Why Consider a Career in Education

Why Consider a Career in Education

Selecting a career path is challenging and exciting because there are so many things to consider as you prepare to work in Wisconsin’s great public school system, where our high school students have placed at or near the top on the ACT for many years.

A good place to start is a self-assessment focused on your interests and talents. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Do you have a love for learning that often has you seeking more information about things?
  • Do you enjoy working with children and young adults?
  • Do you receive great satisfaction from helping others learn new things?
  • Do you have good oral and written communication skills?
  • Do you enjoy working collaboratively with others who love learning?
  • Do you enjoy challenges and ever-changing opportunities?
  • Do you want to change the world?

If you answered yes to all or most of these questions you probably would enjoy teaching. The challenges are exciting, and the rewards are priceless. Few accomplishments in life can measure up to the smile on a young boy’s face when he first realizes that he can read, or the delight expressed by a young woman who solves her first calculus problem. So, if you want to inspire and instruct the next generation of musicians, mathematicians, nurses, scientists, astronauts, and philosophers, choose teaching!

What is good teaching?
These are the thoughts of By Richard Leblanc, York University, Ontario. Although this was written for college teachers, his ideas apply across all teaching levels. This list first appeared in The Teaching Professor. Downloaded from the internet on April 15, 2008:http://honolulu.hawaii.edu/intranet/committees/FacDevCom/guidebk/teachtip/topten.htm.

  1. Good teaching is as much about passion as it is about reason. It’s about not only motivating students to learn, but teaching them how to learn, and doing so in a manner that is relevant, meaningful, and memorable. It’s about caring for your craft, having a passion for it, and conveying that passion to everyone, most importantly to your students.
  2. Good teaching is about substance and treating students as consumers of knowledge. It’s about doing your best to keep on top of your field, reading sources, inside and outside of your areas of expertise, and being at the leading edge as often as possible. But knowledge is not confined to scholarly journals. Good teaching is also about bridging the gap between theory and practice. It’s about leaving the ivory tower and immersing oneself in the field, talking to, consulting with, and assisting practitioners, and liaisoning with their communities.
  3. Good teaching is about listening, questioning, being responsive, and remembering that each student and class is different. It’s about eliciting responses and developing the oral communication skills of the quiet students. It’s about pushing students to excel; at the same time, it’s about being human, respecting others, and being professional at all times.
  4. Good teaching is about not always having a fixed agenda and being rigid, but being flexible, fluid, experimenting, and having the confidence to react and adjust to changing circumstances. It’s about getting only 10 percent of what you wanted to do in a class done and still feeling good. It’s about deviating from the course syllabus or lecture schedule easily when there is more and better learning elsewhere. Good teaching is about the creative balance between being an authoritarian dictator on the one hand and a pushover on the other.
  5. Good teaching is also about style. Should good teaching be entertaining? You bet! Does this mean that it lacks in substance? Not a chance! Effective teaching is not about being locked with both hands glued to a podium or having your eyes fixated on a slide projector while you drone on. Good teachers work the room and every student in it. They realize that they are the conductors and the class is the orchestra. All students play different instruments and at varying proficiencies.
  6. This is very important — good teaching is about humor. It’s about being self-deprecating and not taking yourself too seriously. It’s often about making innocuous jokes, mostly at your own expense, so that the ice breaks and students learn in a more relaxed atmosphere where you, like them, are human with your own share of faults and shortcomings.
  7. Good teaching is about caring, nurturing, and developing minds and talents. It’s about devoting time, often invisible, to every student. It’s also about the thankless hours of grading, designing or redesigning courses, and preparing materials to still further enhance instruction.
  8. Good teaching is supported by strong and visionary leadership, and very tangible institutional support — resources, personnel, and funds. Good teaching is continually reinforced by an overarching vision that transcends the entire organization — from full professors to part-time instructors — and is reflected in what is said, but more importantly by what is done.
  9. Good teaching is about mentoring between senior and junior faculty, teamwork, and being recognized and promoted by one’s peers. Effective teaching should also be rewarded, and poor teaching needs to be remediated through training and development programs.
  10. At the end of the day, good teaching is about having fun, experiencing pleasure and intrinsic rewards … like locking eyes with a student in the back row and seeing the synapses and neurons connecting, thoughts being formed, the person becoming better, and a smile cracking across a face as learning all of a sudden happens. Good teachers practice their craft not for the money or because they have to, but because they truly enjoy it and because they want to. Good teachers couldn’t imagine doing anything else.

