The greatest teachers inspire. And I’m sure you remember yours. The ones who made you laugh while opening your mind to ideas you’d never considered. The ones whose passion seemed to infect even the most complacent students. The ones who made ‘just showing up’ that much easier.
And now, years later, you’ve thought about it. You’ve considered the impact you could make on students and you’re curious whether or not teaching might be the right career path for you. And while you know the job isn’t easy, the more you think about the opportunity to influence the next generation of critical thinkers, that next group of true change makers, the more you find yourself interested in the challenge. While each teacher could give you their own list of reasons to teach, we’ve compiled three compelling reasons for those of you who may be taking a less traditional route to the classroom.
Reason #1: Growing Demand
We need you. As evidenced in the Learning Policy Institute’s seminal 2016 report, the demand for teachers has been on the rise for quite some time. In the 2012-2013 School Year, the teacher shortage rang in at 20,000 positions. Three years later (2015-2016), it was at 64,000 teachers. And for the 2017-2018 School Year, the teacher shortage was estimated at 110,000 open roles. Since then, the open roles have been estimated around this same staggering number, leaving many classrooms without full-time teachers, and even more at absolute student capacity.
Worldwide? The stakes are that much higher. According to the 2016 report from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, in order to reach their 2030 education goals, globally we will need to produce nearly 69 million new teachers.
While there is a shortage in teachers across the board, as the projected need for STEM-related positions continues to increase, so too does the need for teachers in science and math. And though open roles will vary subject by subject, school to school, and city to city - demand in urban areas is likely to continue to grow across the country. If you’re thinking about becoming a teacher and you’re interested in exploring career options in your field of study, check out:
- National Association of Special Education Teachers
- National Council of Teachers of English
- National Council of Teachers of Mathematics
- National Science Teachers Association
Reason #2: Sense of Purpose
Only teachers can claim to have taught the leaders of all other professions. And it’s true! None of us would be where we are if it weren’t for the educators we met along the way. The idea that teachers today are teaching the next generation of leaders is inspiring - albeit a bit intimidating. But helping to shape the future is surely a task worth waking up for! In addition:
- You get to be creative. Or, in many cases, you’re required to be. When it comes to engaging all students, teachers need to be flexible and adaptable - we don’t all learn the same way. But if you’re someone who has been itching to try new things and see the world in entirely new ways, the opportunities to do so as a classroom leader are endless.
- You know you’re needed. And most of the time, you also know you’re wanted. Whether it’s the numerous questions your students eagerly ask you, the stack of drawings, notes, and thank you cards piled on your desk, or the genuine smiles when you return from break or illness - there’s always something that reminds you you’re appreciated.
- You’re never bored. Even during times when the content isn’t keeping you intellectually stimulated, identifying the best ways to meet your students’ diverse needs certainly will! There’s no question your students will be sure to keep you both literally and figuratively on your toes. And besides that, they’ll keep you entertained along the way. Students are full of surprises, no matter what their age - and no matter what the subject may be. Before you know it, your day is over - and it’s time to prepare for the next!
Reason #3: Profound Impact
When it comes to student success, research points to teacher quality as the number one factor. And there are a few characteristics that high quality teachers possess. If your communication, listening, and relationship building skills are strong - if you’re friendly and approachable and able to foster community amongst students - and if you’re knowledgeable and passionate about your subject matter, prepared and organized, and with a strong work ethic - then classroom leadership may be in your future. If so:
- You influence and shape lives. And you find yours changed for the better, too. Schools are generally energetic, fun-loving spaces - which breeds a sense of possibility. And where anything is possible, people tend to find themselves empowered to do great things. This changes how we approach problems, how we see the world, and how we interact with one another.
- You contribute to the community. As teachers, it’s our job to teach critical thinking skills. We want our students to be informed, engaged members of society - confident in their communication and problem solving abilities, and welcoming of diverse perspectives.
- Each year is a new beginning. Literally! You get a new group of students and a chance to start fresh. After reflecting on the year prior - the highs and the lows, your greatest moments of success, and the areas you know you need to improve - you can take advantage of the summer months to sharpen your skills and prepare for the next year. Essentially, you have the opportunity to reinvent yourself (if you so choose) and those you work most closely with (your students) will likely assume it’s how you’ve always been. And while we’re talking students, if you had a particularly challenging year, you can turn the page to a whole new chapter. How many other careers offer such a seamless opportunity to reset and start again?
In addition to what’s listed above, we know you have your own reasons for pursuing classroom leadership. And to be honest, your “Why?” statement is what will get you through your most trying times as an educator. So, without question, it’s critical that you know why you want to take on this challenge. And if you’re truly interested in finding a school that’s the right fit for you, we encourage you to check out organizations that share our mission, like: Teach For America, and The New York City Teaching Fellows, both of which help aspiring educators begin their careers.
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