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To teach, or not to teach...?


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I clearly remember being about 12 years old (nearly 10 years ago), and my fellow classmates joking around, and saying I was destined to be a language arts teacher.

 

All through high school--and now into college--I really, really enjoy language arts. But now that I've started my junior year of college, I'm beginning to wonder what to do about my affection for English studies.

 

I thought about journalism--I even have some work experience with that--but I know it's not for me.

 

So.

 

I have a professor at my university who I happen to really respect (he's the co-author of a very popular book that teaches writing methodology for high school and college students. Every single one of my high school teachers had his book on their desks!).

 

Anyway, I was talking to him one day and he asked me what I wanted to do as a career. I vaguely said something about publishing and he, to my surprise, said, "Well, from what I can tell from class discussions, you're extremely articulate. Have you ever thought about teaching?"

 

I wanted to laugh a little bit, because the first thing I thought about was being teased when I was younger. I tried to dismiss the idea, but it kind of stuck.

 

When I was in high school, I was in an English class with one of my friends and we ended up working on a project together. I can't remember why, but at one point she looked at me and said, "You know, you should be an English teacher." The other day, I jokingly told her that I'm seriously considering taking her "advice" and she said, "You should, because I still to this day think you should be an English teacher."

 

I also asked a few of my other friends what they think, they all said they could see me teaching. One friend in particular mentioned that I have the "right mix of sarcasm and wit to keep your students interested, but you're smart enough to help them learn, too."

 

I don't know what to think. I really value my professor's opinion which is why I'm taking this so seriously, but up until now I've never even seriously considered teaching.

 

I just...I don't know. I don't feel like that's me. I'm kind of lazy when it comes to my own academics so I don't know how much of an example I'd set, lol.

 

And, well, I'm shy sometimes...so that might be a problem for obvious reasons.

 

Plus, I've always kind of thought of teachers as people who knew for a long time that they wanted to teach. I wish I could say with certainty that I want this, but I honestly don't know.

 

This dilemma is also a problem because I don't want to devote time and energy into getting my teaching certification only to realize later on that I don't really want to teach.

 

Are there any teachers out there in cyberspace with some advice? How did you know you wanted to teach? Was it just something you always felt or was it a decision you made later in life?

 

I just...hmm. How do I figure out if this is something that I want to do before I finish my bachelors degree and have to make a decision about which path to take?

 

I know this is long and I'm sort of asking the impossible here, but I'd like some insight if possible.

 

Thanks.

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1. bach degree - that is something u do for yourself. hopefully you pick the right course of studies that makes you grow as a person. people often take the wrong courses - i'll take business admin to get that get job [only to find that job has no meaning or soul] some people take the right courses - art and history - and it enriches them and they develop an understanding of life and that's when....

2. they become teachers

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Okay...

 

I know what I'm doing now. I'm absolutely positive that getting my B.A. in English literature is the perfect path for me. I know it sounds trite, but I really do believe that English lit. is my calling.

 

It's just figuring out what to do with the education I'm earning right now that has become the problem. I mean, if I could just stay in school indefinitely and take English classes until Kingdom come I probably would.

 

But I can't.

 

I'm also definitely not caught up in money or prestige. I want to do what makes me happy, which is why I'm so wary about becoming a teacher.

 

Just because I like English and I'm good at it doesn't mean I'll make a good teacher.

 

Ugh.

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I'm at a similar crossroads myself. I'm a MS student near the end of my thesis and have thought of going onto my PhD. I could stop now and get a job or go on and maybe be a prof. I thought I wanted to, but now I'm not sure.

 

Its hard to say what you will feel like in a few years down the road, but the one thing I ask myself is "Will I regret not doing it". I've seen a lot of people go into teaching and absolutely love it, my neighbor is kindergärtner teacher and is so happy. Teaching has its hard times though. Its not always about helping kids learn, you have to deal with parents, school politics, bad students, budgets, and on and on. My favorite teacher in HS was my sophomore English teacher, she inspired me to do a lot in my life and still nearly 10 years later means a great deal to me as person. Its not a profession that has much glamor, but you do get to touch lives and if your a good teacher, you get to change them.

