I'm 34, rich, and looking for something new. Should I become a high school teacher?
Yes, you can be a teacher. A really good one, in fact, for several reasons. And since you have the financial means not to worry about your salary, you'll have the luxury of time in your job search. Choose a school and team that fits your personality. That makes all the difference in the world.
I'm not going to lie-you're going to get resistance for this career change from every one of your friends. They may even laugh hysterically, "A teacher?" And you won't get invited to cool kid parties anymore. If I say, "I work in tech." "I write." or "I fired myself from my own business," people lean in for the story. If I say "I teach," they run away or wag their finger about some educational injustice in their past.
It's just what happens. I've gotten used to it.
But the critics are not my customers. My students are. If you have the passion for teaching, teach! You'll bring a very unique skillset to a group of students who wouldn't otherwise have access to someone like you. That... is magic.
I'm a second-career teacher who ended up working in tech by accident, so I know both sides of this coin. You'll be a gift to students in many ways:
- Education needs creativity. Tech people have this.
- Being an executive, you'll know what kids really need to learn-how to solve problems and navigate life. Education isn't about the dead people in our history books, it's about analyzing situations to apply to present-day problems. As my students watched me build, get destroyed by, and repair businesses and life, they knew the lessons I taught were real. As they watched me start to write, do, learn new fields, and develop myself, they knew they could do it, too.
- You have life experience. A favorite saying of mine, "You haven't known life till (insert disaster here...)" Yes, I teach history, but I tell real-life stories and connect the dots between things students will use and the stories that built civilizations.
- You'll be able to teach students how to learn and apply what they learned to get to where they want to go. You've done that in life. I tell students I never teach a skill unless I've used it to make money-whether it's public speaking, analysis, report writing, research, data analysis...they know I'm teaching something I use outside school, not trivia. Kids buy into hard work if they believe in what you're selling. They also buy in when I'm not infallible. "Miss, I don't like your idea, I'd rather do this." Sure! They often do more work, better, when they generate the ideas. You are most likely the type of person who knows there are many roads to the destination-you'll value that in students.
- Tech is so in demand, that even though you're teaching history/social studies, you'll have a rolodex to connect passionate students with people who will help them in their future. I've done the same. It's an amazing feeling.
Here are some things to consider:
- You asked if you'll get a job. You will. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. Social studies (my field, too) is tougher prospecting than if you're willing to teach some STEM classes-Computer Science in the classroom is just emerging and in some cases now required. You can also teach history and computer science if it gets you in a door. Or... just keep looking for a history job if that's what you love.
- Most teacher salaries are by contract. You get "step pay" for every year. I had 10 years experience in another career but did not get step pay because only teaching salary was transferred, they said. It was a negotiation. I lost. But, that made me affordable to hire. Use your life-experience-yet-new-to-teaching as a positive in your interview process. They're getting an excellent value.
- You're most likely a person who has autonomy and the authority to get things done right now. These things are rare in education. It's my biggest frustration, actually. In my outside world I get things things done without fuss, yet in education, not so much. I wrote a book and compared myself to Don Quixote.
- There are many types of schools you could teach in. Some will fit your personality better than others. Whether it's public, private, charter isn't so important... you'll want to know about the leadership and team. Talk to anyone you can. If you feel like you have the same outlook and vision as your new team, take that job.
- Teacher's schedules are not the same as in corporate/tech. That sounds insultingly obvious, but it felt like a bit of a shock in the beginning. The fact I even know I get out at 2:11 (even if I do take a pile of work home) seems strange to me. In corporate/business, I stop working when I'm done. I can clear my schedule or even if I work late, I feel somewhat in control. Not in teaching. It's cemented in stone. I get frustrated when my tech friends text during the middle of the day about a project, "Free for a call?" or ask "Can you come next week?" No. I cannot. I'm teaching.
- You can go broke in the classroom. I used to spend my paycheck on my job. I'm still paying down debt I created before I got that under control. Now, I say "no" to such spending. What students need are teachers that care about them, not teachers going broke on their behalf.
All that said, I love the unique spin I bring to the classroom, and I bet you will, too. I might not outlast the bureaucracy for a full career, but I love this generation of students and will always work with this age group in some capacity. They are tech savvy, fun, flexible, and entering a very different world. It's my job to help get them to their dreams and to bring joy (even if others tell you it's your job to get them to pass The Test).
I think you'll be a real asset, because you've done great things. You're the perfect guide to get students anywhere they want to go. Go for it, and reach out if you need anything as you begin your journey!
The exact requirements for teaching HS vary by country and, in the USA, they vary by state. I believe most require a BA in education and many require more than that. You might be able to go back to school and get an MA in education - that training would include student teaching, which would be a good indication of whether you actually like the job.
If that's the road you want to go down, more power to you. We need more good teachers. But it's hard work.
However, there are other things you could do. You could be a volunteer tutor. This lets you work with kids one on one, which is MUCH easier than working with 30 kids or more at a time. And (as far as I know) it wouldn't require that you go back to school. And, if you worked in the school building itself, you could observe teachers and kids and that might give you more of a sense of whether you want to pursue teaching as a career.
Teaching comes down to a few questions...
- How much in terms of classroom management and educational politics can I handle?
- how important is respect of others in my career choices?
- how hard do I want to work in my second career?
