Leaving your original career dreams behind to give back to future generations is no easy task. High School Biology teacher Kiara Hervey shares what you need to do to become a teacher.
Everybody I asked about teaching said the same thing: “Don’t do it.” And still I felt a need to just try. When you feel that way, you need to do it too because not everyone has what it takes to become a teacher. No matter what people may say, it’s not the easiest job in the world. After a couple years of teaching, my advice to young professionals is the same— “don’t do it.” But if you’re still pushed to become a teacher, here’s what you need to prepare.
No part of science actually helped me prepare for being a teacher. I worked at three other educational child care facilities before I committed to being a teacher fulltime, and that experience paid off. When you’re teaching something every day, year after year, you want to be confident in your work. So find something you’re both good at and enjoy. I never really paid attention to why I gravitated toward science until I started teaching it. I initially chose science because it was a good field to go into. When I started debating what I wanted to teach, I went back to science. It’s a decision I don’t regret.
Within education, there’s this assumption that you have to don’t have to network, and you don’t have to know people. That’s completely false. The only way you get into a good school district is if someone refers you or if you’ve worked there previously. You have to have you name in the principal’s ear. They have to know you some sort of way. Networking is extremely important in education, no matter what people say.
Willingness to Learn
There are definitely do’s and don’ts in education. They might not be the same as a corporate job, but there’s definitely an etiquette within the education system. You have to learn your school lingo and your district’s speech. You have to learn to not eat and gossip in the Teacher lounge. Some lessons you’ll learn the hard way; others you’ll learn from others. You have to be willing to learn the unspoken rules and follow them.
Despite what the school bell says, your day rarely stops at 3 PM. My first year, there was no balance between work and play. During the week, I was nearly unreachable. When school was over, my work didn’t stop. I would have tutoring for an hour, then plan the lesson for the next week or day. Or If I wasn’t tutoring after school, I was making copies and grading homework. Working 40 hours a week is not realistic for your first year teaching. I worked double that.
Understanding of Your Limits
My first year teaching, I also coached volleyball. I wanted to wear multiple hats and be every woman for my kids, but I had to accept I couldn’t do it all. My second year is a lot easier because I realized it’s important to know when I’ve reached my limit. I know what works best for me as a teacher. I’m not as hard on myself, and solely focus on staying ahead of the kids. It’s the only way you can have balance as a teacher.
In Corporate America, your co workers understand that life happens, but they still expect you to get your work done. With kids, that reality hasn’t been drilled into their head yet; you have to set the expectations. They all come with their issues like their dog ate their homework, their Wi-Fi went out, or their printer broke. You have to deal with these things that could be going on and make a justification call for each kid.
It’s very underrated the amount of stress kids are under. Some of my students don’t have time for homework because they go straight to work after school. They feel the weight carrying their family and trying to get into college. And on top of all that, they have to battle teenage drama. When kids are stressed, they place the stress on teachers. And we bear those burdens for them on a daily basis. It is emotionally exhausting.
Want more advice from Kiara?
Read the full feature in Issue 7 of Forty Magazine.