How Much Commitment Does It Take to Be a Teacher?

Two former students of mine asked me to fill out a survey for papers they are writing about becoming teachers in the future. The questions were thought-provoking, and I thought the answers might resonate with others and hopefully be encouraging, so here they are.

How much time do you spend on school-related activities each week?

I try not to track it, but it’s around 45-50 hours a week.

How does your job affect your mental health and social life?

Teaching is usually a very uplifting and exciting thing to do, and one that I enjoy greatly, so in that aspect, most of the results of teaching on my personal life are highly positive. It does take a lot of time, so I have to work at prioritizing my family—trying to come home fairly early (hopefully after all my papers are graded), and only working on school stuff at home if everyone is out of the house or napping. At times it can be stressful, like when a parent or administrator has “concerns.” This would negatively affect my mental health, but these incidents are usually very rare and short-lived.

How much commitment will it take to be a teacher?

To do it well, I would say it takes a lot of commitment. That doesn’t necessarily mean a lot of time though, if you’ve got your ducks in a row. Each year it gets easier as you’ve often taught the same material before, and you’ve got more experience in how to handle various situations.

The commitment, I believe, comes in the form of classroom management and knowing the content well. If teachers haven’t previously studied fairly extensively in their content area, they are going to have to be committed to putting some time into studying, or they won’t be nearly as effective in the classroom. The classroom management aspect is probably the most trying for a teacher. To do that well, one has to be committed to having a classroom management plan and sticking to it.

What are the ministry opportunities? What place does your faith take in the workplace?

Great question! Since I have a degree in my field, I could go down the street to any public school and make about four times the amount of money that I’m making now. But, I believe in Christian education. I am a firm believer in Anabaptist doctrine, and in an Anabaptist school, we get to discuss this every day in Bible class or whenever else it comes up.

I also believe in giving back to the community of which I am a part, and in which my family and I have been so richly blessed.

In addition, I believe that eight-year-olds are not missionaries. I do not believe in sending young children out to be “salt and light” when they don’t completely understand doctrine, or a whole lot else for that matter. For this reason, I believe that they need to be nurtured, instructed, and taught in a doctrine-rich setting such as that provided by Anabaptist schools. Then, when they are older and more mature in their faith, they can go out and be missionaries. Someone needs to teach them while they are young. I feel that this is my mission field for now, although I realize that God uses different people’s talents in different ways. This is just where I feel led to be right now.

What are the two biggest life lessons teaching has taught you?

I’ve learned a lot and am still figuring some things out, but the two most impacting aspects have been the following:

  1. to be kind to everyone as much as possible, and
  2. to love my content matter, the process of teaching, and my students.

Will your teaching job be replaced by technology?

NEVER. Having a real teacher in the same room with the students cannot compare to any other option in my opinion. Although it can work (hello, Covid!) long-distance learning is an out-distanced second place to in-person learning in my opinion.

Would you recommend this job?

Absolutely—if it’s a good fit for someone. He or she should have a love for learning and a love for students. It is hard work preparing lessons, teaching, managing the classroom, and grading papers. But it’s also one of the most rewarding jobs anyone could ever have.  

Not only is teaching rewarding, exciting, and fulfilling, but because teaching involves imparting knowledge, encouraging, and working with humans, I believe it is one of the most worthwhile ways a person could invest his time.

When I look back on my past work, I don’t have a grand structure I built, a large bank account, or a well-managed store or business. But, I do get to look back on the lives of students whom I have taught and have hopefully had a positive impact upon. That’s gold—way more important than buildings, money, or a well-managed, successful business.

What natural abilities or interests are needed for this career?

A teacher needs to have the ability to learn well and study hard. Mastery of content area is muy importante. A teacher should also love learning and humans—and be able to diagram sentences or work complex algebra problems on the board while observing that note being passed or those two girls talking in the back.

What is the wage for this job?

The average teacher salary in the state of Pennsylvania is $67,000. I’ve made anywhere from $12,000 to $37,000 a year, with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications, plus two additional years spent in college becoming certified to teach secondary English. That’s pretty pathetic pay for Christian schools. But I still believe in what I’m doing, even if I’m not making a lot of money. (See answer to the ministry opportunity question.)

I do desperately wish that things were different, and that teachers were valued monetarily as much as mini barn builders and construction workers. We are certainly responsible for more important material (little humans!).

I will add that this is the biggest downside to the job, as well as the most important reason that gifted teachers, especially qualified men, are not more interested in spending their time in the classroom. That is a shame.

Are there a lot of job opportunities for teachers?
Absolutely. Because it’s hard work and involves juggling content area, students, parents, administration, paperwork, and more, there are not a lot of qualified teachers, nor enough of us willing to take on such an important task. It’s also difficult because one has to prepare lessons beforehand, teach all day, and then grade papers after school. Most people just do their work and go home. Teachers have way more to do. But the rewards we reap are greater and have eternal value. That makes it worth it from my perspective anyway.

Blessings as you prepare and study to become a teacher.

Mrs. Swanson

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