So, You Think You Want to Teach
The hidden ladder I discovered trying to become a teacher in California
So you think you want to teach
Ever since you were little, you would play school with your dolls, siblings, or pets. Maybe you were one of the lucky ones, who had an inspirational educator you admired and seek to mimic because of the beautiful imprint that educator left on you. That imprint lead you to believe—this person must love their job, "Look at how much they love teaching me." Although many teachers love the craft of teaching, the level of stamina involved to reach the pinnacle goal of becoming an official "Teacher of Record" (Legitimate teacher in the classroom) can feel like your climbing an elongated ladder where each step gradually gets longer than the last. Now this ladder does have golden milestones of achievement, but nonetheless each one of them is well earned with sacrifice—money, time, and strong support.
For those of you reading this and you're fresh out of school, haven't started your family, and you have the good sense to start this path into teaching at a young age, this will shed some light on your path. YOU GOT THIS! Just try to nix the wife, mom stuff. For those of you making a career change, teaching for the benefits (the joy on those little faces) or have finally decided you wanted to teach after volunteering and helping in the classroom, I hope this article wakes you up to the reality of the actual steps it takes to become a teacher. YOU GOT THIS!
My First Reality into Teaching
First step: I have finally decided I want to be a teacher. I was already volunteering at my kids' school—why not. As a parent volunteer I loved helping teachers and students. Plus, I taught my own kids. "Let's do this!" Second step, when I got serious about becoming a teacher, I chose an accredited university (mindset 10 years ago) and made myself financially responsible for $50,000 in school loans but, "That's ok, I'm going to be a teacher." Lol.
Third step, I had classes online and traveled at night to classes on campus that were not offered online, while still volunteering/working at my kids' school. This was no easy task, but I was going after my dream—teaching. My family and friends were relationships I just couldn't ignore. Maintaining that balance of family, friends, work, and following my dreams almost seemed impossible at times, but I learned what was most important.
Four years pass and Yaaaa, I get my B.A. In my head, I'm ready; in reality, I meet with my college adviser to find the next steps in the ladder. At the time these steps included: two more years in a teaching credential program for another $35,000 and classes were only available during the day. Which meant I was going to have to quit my job, and that was not feasible for my family. Oh and one very important step before you can even begin in a teaching program is passing the C.B.E.S.T (California Basic Educational Skills Test) at $100, which took me three tries—$300. That's only one required test, but wait, there's more subset tests to become a teacher. C.S.E.T's (California Subject Examinations for Teachers)—yes, plural. Three tests of three subjects each at $99 a pop. Doing the math, if you're a great test taker and pass on the first try (not I): six years and four tests= $50,000+$400+$35,000=$85,400. Yikes, and not even in the classroom yet. Gratefully, there are great internship programs available.
Teacher, student, mother, wife, friend, and oh yeah, "self." It's time for the pep talk: "You got this!" Lesson planning, weekly/monthly observations, additional teaching testing requirements—TPAs (Teaching Performance Assessment) and homework, parent conferences, staff meetings, grading, student testing, classes once to twice weekly—depending on what program you are enrolled in. You've probably noticed I haven't mention anything outside of the responsibility of being an Intern Teacher. Yeah, it can become your life if you don't listen to the advice of those before you and plan, schedule, and balance your personal life. Family nights, study buddies, and holiday vacations become highly essential when one is living two full lives. Don't forget about you!
Your Survivor Moment
Success, you did it! Fulfilled your obligations as a student and a teacher. Maintained a level of classroom management, grades, and turned in homework assignments; completed all exams—state and internship required, learned your students, staff members, and campus protocols and now you graduate your program. Freedom ya think? Not just yet—B.T.S.A (Beginning Teacher Support and Assessment) induction to more years of observations. I've been told these observations aren't as lengthy as your previous years of observations, but nonetheless are held to support the teacher.
Is It All Worth It
Although my career path has changed I say, "Yes, if you search out the right teaching program and can structure your career path while balancing life." The truth is, schools need teachers that have endurance, a heart to teach, and dedication. The right program, academic support, and attention to work-life balance can make that climb rewarding. Yes, it's going to cost money, time, sweat and tears but unless every parent decides to homeschool, teachers will always be essential. If you have a heart to START the process of becoming a teacher, go for it! As you climb, you might find a bridge in education that leads you to your position in education. I hope this article does not scare you away but makes you more aware of the full ladder to teaching. If you choose to teach start early, structure life to meet your requirements, lean on others for help, and don't forget about you in the process of becoming an Amazing educator.