“Options for teachers”
People become teachers because they like helping young folks learn and want to shape their views and future. Teachers often leave the profession for the same reason. Because they haven’t been able to do the very things that attracted them to the profession in the first place.
Classes are crowded. Students may be unmotivated to learn. Even disrespectful. Teachers are under close scrutiny by parents. The work is physically exhausting. Add to that the relatively low pay-on average $36,000-and you can understand why teachers are defecting in boatloads to other professions.
One in five public school teachers quit within the first three years and more than nine percent quit before making it through one year, according to statistics from the U.S. Department of Education in The Washington Times recently.
Money is a big reason they leave. Workers with master’s degrees in other fields earn an average $25,000 more annually than teachers with master’s degrees, says Margaret Gisler, author of 101 Career Alternatives for Teachers (Prima). Teachers age 22 to 28 with a bachelor’s degrees earned an average $23,000 while people with the same degree in other fields earned $40,000. Teachers age 44 to 50 with master’s degrees earned just over $40,000 while their counterparts in other professions earned nearly $80,000. Can you blame the teachers for hitting the road?
Not that I would urge anyone who has their heart set on teaching to leave the profession just because of the money. Heaven knows, we need more teachers. And money should never be the sole reason for any career change.
But I have met enough frustrated educators who have thought long and hard about wanting to change for the right reasons. These include lack of satisfaction, stress and not accomplishing their career goals. And many of them are wondering where else they fit into the world of work.
If you are one of the disenchanted or want to teach but are concerned about these issues, first, look at staying in teaching, but changing where you do it or what you teach. Think about teaching overseas, a different grade level or subject, suggests Gisler. Consider being a school counselor, vocational teacher or school media specialist.
A different environment or venue might be a better avenue for your skills. If, for example, you want to explore teaching overseas, the conditions and monetary awards can be much better.
There are some 250,00 school age American children attending school overseas, many of them the kids of military parents and American-based business people, says Gisler. The classes are small-usually less than 25 students. Most schools focus on academics and teachers say discipline problems rarely occur because parents set high expectations for their children. Salaries range from $20,000 to $85,000.
Teaching opportunities overseas will grow, according to Gisler, as more U.S.-based companies expand global operations and government employees take overseas assignments.
For more information contact the Association of International Educators (www.nafsa.org), The International Educator (www.tieonline.com) and the U.S. Department of State Teaching Overseas (www.state.gov/www/aboutstate/schools/oteching).
Consider teaching adults instead of children. Or moving to another industry. Teaching skills are very transferable. The ability to write and explain ideas has led teachers into business. Strong communication and interpersonal skills and the ability to monitor projects and people can make teachers effective managers.
I know teachers who have become top notch sales people. One math instructor started his own retail business and his service orientation, math skills and ability to communicate have helped him build a successful jewelry store.
Before you do anything, think through your reasons for wanting to teach in the first place. While I’ve met many frustrated teachers, I’ve also had lots of heart-to-hearts with them. And after a good look inside themselves and at the world around them, despite the wage gap, stress and lack of prestige, being a positive influence on the future of kids is what they want to be.