Alternative Jobs For Teachers

Everyone’s life has been touched by a teacher. Some of us have positive memories of teachers who helped us through difficult subjects or difficult times. Others have negative memories of teachers who made life more difficult.

These positive and negative interactions often inspire individuals to follow in the footsteps of their teachers and become teachers themselves, dedicated to inspiring the next generation while also getting lots of apples from their students.

The desire to educate and support children is a noble one, but it’s important to note that teaching isn’t for everyone. Before you invest in a teacher prep program or start substitute teaching, it’s worth checking your perception of this traditional field against the reality of today’s modern classroom.

For this installment of the dream job series, I have a little more insight than usual, as I started my career as a high school English teacher and taught for two-and-a-half years. Since then I have transitioned out of the classroom, and I run a website that helps other teachers do the same. I’ve spoken with hundreds of teachers — some who love it and some who don’t — and I know how important it is to truly weigh the pros and cons of the calling.

Teacher, the Job Description Of Your Dreams

For many people the dream of teaching starts with the classroom: your classic chalkboard (or modern whiteboard) will be pinned with fun cartoons, calendars and notes about your subject area, and the desks will be laid out in creative pods (or more lecture-friendly rows).

Whatever you didn’t like about your classroom experience you’ll fix here; you’ll put time into making creative and thoughtful lessons that give students an opportunity to engage with your subject area and enrich their lives. You’ll use your insight into your subject area to teach the topics you want in the way you want to teach them, and your students will benefit from it.  

As for classroom management, you’ll have a tough time managing the class clowns and students who are struggling with problems at home at first, but overall your interactions with the students will be educational, thoughtful and sometimes downright fun. When a real problem comes up, you can work with a school counselor, administrator or the child’s parent to come to a resolution that respects the student’s needs.

Teacher, the Job Description In Real Life

The real life job description of teaching still has its perks, such as positive interactions with students and engaging with subject matter in creative ways. However, it also comes with some unique stressors and challenges.

First, many teachers struggle with the constant need for classroom management and asserting discipline over classes of 25-30 students. This can lead to dramatic confrontations and negative experiences for the teacher that are repeated every year as a new group of students matriculates. Add to this the challenges of managing attendance, grades, student electronics such as smartphones and other behavioral issues.   

Second, many teachers find that the school’s administration, counselors and the parents of students are just as busy and overwhelmed as they are. While every person often has the best intentions, teachers are frequently left to manage the challenges on their own. In some extreme cases the administration and parents can be the cause of the challenge, such as the time a parent called me on my cell phone several times to yell at me for giving the child’s cell phone to the principal when the child would not put the phone away after several requests.

As for the curriculum you teach, you may have some freedoms about how you present the material, but for many subjects and grade levels the curriculum is determined by the school and by government legislation with an emphasis on standardized testing requirements. Over time, these requirements can create an environment in which teachers are pressured to “teach to the test” and it is difficult to maintain a creative approach to educating students.

The dream job description of teaching sounds like it would be a good fit for anyone who is friendly, energetic and loves their subject area. However, that’s often not the case. Far from being a universal calling, teaching requires a unique skill set that includes patience, confidence and a passion for helping children. You also must have excellent work-life boundaries so that you don’t “take your work home with you” each day. If you enter the classroom without these skills you might be one of the many teachers who experience increased levels of stress.

What To Do Instead of Being a Teacher

Whether you’re already in the classroom and seeking an alternative or you’re just learning about your interest in the field, there are many things you can do with a talent for teaching that don’t involve the unique demands of a public school system. Here are five alternatives to being a classroom teacher that call on the communication, planning and training skills that teachers have:

If you’re called to teach, you’re in for an exciting career. But before you jump into the classroom, consider what the best environment for you would be based on your skills and talents.