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Hi guys! I've always wanted to be a teacher (high school level history), it was just something I felt I was meant to do, but I never did get around to finishing college. I'm starting a life path now that may allow me to finish sometime in the next 5 years or so, but I'm 32 now. I remember when I was in high school and told a few of my favorite teachers that I wanted to pass on their torch and most tried to discourage it (and this was before students started acting out at school).
Would anyone be able to give me a realistic picture of how classrooms operate these days? How much of your time is instruction versus dealing with discipline and administrative issues? How much of your supplies are you paying for out of your pocket (I know when I was in high school our english teacher probably spent a quarter of her income on supplies for us!)? What do you think are the best personality traits a teacher wannabe must exhibit? Any advice at all is appreciated! =)
Thanks in advance!
Last Edited on: 7/29/07 3:06 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
I got my degree, then stayed home to raise my children, so by the time I got into my own classroom, I was going on 37, so don't let your age be a deterrent. If you truly want to be a teacher, then go for it.
Two of my sons are also studying to be history teachers, one at the middle school level and the other at high school level. They were both discouraged by mentors in high school because the job is difficult, respect is almost nil and the pay isn't great. They knew this already because they've been part of my adventures in teaching through their late elementary years through now, so they're going in with their eyes open. It doesn't surprise me that you were discouraged by those in the field, but it's disappointing to hear all the same.
At the elementary level, where I teach special ed, I spend well over $500/yearly on basic school supplies for my students and things for my classroom. My district has been in financial trouble for years and the population is low income to no income families, so there are many families who can't afford to keep their kids in the basics: crayons, folders, erasers, etc. If I taught a general ed classroom, I imagine I'd be spending three times that much. There is a ridiculous amount of non-teaching bs that has to be dealt with and it's frustrating because it often takes away from time you need to devote to the teaching part of the job. Then there are the tests to be reckoned with. Testing blows! It often seems that your entire life is nothing more than dealing with the stupid tests in some way. But that's the nature of the beast now, so I accept it and move on, while hoping that someone will wise up and see that this approach isn't accomplishing any more than raising a generation of kids who can take tests. I'll stop here before I step on the soapbox.
You already have the first trait a teacher needs, you want to teach. You're not teaching as a last resort because you can't figure out anything better to do. You're well out of high school and have some real life under your belt, so it's not a matter of being pressured into picking a major. As for the rest, if you enjoy kids, enjoy the subject you want to teach, can be enthusiastic (even if you have to fake it some days) and have a degree of patience and the willingness to not give up on a difficult child, then you're set.
I was 38 when I went back to school to get my first degree You can do it and I know that there are many ways for you to get in and observe classrooms there are not a whole lot of good teachers out there who turn down volunteers in the class room! Go observe and volunteer, see it first hand.
In five years, you'll still be 5 years older, no matter what you do, or don't do! If you have the desire to teach, that is, as Sandy said, the first hurdle. I have taught elementary for 33 years and also teach in a program at a local college for people who hold a degree in an area other than education, but who want to become certified to teach. My students have ranged from 25-60, so it certainly isn't too late to start. Because history is such a low-need area, you might do some research on needed areas in your state and see if you can minor in one of those areas --- once you get your foot in the door, you can work into the job you want.
I would advise, in addition to volunteering, that you go to the ASCD.org website and read through their back issues to get an idea of issues being faced in education today. Perhaps you can get your hands on and read some of the books by Robert J. Marzano and Carolyn Tomlinson on Differentiated Instruction, classroom management, and instructional strategies.
I spend a couple of hundred a year on "extras", but I also know teachers who spend very little - it just depends. Reguarding classroom management and instruction - if you have a good handle on the first, the second is much easier. Read and/or attend workshops on cooperative learning.
I don't know what state you are in, but testing is a way of life, now. However, if you know the standards being tested and are sure to cover your curriculum, you have done your part of the job. I can't imagine any school in the US that doesn't help kids become test savvy!
I can't imagine doing any other job, I have no plans to retire soon...even after 33 years.
Let me add my 2 cents. Everything you have already been told is right on the money. I suggest that you at least minor in special education. One: you can always get a job, in fact they will beg you. Two: you can almost always find a high school or middle school that departmentalizes their sped classes, so you can either teach history or work your way up to it. I worked high school and taught english in such a program. It is very important that you chose majors that are in demand. For example, math and science is one that is difficult to fill because so many teachers are hired away by large corporations.
As for your age, I graduated at 40. I have never regretted it. I spent 20 years in the computer industry and finally the light bulb came on and I knew what I wanted to do. I worried about age etc. Advice given to me was just make sure you pick at least one area where there is a shortage (that is also what you like to do) and go for it.
Definitely think about adding the special ed minor. It will help you both in job hunting and in the day-to-day operation of any general ed classroom as well. No matter what you teach, you're always going to end up with some kids, identified or not, that will need extra help to be successful and having a sped background will help you toward showing that student the way to success.