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By Steve Cross

The first piece of advice I can give you is to carefully explore the reasons why you wish to be a teacher. If you’re thinking, “Wow, weekends and summers off. All holidays free. Quitting time at three o’clock,” then do yourself and education a favor and go into something else. Teaching is about the kids not the benefits and the hours. Besides, most of the above – supposed benefits --are misconceptions anyway.

A teacher may leave the school at three o’clock, but if that teacher is a good one, the work has just begun when he or she leaves the building. Lesson plans and grading consume hours of time – most of which are outside the regular class day – in the evenings, and on those holidays, and weekends. I could work hours every night and still not get all the work finished that I should get finished. I won’t even begin to discuss extra-curricular activities that you most assuredly will be managing at various times during the school year, and if you’re a coach, in the summers too.

The summers are nice if you are actually lucky enough to get them off. In my experience, though, most teachers work extra jobs in the summer because, if you haven’t heard, teaching doesn’t pay as well as some other professions. If they are not working, teachers are taking classes towards a master’s degree, doing lesson plans for the new year, or trying to stay caught up on the dizzying array of technology and resources available.

No good teachers rest on their laurels. They are constantly trying to find ways to improve what they do. They have to because when kids don’t perform as well as they should on standardized tests, the teachers are targeted, not the kids and not the parents. As a prospective teacher, you should be aware that educators are under intense scrutiny.

My hope is that you are going into teaching because you had a teacher who inspired you, who somehow touched you in a way you had never been touched before. I hope that you have the desire to be an inspiration to a child or teenager yourself. The best advice I can give you is to think of those teachers you really loved and ask yourself why you loved them.

I’m sure some common themes will come up. They made learning fun. They laughed and had a wonderful sense of humor. They respected me and my own opinion and did not make me feel stupid. I always felt safe to say what I wanted to say. They made me look at my life in ways that I had never seen it before. They loved what they did, and it showed in the way they taught. Now, if you want to be a good teacher, do likewise.

Now, remember those teachers whom you did not like. Don’t be like them. Education has enough of embittered, cynical teachers who are working in the field . It doesn’t need anymore. Finally, if you don’t love kids, don’t mess them up by being their teachers. If you do love kids and you love what you do, you’ll be reaping the only benefits and rewards that are worth remembering.

Steve Cross is a freelance writer and educator who lives with his wife Jean, two dogs, and two cats in the beautiful town of Arcadia, MO. Cross has a daughter Megan who is married and living in Poplar Bluff with her husband Sean. Cross has published poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and plays. He enjoys dabbling in screenwriting also, but his favorite genre besides educational writing is Young Adult. Recently, he was placed on the top twitter philosophers’ list by Bryant Gilbert, best-selling author and Nobel Prize nominee. Follow Cross on Twitter @stevecrosswords