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How to Enjoy Your Teaching Career!

Updated: Jun 10, 2020

It is a common question I ask new teachers I meet. "So, do you think you will make it in teaching for 30 years?" Unfortunately, the answer is almost always "no". I certainly understand this feeling. It is common to teachers at any stage of their teaching career. There are few professions as stressful, demanding, and exhausting as teaching. Short of changing the entire system, how does an educator remain effective in the classroom and happy in life? Here are a few brutally honest suggestions.

  1. REALIZE that you may have become a teacher to change the world, but you are not going to. And, that is okay. Just do your best to help those around you every day and that is enough. There will always be someone left in need, another stack of papers to grade, or a parent phone call to make, but if you cannot get it done during normal work hours, put in a movie, and get it done the next day. I know, it sounds bad, but we are being realistic here. It is impossible to do what is expected and if you try, you will end up sick, exhausted, or looking for another career.

  2. REMAIN CALM at all times. Students will talk while you are talking, daydream, play on their cell phones, misbehave, cheat, fight, curse (sometimes at you)... Administrators will treat you like an interchangeable factory part, forget what it was like to be a teacher, expect you to fix every student problem and teach every student (whether they can read, write, or speak English or not). The truth is, all you HAVE to do is TEACH. You don't have to teach fast or even well. You just have to teach. Do what you can for those students who will. That is all you can do anyway. But, whatever you do, do not think it is your sole responsibility to see that Little Timmy makes an A. There are too many factors you cannot control to lay that burden on yourself.

  3. WAIT before you volunteer to be the first to get trained on the new curriculum program that will finally make it possible to reach every student. Save your energy. By the time your turn comes, they will have probably moved on to another program. If not, then it may actually be worth your while to go through the training because if it is good, it may last a while. By then, they will be tired of going though it and you will get the short and sweet version.

  4. TAKE days off. DON"T feel guilty about it. Teaching is a crazy profession. It does not make any sense. It is necessary to go out into the real world frequently and recharge your batteries. You are not a superhero and if you try to be, your body will show you very quickly how fragile your health is.

  5. UNDERSTAND that people are flawed. Don't expect too much of them. Your peers and leaders have to look out for their own careers. They will let you down or cause you harm at some point. It may be in the form of extra duties, that class you did not get to teach, too many assigned students, getting passed over for promotion (because the boss's friend wanted the job), or in a million other ways. Forgive them. They are just people, flawed people.

  6. START day one planning for retirement. When you get your first paycheck, put as much as you can into a retirement account (403b). After 20 or so years, you may have enough to retire early anyway.

  7. ENJOY every little victory. Young people are so impressionable and if you care about them, they will take your heart. Take time during class to just talk to them, get to know them, joke with them, or just take a walk. They are the best part of the job.

  8. LIVE A HEALTHY LIFESTYLE! Teaching can burn you out and tsuck the energy out of you unless you put your health first. Exercise and proper nutrition is a must so that you can enjoy time with family and friends. Here are some great exercise and nutrition plans for educators!

  9. TEACHERS PAY TEACHERS! Use it! Save time and make teaching easier!

  10. BAIL. If these strategies don't work for you and you are miserable, Bail early. Change careers as soon as you can. You will most likely make a lot more money anyway. You will certainly get to eat lunch more slowly. The Air Force is a great branch of the military for ex-teachers and only 20 years until retirement. If military service is not for you, sell insurance, cars, or real estate. go into the private sector. You are a highly educated individual, the workforce needs you.

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