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Becoming a Teacher

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What are the advantages and disadvantages of being a teacher?

  • In the You Be the Judge feature, we consider both advantages and disadvantages of teaching. On the negative side of the ledger, teachers are not paid wonderful salaries, sometimes lack professional respect from others, get bogged down by routine, have inadequate time for contact with other adults, and face frustration when idealistic goals collide with student apathy, parent hostility, and the demands of old-fashioned bureaucratic red tape.
    On the positive side of the ledger are rising salaries, the growing pride in the profession, the joy of working with children and caring colleagues, and the intellectual stimulation that are so often a part of classroom life, as well as the opportunity to affect the lives of the nation's youth.

    What are the satisfactions--and complaints--of today's teachers?

  • The vast majority of teachers surveyed indicate that they are satisfied with their jobs, but there are problems. While teachers' salaries have improved, many teachers believe that their pay is still inadequate. Local conditions have a major impact on teacher satisfaction. On the teacher's wish list for job improvement are lighter workloads, more parental support, fewer discipline problems, and greater administration support.

    Can we consider teaching to be a profession?

  • Some claim teaching has not achieved true professional status and is, at best, a semiprofession. To support their point of view, these critics note the short preparation time needed for becoming a teacher and the employment of teachers with little or no training in programs such as Teach for America. Critics also cite the lack of teacher influence over licensure and curricular standards. Teachers are not even central in determining who is permitted into the field or who should be forced out of teaching due to incompetence.
    Those who claim that teaching has earned full professional status assert that it is one of the most noble of occupations. Its knowledge and research base is growing, and a number of colleges and universities now require more study (five years) to meet minimum teacher education requirements. In addition, most states now administer qualifying exams, another indication that the entrance standards to teaching are being raised. The development of a National Board for Professional Teaching Standards to identify board-certified teachers, teachers who excel in their professional skills and competencies, represents a new level of professional development.

    How has teacher preparation changed over the years?

  • In colonial times, teachers were treated as meek and docile servants of the public, and teaching was considered only temporary employment. Teachers' conduct both in and out of school was scrutinized closely, and their income was meager.
    In 1823, a private normal school was established to train future teachers. In the 1900s, many private universities established two-year teacher education programs in normal schools. More recent reform reports, including Tomorrow's Teachers and A Nation Prepared, urge higher standards, increased professionalism for teacher preparation, and recognition of superior performance through board certification.

    Do educators and the public agree on the most effective way to prepare teachers?

  • On a number of key points, teachers, education professors, and the general public differ on what schools should value and emphasize. On discipline, for example, professors relate the student behavior to teaching effectiveness. Reactions from the public and classroom teachers reflect the belief that tough classroom standards and rules are very important, and good behavior is a prerequisite to learning. Classroom teachers and the general public are also more likely than the professors to support ensuring that new teachers instill traditional values, including punctuality, neatness, competition, and tougher promotion standards. What are the important skills for new teachers to master? It is unrealistic to believe that any teacher education program can meet everyone's needs or expectations in this area. Teacher candidates must become active participants in their own professional development, refining their own approach to teaching and exploring resources in addition to those offered by their teacher education program.

    What traits and characteristics are needed for successful teaching?

  • Interpersonal skills are central to successful teaching. Successful teachers enjoy working with children, managing and motivating people, working well with the community, and are often found to have a pretty good sense of humor. A strong work ethic, intellectual curiosity, and a commitment to lifelong learning are also associated with success in the classroom.
    Many of these skills associated with teaching are also useful in other people-oriented occupations. However, while organizations like Southwest Airlines have developed corporate cultures that focus on employee satisfaction and autonomy, schools have yet to mirror that level of confidence in teachers.

    Is teaching a"good fit" for you?

  • In reviewing characteristics and traits related to effective teaching, we ask you to evaluate yourself. How do you rate on these skills and traits? In fact, a major purpose of this text is to help you connect with teaching and assess if teaching is the right career for you.

    What steps can you take now on the road to becoming a teacher?

  • As you explore your potential role in teaching, you will develop questions, invest energy and investigate options. All of these efforts are put to good use in this text through Inter-mission activities, further suggested readings, and online activities. We strive to create a text that is responsive to your interests and needs. As much as possible, we try to anticipate your questions and get you actively involved in this book. You will find typical student questions (and our answers) throughout the text. But we invite you to send additional questions to us, either through email or snail mail. You can email us through the Online Learning Center at
    Even now, there are steps you can take that will help you in the year(s) ahead. If you are not a great planner or organizer, we can help you do a better job as you consider if teaching is right for you. (We can't plan for you or make your decision, but we can help!) If you are pretty sure that teaching is for you, we can help you reach that goal. At the beginning of your program, careful planning and course selection pay dividends. Make certain that you meet with an advisor and check the requirements as you choose your courses. Also, remember that extracurricular activities can be as important as formal coursework. Then there are the job application steps that you can take: prepare your résumé and portfolio, solicit recommendations, and stay informed about the job market. It may be early, but it is not too early.

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