Realities of Being a Teacher

Teaching can be a rewarding career for those who approach it with realistic expectations.
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Potential teachers often enter the education field with high expectations for themselves and their future students. Before committing to becoming a teacher, however, it is wise to become familiar with the culture and expectations of today's schools. A January 2010 report published by the National Commission on Teaching and America's Future points out that more than 30 percent of new teachers will leave the profession within five years. Approaching the field with realistic ideas about what lies ahead can help to prevent disillusionment and burnout early in a budding career.

Course Content

    Teachers often enter the field because they are passionate about their subject area and want to convey a love of learning to students. Beginning teachers are sometimes disappointed to learn that what they want to teach may not be a part of the curriculum. State and district guidelines often spell out the competencies that instructors must teach. These learning goals may be on a time line, which means that if a science teacher is on fire to take advantage of a recent eclipse to pique student interest in astronomy, she may instead be compelled to stick to the district curriculum that requires teaching about a different subject on those days.


    High-stakes testing is the bane of both students and teachers. In some districts, teacher performance is judged based on the outcome of these tests, and may even be made available to the public, as was the case in both Los Angeles and New York City according to a 2011 article published in the "Huffington Post."

    Since school districts are also evaluated according to students' performance on standardized tests -- with administrators' jobs hanging precariously in the balance -- teachers are often urged to "teach to the test." The result is that teachers often spend time teaching students test taking strategies instead of academic content.

Non-Teaching Duties

    Being a teacher is not always about teaching. Teachers must have the ability to effectively address behavioral issues in the classroom, or learning will not take place. The majority of schools also require teachers to do duties outside of the classroom such as monitoring the cafeteria, bus line and hallways. Teachers can expect to spend a significant amount of time in meetings, serving on committees and attending mandatory training. Educators also tend to spend time of voluntary professional development activities, as well as grading and creating curricular materials for their classes.


    Teaching offers rewards that many jobs do not. For example, if you sell someone a car, it is unlikely that they will come back to visit you 10 years later to tell you what an effect you made on their life. Teachers have the ability to ignite the desire to become a lifelong learner. Many of the essential and influential people in our society today received excellent instruction from inspiring teachers at some point in their educational journey. For example, Oprah cites meeting her fourth-grade teacher as an adult as one of the top 20 moments on her long-running television show.

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