Teaching..a respected career, or is it? Just recently, elementary, middle, and high schools devoted a day or week to celebrate Teacher Appreciation Day/Week. Most definitely a worthy distinction for what many characterize as a group of underappreciated employees. Most importantly, why should their appreciation be limited to one day or week; why not everyday?
Tagged sometimes with insensitive comments; such as, when all else fails, become a teacher, doesn’t help the reputation. Some studies have surfaced stating that high school students rank it as a less than desirable major. Wonder why that attitude prevails in high school? Could it be that as they observe the behavior of their classmates and disrespect for teachers, they’ve decided the career should be avoided because the environment is toxic?
It would be interesting to survey elementary school students and determine their views of a teaching career. When you pose that question to an elementary student, you will probably get a lot of enthusiastic support for their teachers. At that age, the teacher is the six-hour substitute for mom.
But what happens to the career consciousness of middle and high school students that pushes the attitude to negative, including sometimes disrespect, for an education career? Since they are getting closer to formulating college majors in their impressionable mind, this would be the ideal time to repair any distorted views of teaching; hopefully, presenting it as a promising career path. It supports the motto, Early Intervention is the Key!
As an optimist I do not believe that teaching is a busted career. As a school counselor for thirty years, and not a previous teacher, you might be surprised that during the last ten, I noticed an increase in students declaring education as a major. Several were students who had earlier indicated other career paths, but as they matured and acquired various learning experiences decided to change. One of my previous students, a successful lawyer, stopped by to tell me his decision to pursue teaching as a career change.
There are students who are impressed by the professionalism of their teachers and want to model their path and return to the classroom, but on the other side of the desk. When schools participate in “Senior Switch Day,” it is amazing to watch some of them teach, and do a fantastic job.
There could be several reasons for this attitude change. One is probably the economy. Some students are attracted to teaching due to districts that will pay for their college education, if they work in designated schools after graduation. Plus, there are some public school districts with good salaries, benefits, working conditions, and stability in employment that attract college graduates; it’s not limited to the private sector. Also, compared to some college majors, education is a career path that offers more opportunities for employment after graduation, if jobs are not affected by low student enrollment, budget restraints, county financial resources, etc.
Another positive stimulus has been the orientation to teaching, available to most high school students in department curriculums. Montgomery County (MD) Public Schools (MCPS) has a course, Child and Adolescent Development, offered at three levels. The students actually teach young day care children at the high school and other locations. Other courses include Teaching as a Profession, Teaching and Curriculum, and an internship.
As a high school counselor, there were faculty members at my school who entered teaching from other professional careers. When asked why, most said they just wanted to work with a younger population, or wanted a different job. Their previous careers were law, dentistry, engineering, and business.
You can learn more about the teaching profession pertinent to kindergarten and elementary school teachers and high school teachers by searching the Occupational Outlook Handbook hosted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor.