If you’re an English major, chances are you’ve been asked about your plans to become an English teacher more times than you can count. And chances are, you’ve started to seriously consider either double majoring or switching to English Education altogether.
Or, maybe you are an English Education major trying to decide whether or not you want to keep with the program. Either way, here are some tips and bits of information to help inform your decision, from a former English Ed major:
1. Think about why you really want to be a teacher.
Do you actually want to work with kids every day, or are you looking for job security? If you are considering being a teacher, my first recommendation is to take education classes to see if it’s something you might be interested longterm. If you decide that you might want to be a teacher, get a substitute teaching license and try your hand at substitute teaching. If you enjoy yourself at work, teaching might be in the cards for you. I initially thought that I had wanted to work with teenagers every day, but when I started substituting, I quickly realized that I was looking at the profession with rose colored glasses. I had thought that most of the kids would be like I was in high school: quiet, willing to work (if a bit grumbly about it), and willing to follow directions. The reality is, most kids will do anything to avoid working in class and you’re going to spend a lot of time telling them to exit Snapchat and put their phones away.
2. Be realistic about the ups and downs of teaching.
Chances are, you’re not going to be Robin Williams in “Dead Poets’ Society,” Hilary Swank in “Freedom Writers.” That isn’t to say you won’t change any lives, but it’s not going to be easy. Some days you will feel like you’re constantly fighting an uphill battle. Some days, you’re lucky enough to win, but you have to know how to deal with your losses and fight again. When I was in practicum (which is like student teaching, but usually doesn’t take the whole semester), I was lucky enough to have a good group of kids that completed the assignment I gave them. However, there was one student that only answered a few of the questions (and gave me half baked answers at that), and despite my offering of more time to complete the assignment and letting him know he would receive an F, he completely refused to finish the worksheet. Putting an F on that piece of paper was the hardest thing I ever had to do in my 5.5 years of college, even knowing that the student was okay with it. If you do decide to go down the teaching path, I would recommend keeping chocolate in your desk for days like that, because you will have them.
3. Although students are the most important part of the job, they are likely the part to take up the smallest amount of your time.
Most of your time will be spent writing lesson plans, grading assignments, attending meetings, talking with parents, etc. Many of my teacher friends are up late at night writing lesson plans and spend their weekends grading, which leads me to my next point...
4. Your life is not really your own anymore.
Although you do have a personal life, it’s not as free as that of non-teachers. Teachers don’t work 40 hour weeks. Once grading, lesson planning, and meetings are factored in, the estimate is likely 60-80 hours a week. Additionally, teachers often must be conscious of going out to bars and restaurants on the chance that they might run into a student or a set of parents. I had one friend that, during student teaching, was so tired by the end of the week she ended up going to bed at 5 p.m. on Friday nights. I’ve also heard teachers talk about never actually having days off because they would spend 8 hours grading on a Saturday. This was one of the details of the job that sent me to the other side of the fence when making my decision. I am not somebody that does a lot of detailed planning, I’m more of a “go with the flow” kind of person, and more often than not, that personality doesn’t fit in with the education due to the amount of time spent making and adjusting lesson plans (because you will have to adjust them, especially if you have students that have special needs).
5. Make sure it’s something YOU want to do, not something that your parents want you to do.
While seeing my friends’ Snapchat and Facebook teaching posts makes me wonder “what if,” I know that I would have been miserable. Despite my mother’s frequent inquiries about when I plan on getting my post-bac in Education, I know that I personally do not have what it takes to be a teacher. Teaching is the kind of profession that requires you to give 110% of yourself to all aspects of it, and that was something I was unable to do. Teaching requires nothing less than absolute passion, and if you have it, go for it! If you don’t, pursue the job you do have absolute passion for. For some, it’s creative writing. For others, it might be journalism. For me, it’s manuscript editing.
Whatever you decide... good luck!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Caitlin Anderle is a not-so-recent graduate from the University of Wyoming. A former English Education major, she currently works as a substitute teacher and as a media specialist for Townsquare Media. Caitlin hopes to work as a manuscript editor, specializing in fiction novels. When not working for the school or the radio station, Caitlin works as a contributor to eNotes and writes the occasional piece for Dear English Major.