Teaching high school is a mix of teaching content and managing students who are at the peak of their hormonal drive and at their lowest attention span. Some people can handle this period of time reasonably well some people are less than qualified.
If money isn't an issue for you then I'd consider going for the phd and teaching at the community college or liberal arts college level. Teachers are there to teach and research is of lower importance than it is at research universities. The pay for these jobs are lower than for universities which is discouraging for many people but if money isn't a concern for you then it shouldn't matter.
Classroom management isn't an issue at these levels because students who don't care don't show up to class.
But if you think high school is still something that appeals to you despite the challenges and lack of respect for the profession then I suggest you look into accelerated certification programs offered by many state schools for second career professionals. Usually you can get everything you need for certification in a year. Keep in mind there is much less demand for history and social studies teachers in public schools than there is for math/science teachers so you may find it difficult to get a job.
Good luck.... You're definitely in an enviable position and I wish I had made the choice to earn money and then teach... I'd love to know how you went about doing that!
Depending on where you live, you may be able to get teaching credentials through a lateral entry program in a year or less. You could definitely get a job teaching math, physics, or computer programming. There's a shortage of teachers in those fields. However, here is a question: Do you want to teach AP courses to the top high school students, or do you want to reach out to struggling students? The latter is much more difficult to learn to do well, but easier to begin. You could probably get a job as an instructor in your local community college without too much trouble, but this is where you would really feel your lack of background in pedagogy. In addition, the pay and benefits would be much worse.
I don't know if you are still monitoring the answers here, or if you've already made a decision, but...
Many career changers go back to school to become teachers. Being wealthy at this point will make it a lot easier for you to deal with the low pay of teaching. If you get the certification, you won't have any problem getting an entry-level teaching job at your age. Just be sure it is what you want to do. Many people have romanticized ideas of what teaching is, they have visions of going in and changing the system, reaching all the kids, and maybe think of themselves as the Robin William's character in Dead Poets Society. Many of these people get disillusioned and don't last long. You have to love kids, want to teach, be able to deal with the disrespect you will sometimes experience from the kids (and their parents, and maybe even administration), and be willing to put up with a lot of bureaucracy from the top. Many people come in unready and that is reflected in the numbers who leave the profession within 5 years. However, if you are right for the job, there are few better jobs out there (for me nursing, teaching college, or psychology are probably the only other jobs that would truly make me happy).
Since you have your degree and significant work experience, don't go back for a 2nd bachelors. Since you have money to get you by without working for a time, I'd go get a MAT (Masters of Arts in Teaching) a 1–2 year masters and teaching credentialing program for people with bachelors degrees in other fields.
As for social studies, know it has pretty much always been one of the hardest teaching fields in which to get a job. The supply of teachers in this field is always much higher than the demand. If you really want to teach social studies, you may need to substitute teach while you apply for jobs for 2–3 years before you actually get something (though you may get lucky and get something the first time). To improve your chances, you can get certified in special ed (or both special ed and social studies) and go for private special education schools to work as a social studies teacher there (that is how I got my start). Though, private schools usually don't pay as well as public schools. Political Science can have a good deal of statistics and with your business background, how is your math background? If you can be certified as a math teacher (you may have the content credits now, if not, can you do it with just a little more school) you will probably never be without a teaching job if you want one.
You could totally become a teacher, and it may be a field you find interesting and rewarding. Being independently wealthy take a lot of the financial stress off of teaching, and you can pursue it as much as you love it.
Just be careful to have realistic expectations. You often begin in a job opening of the highest-need classroom. Can you stomach teaching some sixteen year olds who can't pass the U.S. Citizenship Test? Because they think "Spain" is the country above the U.S., and that JFK is the answer to any president question.
Or giving an extra credit opportunity to all the eighteen year olds to go vote in the local May election (they were all registered because YOU registered them), informing them of their polling locations, and then not have a single one go do so?
As a child, I was writing essays and giving speeches in school about how kids deserved to vote, and then as a teacher my students were 19 and still in high school and didn't exercise their right. It makes you realize that life is relative, and we can't judge others around us based on our personal standards. You're wealthy, but can't judge those who are poor. Intelligent, but can't judge those who are ignorant. Forward-thinking, but can't jusge those who are trying to survive in the moment. You can only work to inspire and change them for the better.
You sound intelligent, and one part of teaching is shifting down your mindset to the child's level of thinking (empathy). You wouldn't talk like a textbook to a ten-year-old, right?
For a kindergartener, this shifting down to the student's proximal level means you say things like, "C-A-T. That sounds out CAT!" For a high schooler who has never learned social studies at home, their cognitive level isn't that different, unfortunately. I worked with privileged second graders outside of school, and low-income sixteen year olds in school. The second-graders asked better questions, had more coping skills, and were more informed than the sixteen year olds in many instances. They could read better too. I worked tirelessly to improve my 16-year-olds up to the level of privileged elementary schoolers.
If this concept abhors you, stick to college professorships.
If you want to make a difference in bridging the gap, and can put your ego and intellectual horror aside to help these kids, then go into high school teaching because it is so rewarding. As you adjust to their cognitive level, it becomes more fun, and you get the same sense of amazement you get from teaching a kindergartener reading. Students in class make impactful discoveries that amaze them, even if the lesson is years later than the schedule dictates.