After a stressful few years, tens of thousands of teachers are considering quitting the classroom. But prospective teachers always head into the profession with eyes wide open.
Education Week spoke to four NC State University College of Education students about why they choose teaching, despite all the challenges and stressors. They say they are well aware that teachers’ job satisfaction has dropped over the yearsand that the low salaries of teachers are daunting, but they are still excited to pursue their dream job.
After all, students say, teaching is always rewarding and useful. These interviews have been edited for length and clarity.
Kay Sumpter, 22, a senior graduate who majored in elementary education with a supplemental special education license
I just finished my student-teacher experience a few weeks ago. I taught in a 5th grade class. … It was such a great experience. Honestly, I already miss them so much. It’s just really crazy because everyone thinks “5th grade is a little scary”, but I think 5th grade is awesome! They are very related. They learn more about themselves, and they learn more about their interests, and they learn more about the things they are passionate about.
I would definitely say see a negative side of [teaching] It intimidates me a little, but it’s also a little motivating. I am constantly reminded of why I am entering this profession, and why I continue to go there every day, and why I continue to push so hard. Even though I see other teachers leaving, I know I’m going to do something I love. I know I’m going into an area that I really want to go, and it’s going to be something that I enjoy. Often if you are feeding off negative energy around you and focusing on all the wrong things, it reflects when you are teaching.
I want to enter the field of education, I will have a lot of impact on students. It’s important to remember to have positive impacts on them, even if it’s something as small as greeting them in the morning and letting them know you care about them, or something. as important as helping them with the life experiences they are going through. , because children also have traumas, and it is something that we must support them.
I’ve always said that I don’t want to go to a job where it’s the same thing every day. With the teaching, every day is a new day, and no day will be the same day. You have new experiences, and you have new challenges. It’s something I’m really, really excited about.
Allyson Sarnowski, 22, a senior graduate who majored in middle school science education
I vividly remember in 2nd grade we had to do this big project about what we wanted to be when we grew up. And sure, mine was like, “Oh, I want to be a teacher.” All my friends were like, “What? You don’t want to be a vet? You don’t want to be a doctor? I always wanted to be a teacher. I always loved learning and being in the classroom.
When I said I wanted to go to school when I was in high school, people said, “You don’t get paid. And of course, I was like, oh, it’s okay, it doesn’t matter, I really want to teach. I was really grateful for the [statewide] education scholarship programas it is a forgivable loan program as I teach in North Carolina [after graduation], it is forgiven. Taking on that financial burden of college really calms the nerves when it comes to knowing what your paycheck will be after college.
Now I will say last year I woke up and I was like, oh wow, this is definitely going to be a challenge. But I think honestly, teachers know what they’re getting into at this point. It’s a pity, but you know, the teaching comes from the heart. We are not here for the salary. The students are so worth it because you build those relationships and those bonds with them.
Dr. Jordan, 18, freshman in technology, engineering and design
In elementary school, I was always kind of like the teachers’ pet. You know, I’ve always had the inside scoop. In 5th grade, we would switch programs or something, and they would throw away all these math books, and I was like, “I’m going to take them home and play school with them!” So I thought, you know what, maybe I should be a teacher.
Sitting in the classrooms [growing up] where I was probably the only person of color, it was kind of like – oh, OK. I didn’t really have many teachers of color until high school. When I was presented with this, I was like, OK, I can see myself doing this. I worked with this a lot in my teaching classes in high school – I just learned about the lack of black educators in the classroom, especially black male educators. I have found that students of color are able to work better with seeing the performance in the classroom. I just want to be an inspiration and motivation for students of color.
And of course, I’m a big advocate for black male educators in the classroom, because in my program, [there’s] just not a lot. I just feel like it’s my responsibility to show that, you know, black male educators are a thing, and to stand up for that and advocate for resources for students of color in general. Diverse mentalities in the classroom – it brings extraordinary ideas.
I have certainly seen [negativity about the teaching profession] a lot. It can be like, yuck, is this really what I’m going through? But then I just think about… you know, of course it’s going to be hard. Teaching is not an easy job. But I know for myself that all my work will not be in vain because I want to be able to see the impact I have on my children. When they come in and say, “Oh my God, I got that concept,” I’m like, yeah, I did that for them!
Catherine Dean, 21, junior majoring in Elementary and Minor Spanish Teaching and Teaching English as a Foreign Language
I always wanted to be a teacher. I really love working with children, and I feel their spirit [elementary] age are so malleable. You can really make a difference. I think all teachers are important – high school, middle school – but I just feel like my calling is to work with younger kids and shape their minds as they start to learn and be in school .
I know it will be very rewarding work. I just like being in class right now, even as a student. I look forward to that part of my job: seeing the kids, working with them, teaching and everything.
I don’t think you’ll really make the difference you’re able to make in the world if you’re doing something you don’t enjoy doing. With teaching, if you love what you do and teach, I think it inspires others.