4 Reasons Why It’s Never Too Late to Become a Teacher
- Student Tips
The BBC recently reported the story of Lucy Kellaway, a former-Financial Times columnist who is in the process of “ditching the newsroom for the classroom.” At age 57, Ms. Kellaway is just one of many people all over the world who are realizing their career goals later than most, but don’t let it stand in their way.
If you also think you have a bright future as a teacher even though you may have devoted the first part of your career to something else, we urge you to consider making the leap. Need some extra incentive? How about four? Read on for our roundup of reasons why it’s never too late to pursue your dream of becoming a teacher.
1. You’ll bring invaluable life experience to the classroom.
Classroom learning is important, but real world experience is truly priceless...and something that can't be taught. And while youth may have some advantages (boundless energy, for starters), age comes with upsides of its own, including but not limited to wisdom, maturity, patience and perspective. Teaching English as a second language is one area where a mature approach is appreciated and degree programs, like those offered at the University of Northern Iowa, let you build your certification.
According to Helen Dennis-Smith who, like Lucy Kellaway, did not let her age hold her back from following her heart into teaching when she began her Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults (CELTA) at age 55 and Diploma in English Language Teaching to Adults (DELTA) two years after that, mature teachers have extra to offer in the classroom. Her advice, as reported by the British Council? “Your whole life experience should go with you into the classroom. Whatever your background, you need to think carefully about how to apply what you know to what you teach. There will always be experiences you can bring to your lessons – your life as a parent, the places you've been to, the people you've met – that younger teachers may not have.”
Specifically, Ms. Dennis-Smith cites her previous job in the business sector as imbuing her with a well-rounded perspective of the issues students face today when interacting with people different from themselves.
2. The world desperately needs teachers.
Countries all over the world are experiencing dire teacher shortages. In the US, for example, a rapidly aging population means that large numbers of teachers are retiring from the profession at the same time that enrollments are rising. The World Education Forum, meanwhile, has identified 74 different countries as facing an “acute shortage of teachers.”
Not only does this shortfall of teachers mean that your skills and talents will be in great demand, but it also means the chance to make a huge difference in the lives of children who might otherwise be excluded from getting an education. In fact, many programs like the Graduate School of Education and Human Development at the George Washington University, are designed to transition individuals into the teaching profession. Just how many new teachers are needed to close the gap? A staggering 26 million by the year 2030, according to the Global Goals initiative.
This also means that not only are later-in-life entrants to the teaching profession, but they’re also being actively recruited. According to The Irish Times, an increasing number of older students are holding trainee teacher jobs in Ireland, with nearly a quarter of all students entering one school’s teaching programs over the age and 30 with a “small but growing group” of teaching students in their 40s and 50s, as well. This trend is not limited to Ireland, but can also be seen across the UK.
Said one program leader, "We have bus drivers, women who have been working in the home, retail managers, business people - my hunch is that these are people who have always wanted to contribute to society but have never had the chance before now. People are prepared to leave highly paid jobs for a career that offers different rewards. The tangible benefits of teaching kids offers great satisfaction to many people."
And while the times may have changed since many mature students were last in the classroom, older and younger students alike face equal, if not different, challenges in teaching school.
3. There’s a potential path -- and support -- for every student.
Thinking about becoming a teacher, but not sure where to begin? You don't have to go it alone. For starters, there is an abundance of teaching programs out there aimed at meeting the needs of every student. From part-time to online to hybrid programs, you can get the qualifications you need in the way that best suits your unique situation.
If funding is a concern, you also have options. Consider the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation's Teaching Fellowships program, which recruits prospective teachers with sought-after STEM backgrounds, and The New Teacher Project (TNTP) Teaching Fellows program, an alternative certification program which recruits and trains talented college grads and career-changers alike.
In the UK, meanwhile, Ms. Kellaway helped to set up a new pilot scheme called Now Teach, which is aimed at helping other late-career professionals retrain to become teachers.
4. You’ll probably regret not doing it.
An oft-quoted saying goes, “I don’t regret the things I’ve done, I regret the things I didn’t do when I had the chance.” The door is open to new teachers from all walks of life. Are you willing to walk through it? Think of it this way: When was the last time you regretted going for something you really wanted?
One parting word of advice from Ms. Dennis-Smith as you set out on your journey to becoming a teacher? Now matter how old you are or how high you climb, commit to keep learning along every step of the way. “It would have been all too easy to say I was too old to do any of these things,” she says, “But I have been encouraged all down the line by colleagues, managers and also by my students to keep embracing new ideas.” This mindset won’t just be of value to you, but also to every student who enters your classroom.
Joanna worked in higher education administration for many years at a leading research institution before becoming a full-time freelance writer. She lives in the beautiful White Mountains region of New Hampshire with her family.