Considerations for Prospective Teachers

Elementary classroom in Sumbawa, Indonesia

Considerations for Prospective Teachers

Many teachers consider teaching to be a calling as much as a profession. Teaching can be an incredibly rewarding job. However, teaching also includes a lot of stress, pay issues, possible layoffs, and dealing with a sometimes skeptical and angry public. According to an article in the Washington Post, half of all new teachers quit the profession within their first five years of teaching. Before becoming a teacher, think about some of the key components of teaching in order to develop a realistic idea of the profession.


Teacher salaries have been on the rise over the past ten years around the country.  With new incentives in some districts, teachers can make a decent standard of pay. Also, teachers have long summer vacations when they can take summer school positions or other jobs to increase their yearly income. Professional development activities help a teacher increase their pay. Districts base their salary schedules on experience and education. The more seniority teachers have, the higher their salary. Large city districts like Los Angeles, New York and Chicago pay more than most rural or suburban districts. However, there is a trade-off in terms of stress. Some states and districts are moving towards merit pay.

Time Commitment

Being a teacher involves a large time commitment. The 8 hours a day spent in the classroom are taken up in working with students and colleagues for the most part. Grading, creating lesson plans, preparing for field trips and attending out-of-school activities like plays or sporting events that your students are involved in takes extra time and is generally done on the weekend. A good teacher relates to every student in her classroom. This means knowing something about what their life is like and what prior knowledge they are bringing into the classroom. Motivating students involves relating the content that you want to teach to the interests and lifestyles of your students.

Working Conditions

Teachers often complain about not having time to go to the bathroom. Unfortunately in elementary schools where a single teacher teaches one class most of the day, this is still true. Teachers in middle school and high school tend to have more flexible schedules during the day due to block scheduling for classes that is used in many districts.

Professional Development

In order to advance on the salary schedule, teachers need to work on professional development activities. School districts pay for advanced degrees, so the time spent attending university classes to get a master's degree will be worth money in the long run. Look for districts that support professional development either by giving teachers time-off to take classes or offer to pay part or all of the tuition for classes.

Grade Levels and Subjects

Middle and high school science and math teachers are usually in high demand around the country. Teachers that want to work in some urban areas may also be in demand. Teaching middle and high school students involves more sophisticated classroom management approaches than does teaching elementary school students. Student teaching is rarely like teaching solo in a real classroom. Look for schools and grade levels assignments similar to what you hope to get. Respect from students is a key element of being a successful teacher. Generally, the older the student, the more difficult it is to get their respect.

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