Is teaching a good career for the future?
It’s important that the teachers in our classrooms reflect the diversity of the students. This means that we need more male teachers in the elementary grades and more female teachers in subjects such as mathematics and science.

Wisconsin also fits the national pattern, where, at the current time, more than 95% of all teachers are white. This means that we need more teachers who are African-, Asian-, Hispanic- and Native American. When we look at the school-age population in Wisconsin, we find that it is far more diverse than the general population.

Wisconsin’s School-Age Population
(875,543 students in 2006-07)

Black/African American 10.4%
Hispanic-American 7.2%
Asian-American 3.6%
American Indian 1.5%
White 77.3%

Enrollment by Type of School, 2006-07

Elementary 417,626
Middle/Junior High 159,958
High School 291,939
Combined Elementary/Middle/High 7,020

Ana Villegas, a professor at Montclair State University, points out that teachers often are the most important authority figure outside the home. She notes that, “When they (students) see only white people as teachers, that can reinforce the negative stereotype in white students and students of color that people of color are not capable of holding positions of authority.”

What can I do as a teacher?
“Teaching is an interesting and challenging profession. It is not for the meek or faint of heart.” This statement, found in Joan DellaValle and Emmett Sawyer’s book, “Teacher Career Starter: The Road to a Rewarding Career,” sets forth a challenge and a great opportunity. These challenges and opportunities exist in teaching. You can choose to teach very young children from pre-school through the elementary grades; or you can work with middle and high school students and specialize in the arts, sciences, math, or technology education. You can also teach at the technical college or university level. You may wish to work with physically, emotionally or intellectually challenged children as a teacher, guidance counselor, psychologist, physical or occupational therapist or social worker.

Teaching is a demanding, yet rewarding profession. Wisconsin—where a typical teacher has a master’s degree and 16 years of experience—is known to have one of the best teaching staffs in the nation.

If you choose this career path, you could also have additional opportunities to exercise your talents. You can coach or be an adviser to extra-curricular activities from foreign language clubs to Future Farmers of America. You can use your leadership skills to mentor other teachers, lead curriculum design teams or pursue building and district leadership options as a principal or superintendent. Teachers can also use their leadership talents to advocate for others through involvement in the teachers’ union, professional associations and community organizations.

If these options aren’t enough, you should know that the skills of a teacher are transferable to other professions. Government and business-and-industry employers like to hire teachers because of their abilities to work and communicate effectively with people. This—added to their ability to plan, organize and inspire—makes teachers very attractive as employees. While we never like to lose great teachers from the classroom, it is always nice to know that when you choose a particular career path you will have a wide range of options.

If you want to make a difference–TEACH!!!

What can I expect to earn as a teacher?
The national average teacher’s salary for 2006-2007 was $49,026, according to the National Education Association. The lowest average salary was in South Dakota at $34,709 and the highest average salary was in California at $59,825.

The average teacher salary for a Wisconsin (who has a Master’s Degree and 16 years of teaching experience) in 2007-08 is $46,390. The Wisconsin Education Association Council reports that the average starting pay is about $30,000.

Remember that these salaries are averages. Some teachers earn more, and some earn less. And don’t forget the benefits. Teacher benefits vary by contract but most include the following: contributions to the state retirement system, health insurance, sick leave and dental coverage. Some contracts may include long-term disability insurance, life insurance, emergency/personal leave and investment options.

Posted May 22, 2008