Those Who Can Do, Teach!
We are all familiar with the idiom, "Those who can do, do; Those who can't, teach." It implies that if you have failed in your career, you fall into teaching. That's a sad view of the teaching profession. And also a slap to the face to true educators.
However, I know that some people choose teaching for the wrong reasons. It's ridiculous that people decide on long term careers because they get summer vacations off. My own family has tried to coax me into teaching because of the perceived "perks". "Your day ends early, and you have the rest of the day for yourself." You get all those holidays off, and how about a whole paid summer vacation! There aren't many professions that offer you that kind of freedom." Mind you, no one in my family is actually in the teaching profession. Cue eye rolls and sighs.
I think the myth that teaching is easy has somewhat led to the decay of our Education system in the United States. Young college grads head straight to Graduate school or other fast-track degree programs to teach. Obviously, blaming the decay of a whole institution on young, idealistic adults who come out of college with loads of loans just realizing that their tenure as president of student government doesn't qualify as a job in the real world, isn't fair. There are many reasons why academia in the U.S. isn't meeting standards but I'm not going to get into that. Not acknowledging the reason why so many young people go into the teaching profession, however, doesn't do us any good.
Young college graduates come out with a four year degree that doesn't equate the amount of money they paid for it. They have loans the size of that of a married couple who just purchased their first home, and need income anywhere they can get it. There are programs that try to attract young graduates to the teaching profession. Who hasn't heard of the New York City Teaching Fellowship, and Teach For America. Both programs offer a rigorous, intensive summer training. After the training program is over, you land a job as a teacher in low income cities where you use your Ivy league trained mind to teach and guide young disadvantaged youth.
Do you see where I'm going here? These youths will eat you alive. It's silly to think that young and impressionable graduates whose only formal level of education was undergraduate courses in intro philosophy and psychology where they barely got to class, stayed up late writing half-assed essays for comparative politics, and got wasted every weekend, can offer young minds anything substantial besides what concoctions make the best remedy for a hangover.
Now, you're going to tell me, "That's not a fair assumption to make about all young graduates who go into the teaching field." Sure. You're right, I'm generalizing here. That's why so many people who are accepted into TFA and NYCTF remain teachers.
You noted my sarcasm.
I truly believe that the best educators are those who come from the backgrounds they teach. Those who can do, can teach. They have the experience, the knowledge, and have held several jobs in the field. You can't get a better teacher than someone with first-hand experience. Otherwise, It's like taking driving lessons from someone who doesn't have a driver's license, let alone own a car.
The best teachers I had in college and while growing up were those who had outside experience in their field. They gave the best advice, and had the most interesting insight. They talked about the journey that led them to teaching. These are the educators that should be in every hallway in schools guiding the misfits, the misunderstood, and misguided.
It's not to say that every young adult isn't capable of being a good teacher. What I'm saying is, why not take some time to hone your craft? Take classes you never thought of taking, visit a different country, take a road trip, balance a couple of odd jobs, find true love and lose it. EXPERIENCE life a little more before you go around trying to inspire kids. It's also a bit naive and almost pompous to think that we can offer anything useful or interesting before we've even begun experiencing adulthood.
What we need is more Mr. Feeny's. The kind of educator who is well-read, and a well rounded person because of his or her life experiences. Unlike what some might believe, teaching is a difficult profession. They work 60 and more hours a week grading homework and papers, taking time to call parents and dealing with troubled students. It's a thankless job, but those who have been fulfilled in other ways can find happiness in teaching those who want to learn. If you are entering the field right out of college without having explored other interests you might find yourself completely overworked, unfulfilled and unhappy.
Basically, live a little! And then when you've found fulfillment and happiness take that to the classroom and share your wisdom with your students.