Every time a cohort of my high school students are about to graduate, I ask how many of them want to choose school teaching as a career and in the last decade of my teaching experience, I have only had a handful raising their hand.
Their response has often led me to wonder if their years at school has left them with an incorrect picture about school teaching as a profession. Have we consciously worked on helping them realize that this can be profession by choice rather than by chance?
Today, if I look at the statistical data of high school teachers, I see most of them with a master’s degree, quite a few with a research degree like M.Phil or PhD and some also with a professional degree like engineering, law and MBA. This diversity in the educational qualifications of teachers with or without the conventional teaching degree has definitely started showing positive effects on school teaching. Youngsters with good academic credentials and qualifications are entering the field of school teaching with an aim to innovate teaching and learning practices and create a more conducive environment for learning.
The question still remains if this notion of teaching as a career has penetrated far enough to make it a choice for a sizeable number. If not, then I guess it is time to look at the reasons why youngsters should consider teaching.
Freedom and autonomy: While there are set guidelines for every curriculum and expectations of every institute/organization, once the teacher enters the classroom he/she has the freedom and autonomy to facilitate the classroom teaching keeping the end objectives clearly defined for the learners. With experience and understanding of classroom teaching and learning, this freedom and autonomy only increases and provides the teacher with opportunities to own the approach, the content and evaluation criteria in achieving the learning and assessment objectives.
Respect and demand: There is enough demand and respect for teachers who can make a difference and are passionate about it, across institutions from kindergarten till university education. The importance of being able to create an environment, which promotes critical thinking and encourages risk taking, innovation and care, cannot be adequately stated in words or quantified. The financial returns are appropriately changing with the understanding of the above and teaching skills are suitably being rewarded.
Interests beyond the profession: A school environment provides one with enough opportunities to pursue interests other than subject teaching like assisting in sports coaching (also playing), volunteering in theatre clubs, literary clubs, debate clubs, music and art clubs, start a school magazine and even initiate community service projects. There is enough and more scope for building other skills and also gain recognition for the same. There is no dearth of volunteers to take up anything you offer because in a school, you can always find energetic kids who share your interests. Believe me, they will always inspire you to do more.
Research options: With the online platform offering a plethora of opportunities to showcase our knowledge and share ideas, teachers now can take free courses to build their research skills (coursera, unacademy) write and publish research papers, collaborate with other teachers and researchers through online discussion forums, start their own YouTube channel or a blog or website.
No monotony: I always wonder when people say, ‘You teach the same thing over and over. Every year, you have a new class that differs in culture, intellect, orientation, interests and skills, then how is it possible to teach the same thing?’ Every good teacher understands that by customizing classroom learning after knowing the class demographics and dynamics, the freshness is maintained and the feeling of innovation too is intact.
Time flexibility: Once you have proven that you can teach then institutions offering flexible timings are not a privilege any more. This allows one to spend time pursuing higher education, hobbies, give time to family, etc.
Giving back to society: For all those who always had the urge to do something on these lines, school teaching allows you to do something good everyday and feel satisfied and emotionally rewarded on plenty of occasions.
High schools offering international curricula like IB and A levels offer enough of a challenge for academically oriented youngsters who want to engage in teaching and research in their respective subject areas. Diversity in academic backgrounds, work experience, culture and language only adds to the richness of academic institutions.
I hope over the years, I see more students in my class telling me, “I want to be a teacher.”
The author is an engineer by profession and an educator by passion. She has been a high school math teacher for the last 10 years and has been in the field of education for the last 18 years and has experience in educational research, counselling, writing, teaching and training. She is now the IB Diploma Coordinator at CHIREC International School, Hyderabad. She can be reached at email@example.com.