If you’re considering a career in teaching–or in any field, really–it’s worth considering how hard your job might be. Is teaching hard? How much of your energy and your life will be wrapped up in your job, if you become a teacher?
Is teaching hard? Consider the hours.
It’s worth considering just how many hours per week you might work as a K-12 teacher. As I mentioned in a recent post about student teaching time commitments, teachers work about 53 hours per week during the school year. This is 10-15 hours longer than the average work week in other skilled full-time jobs. And while teachers do appear to get long vacations on paper, many school districts either require teachers to do some summer time teaching, or strongly encourage them to do so. In this respect, teaching is definitely hard, relative to other jobs.
Is teaching hard? Consider the physical demands.
It is true that teachers need to spend much of their work day standing at the front of a classroom. But standing is not inherently harder than the sitting one might do at an office job. If anything, standing and moving around the classroom from time to time is probably healthier and easier on the body than sedentary office work. (And I say this as someone who’s spent an equal amount of time at desk jobs and teaching jobs!)
Teachers do occasionally need to run after wayward children and lift heavy objects (boxes of textbooks, classroom furniture, etc.), but these physical activities are not a major part of a teacher’s work. This makes teaching physically easier than a lot of jobs. And certainly, teaching isn’t physically harder than any other skilled professions.
Is teaching hard in terms of effort?
When it comes to the effort required to be truly good at your job, I would say that yes–teaching is hard. To be a good teacher, you need to be ever-creative, constantly coming up with new ideas for your lessons. You need to think on your feet, adjusting to the ever-changing needs of different groups of students. And you have to be a community-oriented diplomat, in constant communication with parents, faculty, school district administrators, and other stakeholders in the education system. If you’re a teacher, it takes a lot of effort to truly shine in you line of work, probably more effort than you’d need to be a top performer at a lot of other jobs.
Is teaching too hard for you?
This is probably the real question that led you to click on this post. If you’re asking the question “Is teaching hard?” you’re really asking yourself if you’re up to the task. And this really depends on what you personally want out of a teaching career. How much do you want to teach? Do you want to teach badly enough to work 50+ hours a week (with some generous paid time off)? How badly do you want to be the best at what you do? Are you career driven enough to be the great teacher your students need? Or do you see a job as something that simply supports your other passions in life, such as family and personal interests?
In short, as you consider teaching, think about your own feelings on work-life balance, and the importance of career vs. the importance of other aspects of life. And above all, think about just how much you would love teaching, compared to how much you might enjoy other things you could do for a living.