You have spent yet another day crunching numbers in a windowless cubicle, in between attending meetings that seem to be for the sole purpose of planning other meetings. You definitely aren’t happy in your career – and you long to do something that will actually be meaningful and make a difference in the world. At one point, you thought maybe you wanted to be a teacher and still think that you would be a great one, but all the headlines about low pay, dismal working conditions and other frustrations have you wondering if making a move to the classroom would be a good choice.
If you have thought about leaving your corporate career behind and pursuing a career as a teacher, you aren’t alone. According to one survey, nearly 40 percent of K-12 teachers are career changers – and 36 percent of those teachers came from a business background. Many teachers who leave corporate America behind to teach do so because they are looking for a change of pace, and on the whole, most are happy with the decision that they made; in fact, 93 percent of the teachers surveyed reported being satisfied with their choice.
So, should you opt to make the leap? It’s a personal decision, but there are some things to consider before you hand in your notice and trade your cubicle for a classroom.
Signs Teaching Is Right for You
Most career experts agree that there are specific signs that it’s time for one to look for a new career. Feeling underpaid, unappreciated and overworked are some of the most common; if you ignore these feelings, it could lead to burnout, and that’s not great for your mental or physical health. However, these feelings also tend to be employer-dependent – that is, it’s likely that a new job in the same industry could alleviate these feelings, and a full career change isn’t necessary. If you feel this way along with no longer feeling challenged or even interested in seeking new challenges and growing within your field, that’s a sign that it could be time to move on.
The most obvious sign that you should change careers, though, is that you feel called to do something else. Perhaps you read about children with autism, for example, and feel compelled to get your autism certification, so you can work with them. Whether it’s a compulsion to move into an educational field or something completely different, like learning to work with dolphins or becoming a sustainable farmer, if you feel called to do something else, it’s best to act on that impulse.
At the same time, just because you feel called to teach doesn’t necessarily make it the right career for you. Ask yourself some important questions before you start looking into your options, including:
- How do you handle challenges? Are you up for the challenges of working with a variety of students and overcoming obstacles to meeting goals?
- Are you patient, flexible and compassionate?
- Are you creative? Can you come up with new and interesting ways to present material and concepts so that your students are engaged and understand?
- Can you manage input from multiple stakeholders, including students, parents, administrators and others without becoming overwhelmed or unable to stay true to your convictions?
- Are you passionate? Do you have an innate curiosity about what you want to teach and know why you are teaching it?
- Are you committed? Teaching isn’t for the faint of heart, and it’s not something to “try for a while” to see if you are good at it. It requires commitment and the intestinal fortitude to give students what they need.
So You Want to Go For It
If you answered yes to these questions, then moving into teaching is likely to be a great decision. Before you make the jump, be sure you know the realities of teaching. The days are long (just as long as your corporate days, even longer sometimes) and the idea of summers “off” is just a myth for most teachers. Your first priority is your classroom, but you will have to deal with politics, competing interests, budget issues and other problems that shouldn’t be unfamiliar to anyone with a corporate background.
You will have real-world experience to bring to your students and a passion and purpose that you may have been lacking before. Teaching isn’t for everyone, but if you feel called to the classroom, it’s very likely to be for you.