Is being a teacher a calling?
It’s possible I suppose but no one is ‘born to teach’ although clearly some folks do see it as their destiny and life’s purpose. They invest themselves with an aura of saintliness.
“Teaching is in my blood” others will say. “My mum was a teacher, my dad was a teacher and my gran was a teacher. It runs in the family.”
Teaching DNA? Perhaps it does get passed on but the reality is that many people fall into teaching. Yes, some children might decide at the aged of 9 years to be a teacher and then follow-through years later but most will have been persuaded to give it a crack. It might even be a rational choice for others despite the negative headlines of workload woe and threats to wellbeing and sanity.
Why would anyone want to become a teacher when all we read is how stressful the job is, how heavy the teaching baggage is and how underpaid we are?
I certainly didn’t set out to be a teacher. I was looking for fame, fortune and everything that goes with it but there was an advert for a PCGE at my local university and I took a deep breath and dived in.
I tend to agree with Chris Hadfield in his book An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth when he says, “I wasn’t destined to be an astronaut. I had to turn myself into one.”
That was definitely the case for me and I suspect for 99% of the profession. This is a job that you don’t just walk into being able to do it. Yes, you might be able to speak in front of children and read a story but teaching is a craft and that means learning teacher traits, behaviours and tricks of the trade.
So yes, I wasn’t destined to be a teacher. I had to turn myself into one.
I firmly believe that anyone can teach because teaching techniques and strategies can be learned. The thing that makes you a teacher is adopting the mindset and persona of being a professional pedagogue. There is no divine intervention at play here, this is just bloody hard work and something that takes years to get anywhere near good at doing but the frame of mind is everything. You’ve got to see yourself as a teacher, believe in yourself and never give in.
It’s often said that many teachers quit before their fifth year. But 5 years of teaching doesn’t make you a teacher. Double it and you can confidently call yourself one then because you will have a few battle scars to show for it. The first five years begin to shape you not break you.
If you have a deep-seated belief that teaching is the only profession that makes sense for you to pursue then go ahead and apply. If you get good at it then people will say you are a ‘natural’ without realising it took plenty of blood, sweat and tears to get to that point.
You don’t fall in love with teaching, teaching has to like you first, dump you, accept you back and keep you interested. It’s a love-hate relationship.