I have sometimes in my posts spoken against teachers – that is, against their possible self-centred approach. But as my daughter has come to the age of the daunting question “what am I going to do when I grow up?”, I’ve argued with her for the teaching profession. Above all because I love it. But loving something is not the best argument. So here are some points that have come across my mind while searching for real arguments.
1. It’s one of those basic professions that will always and everywhere be needed. If the earth becomes deserted, the technological civilization is swept away, the climate brings about natural catastrophes, the world finance crashes and brings us back to the basics of life – and in endless other horror scenarios, the remaining people on this planet will still need someone to teach them something – just like they will need doctors for example. In less than horror scenarios, too, if one decides to settle down in Tasmania, in the United States, in Japan or in Zambia, they will still be able to do their profession.
2. Contrary to what many people think, teaching is not a boring job. Actually, what makes each job boring is in 80% of the cases the people who do them. But in the case of teaching, it’s always a matter of who your learners are, not of the stuff you are supposed to teach that day. So it can’t be repetitive after all.
3. Being a teacher puts you in contact with people in a much more genuine way than, say, being a sales rep. When you approach customers, there is a certain script and people behave according to certain expectations and scenarios. But a teacher-learner relationship brings the two in a sometimes very intimate relationship that may have to do with people’s values, experiences, feelings, psychologies.
4. Being a teacher also supplies a very positive satisfaction. It’s not like the satisfaction of scoring high figures on your company’s bar charts, for example. At the end of the day, or at the end of a lesson or of a course, the reward is to see that someone has learned to stand on their own feet – and they have learned that from you. I think this satisfaction is not just one that is profoundly “right”, but also profoundly “beautiful”.
5. A teaching career may open a variety of other development paths. You don’t have to retire as a teacher, while in many other jobs you don’t really have choices. As a teacher you may specialize on teaching children, adults, in schools or in language centres, at university, as a freelance entrepreneur etc. Alternatively, with some further training you may become an inspector, teacher trainer, translator or interpreter, examiner, material writer, project manager in education and so on.
6. Another nice thing about being a teacher is that there are communities of teaches around the world. I don’t know of any community of, say, marketing officers, or of taxi drivers. With such communities you can get in touch to exchange ideas, materials, meet at conferences or get discounts. More importantly, you develop a feeling of belonging to a group.
7. One frequent argument for the teaching profession is the holidays you are entitled to. Even if you are a freelance teacher to adults and don’t have the holidays within the school system, there is always a certain flexibility in your working hours. You don’t really clock in and out every day and are not expected to work from 9 to 5 no matter the calendar leaf.
8. Being a teacher enables you to understand human nature better, at least in the fortunate cases where you have a calling for the profession. That is why it keeps you in touch with real values, like human appreciation, diversity, individualism, personal development and so on.
9. Talking of flexibility and of freedom, there are few bosses you have to report to as a teacher. You are not a small cog in a big wheel and in your reporting to a superior you don’t become depersonalized and so easily replaceable. What you are expected to report on are mainly soft matters, in most cases students’ progress, and your own personality plays a key role both in the class developments you report on, and in your relationship to the rest of the team, including your superiors.
10. Last but not least is the status this profession gives you. The status you have in the class is an aspect you should actually beware of and not make use of it in your relationship with the students, or else you become the petty dictator I have talked about here. But the status you get within the society is not to be ignored. Being a teacher almost always places you among the “important” people in a country, or at least among the educated ones.
Like everything in this world, there are no absolute aces you can hold. Just like the ancient Greek king who used to turn everything into gold by touching it, it’s not just what there is in being a teacher, but what you make of it.