom when their own children are off is a real benefit.

Yet another belief among those who have no experience in the field is that teachers are provided with everything they could possibly want, from posters to computers, from markers to books. In fact, it's rare to find a teacher who doesn't spend a surprising, even shocking, amount of her own salary on basic classroom materials. Teachers regularly provide tissues, pencils, crayons, paper, books, and markers, as well as the kinds of personal items that make a classroom a home. These can include everything from a spare sofa to floor lamps, stuffed animals, a fish aquarium, a stack of special books, dress-up clothes, snacks for children who come without...the list goes on.

And while it's true that teachers are given the opportunity for health and life insurance and other benefits, they pay for these benefits in most cases. Teachers' salaries, given the number of years they've spent becoming educated and the degree of devotion they bring to the task, rank well below those of many other professions. So why do they do it? Why are you considering becoming a teacher?

As every teacher knows, you can't take ‘it' with you. ‘It' can be money, possessions, a reputation or something else of value. The old adage goes, “Those who can, do. Those who can't, teach.” Nothing could be further from the truth. More accurately, “Those who have everything to offer and a heart big enough to share it, teach. Those who lack those things are forced into less meaningful jobs.”

In short, while on the surface, the benefits to teaching may seem to be outweighed by the negatives, ask any teacher. The smile on a student's face when something that was completely obscure suddenly becomes clear, or the recognition that you've given a skill that will serve for a lifetime, or just the simple satisfaction in knowing that no one could do your job but you eclipses greater pay, more prestige, or anything else. There are few, if any, jobs that are more meaningful that teaching. For most teachers, the truest motto is: “I teach; therefore, I am.”

Last Updated: 06/08/2014