So you want to be a teacher?

So you want to be a teacher?

When I was growing up, I had many different ideas about what I wanted to be when I was an adult. At first, I wanted to be a veterinarian. But then I realized that sometimes animals would die and I couldn’t deal with that.

Next on my list was a doctor. But then I realized the sight / thought of blood made me want to pass out. I had to quickly scratch that off my list.


I was always a child who loved learning. School came easy to me. I didn’t have to work as hard for my grades as other children did. I made the decision to become a teacher. My teachers always made a difference in my life, so I wanted to do the same for others.

I went to college and thought I picked the best job in the world. While my friends who were majoring in nursing, business, and computers were spending hours upon hours studying for final exams, I was using construction paper and markers to prepare my final projects. My courses on classroom management gave me so many wonderful ideas on how to manage my classes. I was ready to go!

I graduated a semester early and actually secured a job as a 4th grade teacher two weeks before receiving my degree. I was taken from my internship placement early and put in a classroom where the teacher just left mid-year. I was officially a “substitute” until I had my degree and could sign my contract. When I was introduced to the class, they cried. No joke. Boys were crying. The teacher before me had zero classroom management and didn’t give them anything to do. Ever. To say I had my work cut out for me was an understatement.

Within my first 6 months I dealt with my first dangerous student (he was almost as big as me as a 4th grader and was throwing desks in my room) had my first parent SCREAM at me on the phone because I wasn’t “making” his child complete work, and went home and cried at least 3 days a week. This was NOT what I learned in college. In fact, aside from teaching in a prison, I don’t know that anything could have prepared me for the real world. I made it another year in 4th grade before I made the switch to Middle School Math. I was much happier teaching one subject instead of 7, especially a subject I loved. But it still took me a while to get myself grounded in a difficult school. I pretty much had to forget everything I learned in college in order to be successful in the classroom. I learned from my co-workers more than anyone else.

Here is my advice for new teachers / anyone considering becoming a teacher:

  1. Where you teach makes a HUGE impact on everything else on this list. If you teach in a high functioning school with great parent involvement, I can’t relate to you and everything below #1 will probably be worthless to you. Truth.
  2. If you teach in a low functioning school, in a high crime area, and/or a school with little to no parent involvement, you need to forget everything you learned in college. Most of those classroom management tips you learned will not work on these students. What will work? Thick skin, building relationships, mutual respect, help from your co-workers.
  3. You will be expected to take vacations/family time/personal time in the summer. You will be given 3-5 personal days a year. Many districts roll over unused days as sick leave, so they’ll be worthless as personal days at the end of the year.
  4. You will NEED more than 3-5 personal days a year.
  5. You would rather go to school sick than writing sub plans. There seriously needs to be a course in college that requires you to write lesson plans for a full day in about 20 minutes. That’s real life.
  6. All of the things you learned in college about being cutesy and fun may not apply depending on your district. More and more districts are requiring all teachers within a content area to use the same materials and teach the same thing at the same time.
  7. If you teach middle school and higher and you try to teach / set up your room / act like an elementary school teacher, it won’t work. Just don’t do it.
  8. Yes, you will have the summer off. People will give you crap for it. If you’re going to be or already are a GOOD teacher, your summer will not necessarily be school-free. You will be setting up your classroom, planning lessons, attending collaborative planning meetings, writing curriculum, attending professional development classes and conferences. You will probably NOT spent all 8-10 weeks of summer break on the beach. But you will spend the majority of it with your family.

I don’t mean for this post to be all negative and bring down the dreams of those who want to be teachers. There are many fabulous parts of teaching and many teachers love their job! I’d even to venture to say that ALL teachers would love their jobs if the politics were removed. But that’ll never happen, so we need to deal with what we’re given. All I’m trying to say is that you need to be informed about what teaching is REALLY like before you jump right in.

Decide where you are going to teach. Will you need to move to be closer to a better district? If so, it will probably be worth it. Decide WHAT you want to teach. If you really honestly love little children and don’t mind being a second mommy or daddy to them, then go for elementary. Keep in mind, you will probably teach more than one subject and have little prep time. If you LOVE a certain subject, consider being a middle or high school teacher so you can teach what you love all day long. It takes a special kind of crazy person {and I say that with all the love in the world} to teach Middle School, and a special kind of patience to teach elementary school. Regardless of which direction you pick, you’re an amazing person and you’re going to touch a TON of lives!


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Hi, I'm Lindsay!

I create ready to go resources for middle school math teachers, so they can get back what matters most – their time!

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