Why become a teacher? 4 Reasons to pursue a career in the classroom
For some, becoming a teacher is a lifelong career aspiration. Others decide to pursue a career as an educator while in college or after earning a degree and garnering experience in a different field.
Regardless of your specific path, it can be helpful to evaluate the real reasons you’re drawn toward the idea of becoming a teacher. This is an important part of the process because teaching isn’t for everyone. Some even give it a shot, and then later determine it’s not the right path for them.
As you venture through your decision-making process, you might consider some of the reasons seasoned educators who’ve come before you have committed their careers to the classroom. While educators turn to classroom instruction for any number of unique reasons, there are a few key motivators that many teachers share.
Educators share 4 reasons to become a teacher
We sought insight from education professionals with varying levels of experience to learn why people choose a career in teaching.
1. You want to maximize your impact on the world
Angela Shelley-Brown began her career as a teacher before transitioning to her role as the chief of communications for the Carrollton-Farmers Branch Independent School District in Texas. She’s garnered more than two decades of experience working directly with classroom instructors and has spent many hours interviewing and hiring teaching candidates. In that time, she’s learned that most successful teachers are impact-driven.
“Teachers are entering the classroom to maximize their impact on the world, specifically students,” Shelley-Brown notes. “They want to make a difference and are cause-driven.” She also mentions that many graduates return to teach at their own schools to positively impact their communities.
Dr. Kathy Theuer, associate dean for the School of Education at University of Massachusetts Global, agrees that educators aim to positively affect students’ lives.
“Teaching, at its core, is about helping people,” Dr. Theuer says. “Most teachers are driven by the goal of using their knowledge and expertise to make a difference for students.”
2. You believe in the transformative power of education
Upon leaving the familiar comforts of high school and venturing into college at UC Riverside, Sneha Sharma— the youngest-ever graduate of University of Massachusetts Global’s Ed.D. in Organizational Leadership program — quickly discovered how fortunate she was to have access to so many resources growing up. She realized others weren’t afforded the same education opportunities, which helped her develop a strong desire to give back. Education, as she’s learned, has the power to change lives.
Sharma now teaches high school English in Colton, California. “This is totally different than where I went to high school. The families aren’t that affluent. School isn’t always a priority. Parents are working three jobs, and there are all sorts of issues,” she says. “I really love what I do. I think what I love most are the students, even on their bad days.”
The primary motivation driving Sharma’s teaching career forward is the long-term impact an education can have on the lives of all students – particularly those from low-income families that can’t provide their children with the same opportunities she was afforded throughout her life. Studies have shown that investing more resources into education for low-income kids increases their likelihood of graduating high school, increases their earning potential later in life and even decreases their chances of being incarcerated as adults.
For her doctorate dissertation, Sharma chose to explore the topic of how teachers can develop positive relationships with their students in 21st century classrooms. She was clearly a standout student, and UMass Global Ed.D. program mentor Jonathan Greenberg noticed her passion. “She really wants kids to be successful,” he says. “She’s not willing to give up on any student.”
3. You’re drawn to the flexibility of a teaching career
We’re all aware of the sought-after seasonal breaks many teachers enjoy when working within a traditional school calendar. But there are other flexibility benefits that draw people into a career as an educator.
“Teaching is a fantastically portable career, which has supported myself and my family as we travel all over the globe,” offers Karen M. Ricks, head chef at Our Kitchen Classroom and teacher with more than 20 years of classroom experience. “There’s such a growing need for educators in a variety of fields and settings all over the world. People who want a family-friendly career that can also be mobile and flexible should definitely consider teaching.”
Even at a set location, teaching offers a level of freedom. Dr. Jeff Carter, director of Castle Rock Institute and Rockbrook Summer Camp, has spent his education career teaching middle school, high school and college classes. One of the primary things that drew him to this career path was the level of flexibility he could experience within the classroom.
“Sure, teachers are usually given a set curriculum,” Dr. Carter says. “But how they teach the material — the style of presentation, the learning activities, the range of what can be emphasized — is ripe for improvisation.” The freedom permitted to most educators to keep things fresh, he says, can help make this career path remain interesting over many years.
4. You’re open to learning from your students
Teaching can be equal parts rewarding and challenging. That sentiment rings especially true for Tamara Frazier, whose education career began with a dream she had cultivated while still in high school: She wanted to be a special education teacher.
Frazier completed University of Massachusetts Global’s rigorous Ed.D. program and went on to be named a Riverside Unified School District Teacher of the Year. Now working as a special education teacher at J.W. North High School in Riverside, California, she spends her days with students who have emotional disabilities, teaching everything from earth science to vocational education.
In her classroom, Frazier works with students who experience a range of mental health conditions, including schizophrenia, depression and behavioral issues. “They challenge me in ways you would never understand,” she says of her students. These challenges, however, have taught her valued lessons about emotional resilience and the importance of overcoming obstacles. “They make me a better person — emotionally stronger.”
Students came to Frazier’s classes unable to read and saw no other options for their lives than to join gangs. But they would leave the school year reading, writing letters to loved ones and talking about new goals they had for their lives.
“That was the most rewarding for me,” Frazier says.
Could you thrive as a teacher?
Why become a teacher? You can see there are some great motivating factors for the right individuals. If you find yourself identifying with any of the reasons to become a teacher that our education experts identified, it may be time to do some research on how to make your dream a reality.
The best way to start is to learn about your degree options. Head over to University of Massachusetts Global’s School of Education information page to see how you could achieve your goals.
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