It is difficult to know where to start when one wants to go into the teaching profession. There are textbooks, courses online, courses in-person – and so many alternatives. To get a sense of what is the most viable option, it is worth having a sit-down and think about what you want to do. Is it that you want to help children – in which case, something like a masters in school counseling may be your best option? Or is it that you are keen to impart your wisdom – in which case being a standard teacher and reading up textbooks is a good idea? It is key to map out these future plans early on because they will have implications for now – particularly considering the state you are living in – the decisions you make have a chain effect, and change what happens further down the line.
1. Buying textbooks
Buying textbooks is a good way to study up on the kind of things that are useful to know in becoming a teacher. For example, you may be able to read up on advanced math and how that is taught in schools, or you might be able to read about the kinds of things which teachers do when they actually are in charge of a classroom. That latter point is important because it is hard to anticipate what it will be like having to master thirty-odd students – or perhaps a larger class if it is a kindergarten, or more if it is a large high school rather than K12, for example. Students can play up, and be hard to control, which is why it is so key to learn about the techniques of other teachers, and what their experiences are. This is a more independent way of learning than – for example – a masters in school counselling, but it can be useful if you like this kind of approach.
Buying textbooks is quite a straightforward process in a lot of ways, but often textbooks come at different price points. For example, in independent bookstores, they may be more expensive, and you may get less choice. However, that can be a more personalized experience – you can ask those working in the shop for their advice around what kind of book would be best. The other option is buying books online. There are many popular retailers online – many go to Amazon or similar stores which offer a wide selection on different books relating to teaching – everything from the experiences of teachers in high schools, to the ways to manage younger children – and there are many ways to get textbooks for a good price. They can also accompany courses you may take, for example, if you were to undertake a masters in school counselling or go to college, you could buy textbooks related to the course.
2. Online courses
Online courses can be an excellent way to learn at your own pace, from the comfort of your own home – for example, a masters in school counseling would be a qualification which can be received online. This is particularly key in the times of Covid-19, where you may be unable to go onto campus anyway. Despite the promise of the vaccine, there is a lot of uncertainty in the current climate, meaning people are not always able to go into university, college or whatever else. People can end up spending a lot of money on fees for accommodation and suchlike, or indeed in-person teaching – but without being able to make use of the opportunity, because a lot of courses do not allow people to come onto campus during the time of COVID. For example, if students are in a class where one person had COVID, they may all have to isolate until they can.
It is important to note that there are very good online courses these days – you can often get the occasional online tutorial or one-to-one conversations with the course convener at frequent intervals. On some courses, you can pay a small supplementary fee for extra support should you need it – it looks more and more as though you may not need to even be on campus in person to get the full experience. Often these days people do team socials on Zoom and suchlike so you may find a way to socialize with your course mates – or even meet up in person if they live nearby. After all, if you are all going to work in schools one day, it will be good to make some friends and find people you might work with.
Online courses which prepare you to be a school counselor may be a particularly good idea because they prepare you for the challenges of a modern, diverse classroom. These days in schools, there is a large focus on mental health and the individual needs of different students. There is no longer an emphasis on simply pushing students towards any old career – career counselors now mind-map with students – considering their financial plans and aspirations as well as their interests. It is hard to predict what will be needed in classes now – even if you are not a school counselor, but a teacher – teachers are expected to cater for the needs of their students and provide a listening ear – not just dole out worksheets and mark exams. This is why a masters in school counseling can be such a wise idea, even if you do not plan to be a school counselor.
3. Get practice
Of course, you can study all the courses in the world, and read lots of books, but this will amount to little if you do not know what it is like to be in a classroom. This is why getting experience in a school can be such a good experience – you end up knowing what it is like to be confronted with children every day, and gain some understanding of what their diverse needs are. You can shadow more senior teachers to see how they manage odd behavior and how they cover a range of subjects. And sometimes you are just required to put in a lot of hours to qualify as a teacher.
If you want to do something specialized, for example, becoming a guidance counselor or a school counselor, it is still crucial to get qualified – for example, through a masters in school counseling. But you will benefit from some first-hand experience of taking on the role of a teacher or someone senior in a school. That’s why it is good to do things like taking on a class while being observed by another teacher – something common in the practice of teacher training. Not that this will act as a cure-all – observing a class with a more senior teacher observing can do one of two things. Sometimes, it gives a false sense of security: because the senior teacher is there, students are less likely to play up – they would play up a lot were they not there, because of your presence. However, it can also be scarier than teaching would be – the dual pressure from not only needing to corral lots of students but also having to impress the teacher in front of you, can add a lot of stress.
It is important not to let this get to you, because things will change over time, and you will become more comfortable as time goes on and you get used to teaching lots of students. It is like riding a bicycle, or even learning to drive a car – at first, you have to think a lot about it and every single move you make, in case it sways things a lot. But then after a while, things change, and you get to understand that you don’t have to think or concentrate too much – you are used to teaching, and everything will flow naturally.
The thing that is often easy to overlook is the most key ingredient in any profession and indeed to become a teacher, is to be willing to work hard. This enables you to get on top of the subject matter you need early on so that you aren’t fumbling around for it when you are being assessed as a teacher. Working hard shows you are determined to be a teacher and work in a school setting – which is not necessarily true for everyone. Some people go by the “those who can’t do, teach” which is the wrong way of looking at it – you should be in the teaching profession because you want to be a wonderful educator and make a difference to students’ and children’s lives. This may mean that you work a part-time job to save for undertaking a masters in school counselling, or that you try and get a scholarship to get onto a chosen course. Of course, working a day job can mean that there is not enough time to get the qualification you want.
This is why things like a masters in school counselling are good because they can be done online or in your own time. But also, options like night school are a way to get qualified without having to give up on your work in the daytime. They are also a way to demonstrate you can juggle lots of different demands – which is key as a teacher. Things do not always pan out ideally in the teaching profession – for example, you may be required to lead a class on a subject you haven’t covered since high school. Alternatively, you may have to help a student out with their mental health needs – which is why a masters in school counselling is so valuable.
These days, there is also a lot of work after school. More and more parents work late, meaning that often teachers are required to run after-school clubs. These days, there is also a lot of pressure on students with exams and testing. Not only does this mean that you need to be able to support students’ wider needs – things which a masters in school counselling cover – but your time will be taking up in supporting them, and you are likely to have to spend a lot of time coaching and preparing them to jump through various hoops and get through various exams. You will likely have to spend time marking, studying up on the syllabuses for different subjects. This all means that a positive attitude to working hard – particularly in areas that may not even be of immediate interest – is very important.
A final word
Overall, there is a lot to think about on the path to becoming a teacher or working in schools. These days, with the health and safety components that are so important – for a good reason, because the safeguarding of children must come foremost – there is a huge amount to think about. There is nothing impossible about considering the above points when becoming an educator. It just requires being thoughtful about moves, and not instinctually doing certain things, e.g., enrolling in programs which don’t help you towards working in schools – but thinking about value for money courses which will be of use, such as a masters in school counseling, will help you.
Perhaps the final thing to say is that the thing which will motivate you to do the above is thinking about what you will be able to do when you work in a school. This is often what allows teachers to cope with what can be a difficult job, with long hours. It would help if you thought about the ways you benefited from teachers when you were at school – and how you can make that difference to your future pupils, by imparting similar wisdom and playing a similar role in their lives.
Being a teacher is a unique opportunity to change the lives of the students you come across. Not everyone has that chance – so definitely think about it with optimism and try and think about the best way you can get towards your goal, with hard work, to achieve what is needed.