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Why become a teacher?

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Secondary school teachers in Australia are well respected and have relatively stable, well paid positions. But that’s just the pragmatic reasons. We’ve all had high school teachers – or at least seen them in movies or on TV – and may think we know what it’s like.

But what is the reality of being a high school teacher?

A high school teacher, known in Australia as a secondary school teacher, obviously teaches secondary students across different subjects, depending on the teacher’s own specialities and training. A secondary school teacher must therefore be confident and up-to-date in their knowledge and understanding of their chosen subject area or areas. But because secondary school is also about preparing students for the world, a secondary school teacher has the responsibility, and the joy, of helping students discover and feed their passions and dreams.

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The stereotypes you see on screen about teachers who were mean or terrible are far outweighed by the reality that many students are positively impacted by their secondary school teacher. This goes beyond the teacher’s competence in their subject area or their ability to operate within the school system.

As the poet W.B Yeats once said, ‘Education is not the filling of a pot but the lighting of a fire.’ Many successful people can point to a teacher who empowered and inspired them. So perhaps, as much as helping a student learn things, a secondary school teacher is one who seeks to empower and inspire the next generation. American historical figure Henry Adams noted that, ‘A teacher affects eternity: he can never tell where his influence stops.’ As such, secondary school teaching is a career that is always seeking the ‘right’ people: those who are skilled, passionate and qualified.

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A normal teaching job will require a standard five days/ eight hours a day of work and also out of term work. Even though the average student might not think so, teaching is a full time job like any other full time job. However, given that many secondary school teachers are genuinely passionate about helping students grow and develop, many also take on further responsibilities in line with their personal passions, such as sports, the arts or other clubs a school may offer.