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I am now currently working on my masters in teaching. I have a BA in English and History and I spent the last 7 years working as a tech writer. Part of me is drawn to teaching because I enjoy working with little kids. They are fun and impressionable and seem to enjoy being with me, esp since I am almost as small as them.

 

I didnt start out wanting to be a teacher though. Growing up, my parents pushed education on us because my mom used to be a grade school teacher and my dad is a college history professor. So, I have been exposed to education all my life. I decided on pursuing a teaching career because I wanted a career change where I could interact with people/kids instead of spending most of my days on a computer writing about inanimate objects.

 

It's not an easy road and being a teacher has its ups and downs, but the rewards are wonderful.

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you should be proud because even though you had education and good role models all around you, you didn't rebel against that and waste what is obvious a life that will enrich those around you. so, you beat the odds and have realized your worth. cheers.

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I want to do what makes me happy, which is why I'm so wary about becoming a teacher.

 

Just because I like English and I'm good at it doesn't mean I'll make a good teacher.

 

Why wary? Can you see yourself teaching and enjoying it?

 

You're right about that second line. Teaching is surely a different skill. My favorite English teacher had no schooling whatsoever in Lit. He was a wonderful teacher. My least favorite was highly educated and yet was a poor teacher. She knew the material but something was lacking. One doesn't necessarily go with the other.

 

But having a passion and competency in your subject helps. And you may find you are a talented teacher.

 

Why not shadow and test it out? Find out now if you like it, if you feel you could do well in it. Maybe try tutoring. There's lots of options. You never know until you try. No need to make a serious commitment to teaching before you've even tested the waters! I'd consider that foolish.

 

And excuse me while I rejoice that you *can't* become a professional student.

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Thanks for the responses. I understand your point, but I have to disagree with you. I don't see any reason why an individual who learns for his/herself cannot be a contributing, world-aware member of society. Just because you do not go into a career that directly lends itself to shaping and influencing daily life doesn't mean that a person has taken a side in the battle between the "individual vs. state," as you put it.

 

That said, I'm not quite sure what any of this has to do with my issue. I'm not trying to be rude, I'm just being truthful.

 

Still, in response: I'm interested in teaching because of the fact that I can serve both sides of that "battle line" you seem to see.

 

Teaching would give me the opportunity to continue studying literature--something I personally enjoy--while, at the same time, I'd have the chance (though not necessarily the ability) the enrich the lives of others--my students.

 

The idea that personal gain and social enrichment can't go hand in hand is actually upsetting to me because too many of my college classmates are obsessed with sacrificial idealism and the thought that sucess is somehow "dirty."

 

Like Churchill said, "Those who are not liberal when they are young have no heart, those who are not conservative when they are old have no sense."

 

I grew out of my fanatical idealism but I, by no means, lack heart.

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YabbaDabba im qualified in Teaching IT and I did teach for nearly a year. I got my BSc Degree in IT(Sofware Engineering) and went on to do a year diploma in teaching IT.

 

My mother and a few friends were constantly telling me that teaching would totally suit me - just like you were told but i laughed at them cos i never imagined me getting up there in front of students and teaching.

 

But i did. I loved it! My teaching diploma was only for a year so i thought another year of books wasnt going to kill me cos i knew at the end of the year i would have two things to fall back on. Going into software engineering or teaching IT.

 

Now selling has always been another area that i really like. Teaching and selling were the only two areas where i excelled in. I had recently decided to break into the selling industry - because even though i like teaching - i did find myself getting bored going into the college every day and the system there was absolutely ridiculous.

 

They had this girl (which i think they must have just literally picked out of the street) making out lesson plans for the course i was teaching. How was she creating the lesson plans? From the Help function in the software! Sorry just not the way i was taught to do lesson plans. The support techs were lazy and they never had the printers working for the students. The students used to get annoyed with me over it and I had to explain that i was doing everything possible to get it sorted (even tho i was a teacher not a support technician). i made so many complaints about the lazy staff that the director didnt renew my contract (but sure she didnt know how to do her own job anyway - she just liked the 'director' power trippin)

 

Anyway that wasnt the reason i didnt go back into teaching, but it was my first real teaching job and it didnt leave a good first impression - i was however offered another teaching job but didnt take it cos they only wanted someone to do 6-9 hrs a week. not enough for me.

