Why do teachers teach?

Why do teachers teach?

There are many reasons why someone makes the life-changing decision to teach; it’s a great job with lots of magical moments. But it’s also a stressful and thankless job with a pile of challenges and long hours. For some, teaching is just a means to an end, to pay the bills and the mortgage but to most, teaching defines them and school is everything.

So why do people teach?

A YouGov poll asked almost 1000 teachers to cite the reasons why they worked in the profession and the responses are interesting. Here are the top reasons:
  • 83% said seeing pupils develop and achieve
  • 55% said for the classroom teaching
  • 41% said for the holidays
  • 27% said opportunities to develop new approaches to teaching and learning
  • 23% said for the salary
  • 21% said for the support of colleagues
  • 19% said they enjoyed the professional autonomy

Only 12% mentioned work-life balance, and just 7% highlighted working conditions as one of their reasons to teach.

There are many good reasons to teach so let’s take a look at 20 reasons commonly given!

  1. It’s a natural calling
    Some teachers say they “couldn’t imagine doing anything else” and see teaching as their life’s purpose and mission. Their commitment to the profession is absolute and they see teaching as the best job in the world because it is enriching and rewarding. No profession is more important than teaching and some feel they were ‘born to teach’.

  2. To make a difference
    Ask a staffroom of teachers why they teach and most will reply “to make a difference”. People enter the profession to make impact, to be change agents and to transform lives and this is a job where you actually can. 2019 Global Teacher Prize winner, Peter Tabichi, is certainly the epitome of making a difference in pupils’ lives and where they live. Teachers that make a difference are true practitioners not particularly motivated by the personal benefits of the job such as pay and holidays but having a positive social impact.

  3. To work with young people
    Children are enormous fun. They say and do things that will have you in stitches. They are full of surprises and a pleasure to be around. Okay, not all of them but working with children is an amazing privilege as you are part of their world, their growth and their progress as people.

  4. To share a passion
    Teachers have interests and subjects they love and they want to share their enthusiasm, knowledge and understanding with others. They might be passionate about a particular sector or Key Stage too and they want to work within their niche and specialism to cultivate it further. They love what they do and teaching lets them excel.

  5. For the rewards
    Teachers know that their job is far from a bed of roses but they know the personal and professional rewards are huge. Teaching is a classic roller-coaster profession full of ups and downs and so excitement, anticipation and speed come as standard. Ultimately, this is a thrilling ride full of life-shaping experiences and a job where the rewards always outweigh the woes and lows.

  6. To champion children
    Children need advocates. Teachers teach because they are ambitious for children to do well and they want to fight their corner and empower them. Children need teachers who are fighters not quitters. As the wonderful Rita Pierson said in her TED Talk, “Every child deserves a champion, an adult who will never give up on them, who understands the power of connection, and insists that they become the best that they can possibly be.”

  7. To be challenged
    Teaching is not short of trials and tribulations but many teachers join the profession to be intellectually challenged and mentally stimulated. This is a job that demands a lot of DIY time and effort when it comes to professional development but teachers teach because they love learning, love education and they have a thirst and appetite for knowledge. Every day really is a school day and you learn something new all the time. Teachers are lifelong learners who don’t settle for an easy life and have a desire to practice their craft and get better at it.

  8. To be a role model
    Many teachers enjoy being the significant adult that children can turn to and look up to as mentor, coach and companion. They enter the profession to inspire, motivate and be the positive force in children’s lives. They welcome being in loco parentis and the awesome responsibilities this entails and actively seek to inspire and encourage children to strive for greatness, live their lives to the fullest potential and see the best in themselves.

  9. No day is ever the same
    People don’t become teachers because they enjoy comfort zones because you won’t find many. The diversity of the job attracts people and no day is ever the same. It constantly tests and changes and this delicious unpredictability makes it exciting, never boring. Teaching opens your eyes to new experiences and you get to learn more about yourself each day because children are constantly teaching their teachers.

  10. For the teachers
    Teachers like teachers and they enjoy working with like-minded colleagues who share similar aspirations, values and beliefs. They enjoy being part of a collegiate team of professionals dedicated to their work who like to share best practice and learn from each other. Working with dedicated professionals who go above and beyond is a huge motivator.

  11. For the community
    Some teachers feel passionately about the local contexts they work in and work hard for their communities building relationships with different parents, families and groups. They care deeply about the people and the area they work in and often have a powerful drive for social-justice.

  12. For the kudos
    Being a teacher is an honour and entering the profession is an immense source of pride. Teaching is a job that is valued and respected. An Ipsos MORI poll showed teachers are the third most trusted profession in the UK.

  13. They are bothered
    Teaching is the profession of caring and sharing and attracts those with kindness and warmth who want to help children believe in themselves. Teachers have a deliberate ‘botheredness’ about them and they enjoy building relationships with people and nurturing trust, rapport, wellbeing and emotional intelligence.

  14. To see the light
    Teachers want to help children learn and achieve and experience those Eureka and light bulb moments. They enjoy modelling, explaining, showing and telling but above all they thrive on creating conditions and contexts for children to discover, learn for themselves and achieve their potential. They like to create the conditions for pupils to experience success and they love seeing them grow in knowledge, skills and confidence, taking risks and being adventurous.

  15. For the creativity
    Teaching allows teachers to go in all directions and be as creative as they like or dare. There aren’t many jobs that allow you to be so inventive and resourceful. You can try new ideas, strategies and approaches and you are actually encouraged to think out of the box. If there is something new you want to try then you can run with it. Teachers have a large degree of autonomy and can be the type of teacher they want to be. If you want to be a maverick then you can. How brilliant is that?!

  16. For the fun
    Teaching is an immensely enjoyable job because you are surrounded by the best people in the world – children. School is the place to have fun, smile lots and laugh loads. Teaching is a serious business but schools are packed with fizzy and buzzy experiences you wouldn’t have anywhere else. There is always something going on from visitors to visits, from special days to festivals and there is always something to learn from the school population about different cultures, abilities and perspectives.

  17. To make waves
    Teachers teach because they want to change the face of education. They are keen to not just make a difference for individual pupils but also to be part of the driving force for creating a better profession. They challenge and provoke new thinking and make it their mission to help improve the quality of education for everyone.

  18. To think big
    Some teachers choose teaching to change the world. They reach and teach hearts and minds because they want children to be engaged, liberated and challenging human beings to fight against what is destroying us. They become teachers to help others connect, reflect and become change agents themselves.

  19. The range
    Teachers can be a dozen different people within the day because teaching is an all singing, all dancing and multi-tasking job of jobs. You name it, a teacher does it: social worker, motivational speaker, counsellor, entertainer, musician, referee, juggler, police officer, superhero etc. The sheer depth and breadth of roles and skills involved makes teaching hugely appealing because it encompasses so much.

  20. They were inspired
    The reason why so many teachers become teachers is because they were inspired by a great teacher themselves. Teachers from our own experiences have made us want to be one of the family. They have made us feel special and wanted and they have convinced us that teaching is incredibly worthwhile and worth devoting yourself to.

And finally…
Why teachers become teachers is complex and differs between individuals driven by a mishmash of personal, emotional, relational and organisational factors that intermingle dynamically.

One thing is certain, schools are energising environments pulsating with life and engage you every second of the day. There is never a dull moment.

Why did you decide to become a teacher?

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