 

Overall i did enjoy the teaching experience itself. The students and I got on so well. And i know i did a very good job since i found out that the feedback i got from the students was very positive.

 

But my advice is make sure you know the institution/college/school well. My situation was a little different because i was teaching in a privatised college so the directors had their own strange system.

 

Anyway i think you should go for the teaching YabbaDabba. What have you got to lose? I read that you said you were a bit shy, i was too. I was SO nervous the night before but after the first 20mins up there, i was very settled.

 

what i did to prevent my nerves going overboard i introduced myself briefly to the students and then asked each of them to introduce themselves out loud.

 

Good luck with your decision. Follow your head and your heart.

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I teach dance classes. I know that's not exactly the same thing. Some days I wonder why I do it, and other days I can't imagine doing anything else. It can be extremely rewarding and extremely frustrating. This decision to teach is completely yours. Do you think you would enjoy it? Do you like working with kids?

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I've worked with younger kids before--well, actually four summers in a row as a teaching assistant. Mostly, it was "crowd control", lol, but during my last summer with the program, I ended up doing some lesson planning and a little teaching (like simple mathematics, etc) just because I was the only person on junior staff who'd been with the program before.

 

I'm not sure I count that as "teaching" though. I don't know. I really like younger kids, but I know I wouldn't want to do that full-time, lol. I gained a whole new respect for elementary school teachers.

 

Anyway, I was really thinking about teaching high school English, but then one of my friends suggested my becoming a college professor and that seems to fit my semi-aspirations a little better. Right now, I'm really looking in to the path to teaching English in the 2-year college.

 

Again, though, I'm good at English, but I don't know if I could teach it. Of course I'll have to earn my masters in English (which I was planning to do anyway), but how much of an "expert" should I be? Better yet, does anyone have any ideas/suggestions for how I can get some teaching experience within or close to my target age-group (i.e., 16+ yrs old) before I decide on this one way or the other?

 

Thanks!

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substitute teaching is a great idea... but realize it's not optimal since its not "your" class. but a good way to get a taste of teaching!

 

also, i can see that you're questioning your abilities at teaching... but i think that people around you telling you how suited you are for the job should be a big indicator for you. do you go around telling your friends or colleagues erroneous things about their talents??!! odds are they aren't just pulling your leg!!!

 

i've toyed with the teaching idea many times, too. one thing that really turned me on to it was being a teaching assistant in grad school. this was for chemistry, so i taught the labs... i had to get up there in front of everyone and try not to: a)make a fool of myself and b)set the lab on fire!!! terrifying for sure, but what a rush. oh, and i did make a fool of myself a time or two, and the world didn't end... in fact the kids saw me as more of a human being who was just trying to help them learn. as for the fire (there's always a fire in lab)... i was able to put it out!! and THAT made me look super cool!!!

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substitute teaching is a great idea... but realize it's not optimal since its not "your" class. but a good way to get a taste of teaching!

 

also, i can see that you're questioning your abilities at teaching... but i think that people around you telling you how suited you are for the job should be a big indicator for you. do you go around telling your friends or colleagues erroneous things about their talents??!! odds are they aren't just pulling your leg!!!

 

You make some great points here. I know they're not lying to me about thinking I'd make a good teacher, but...hmm, it's just that the idea of being up in front of a class of adults teaching them how to effectively close-read a text is way different from teaching 24 nine year olds how to rhyme.

 

Still, I'm incredibly interested in this. Lately, I've found myself evaluating the teaching style of my professors, making mental lists of what I like and don't like about their technique, etc.

 

As for substitute teaching, I'm pretty sure that even that involves some sort of certification and I don't want to make that big of a time/monetary committment unless I'm sure about this. Although I guess some kind of in-class teaching experience is the only thing that'll tell me if this is what I want to do.

 

But, I'm only 20 (well, I'll be 21 in two weeks...), so subbing is kind of an intimidating concept. I'll be graduating almost a year early, so I'm not sure how much experience I--as a 22-year-old--am going to be able to contribute to teaching entry-level English through an assistantship.

 

Speaking of which, what kind of training do you get as a grad. school teaching assistant? I assume they don't just toss you in the class and let you sink or swim?? And are they interested in whether or not you've had teaching experience in the past--i.e., what criteria are they looking for?

 

Yes, I realize I'm asking some pretty broad questions...

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Yabba... not to scare you to death... but, in my case they kind of did "toss me in a class" in grad school. but, i had also been a teching assistant in undergrad, so i had a little practice. for chemistry and biology, i got the feeling that they took whomever would sign up for the jobs because there is a general shortage in those areas. we had guidance, but as students we actually have lots of experience, and like you said... making notes of how to teach is a great tool.

 

i don't know about how it works in english lit., but this sounds like a great opportunity to talk to a prof you like or someone in the graduate school department. we had two profs that were responsible for overseeing all the TA's, so maybe there is someone in the school you are now who has some good insight. once you show an interest, you might find someone willing to lead you in the right direction in your program.

 

mostly i would prompt you to talk to professors... they would LOVE to discuss thier experiences, i'm sure... and they really might get you going on something concrete.

 

i think you've got the bug, though!! i recogize it! the fact that you're nervous and concerned about being good at it just shows how seriously you are considering it. best of luck!

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Texami, thanks for the help with this.

 

I've been meaning to go talk to my adviser about this (he's the one who got me thinking about it seriously), but I'm just so busy with work and class.

 

I'm also in contact with the head of the English literature graduate program at the school I'm interested in going to after I get my B.A. next year. He sent me a really friendly, informative email, which was great because now I feel better about some of my more specific questions (i.e., they do train their TAs--somewhat). They also have other positions in the Writing Center, which would mean my doing one-on-one tutoring.

 

Anyway, I figure an assistantship is a good way to test the waters without making a life decision on teaching. I mean, I'll be working toward my Masters in English lit.--which I'll need even if I don't decide to teach--but the TA position will be good experience (even if it's the Writing Center).

 

Now...all I have to do is get the TA position.

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I definitely do remember high school, considering it was less than five years ago. Subs were/are always viewed as easy marks, as bad as that sounds. I'm not sure I want to put myself on the chopping block, so to speak.

 

Also, some of the advice that has been given is leaning more toward the idea of middle or high school teaching, but I'm thinking more along the lines of teaching at a two-year college.

 

However, my odds of that--especially right out of grad school--are pretty slim, I'd assume.

 

In response to some of the other observations, I'm definitely aware that teaching isn't just about handing out assignments. I know it's a lot of work outside of the classroom and in my "free" time, but, for some reason, I'm still willing to do it.

 

As for my B.A., well, either way I'm majoring in English. I figure it's a pretty versatile field (but I could be kidding myself...) so if the teaching doesn't work out, I could work in publishing, marketing or even journalism--not to mention I'm minoring in French, so that definitely opens up a few more doors.

 

My biggest question now is figuring out how one goes about becoming a professor at a two-year college. From what I've learned, I'll need to have my masters (which I'll hopefully have taken care of within a year of finishing my B.A.), but I'm not sure what sort of teaching certification I'd need for post-secondary education.

 

Yeah, I'm sorry to drag this thread on, but people kept posting (thanks!), so I thought I'd ask in case someone out there in cyber space has any clue.

 

Thanks.

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ok you need an m.a., you know that.

 

but i would ASSUME (not 100% sure) that you would have to get some of your work published. i mean think about it. hasn't any of your undergrad professors showed you a list of their experience (kinda like a resume)? i don't know, my graduate school professors show us their qualifications/experience, and it usually has some big stuff on it. one of my professors was a superintendent for like 10 years, gave seminars, engaged in research, got papers published... but then again he has a doctoral degree. even still, though, i'd assume that you have to accomplish at least something that will make you stand out from the other candidates.

 

it sounds more ideal if you get a job in publishing/editing/journalism... this will give you more experience in the field. and while you're working, finish your m.a. while doing so..... look for jobs in 2yr. schools.... if you can't find one, go on and get your doctorate (which i'm sure you'll inevitably decide to do anyway, since having a doctorate will open up more doors for you).

 

this is just my suggestion, it's what i'd do. i really don't know what'd be best for you.

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