When people find out that you’re an elementary school teacher, their responses can range anywhere from “that’s fantastic!” to “better you than me” to “oh.” Just like any other career, it has its ups and downs. You must decide where your priorities lie and come to the conclusion as to whether or not the benefits outweigh the struggles. So, what is it really like to teach elementary school?
Pro: You’re making a difference in your students’ lives.
When you go home every day, you’ll know that you’ve made the world a little better. You’re teaching children essential skills for them to be able to operate in the world with as much functionality and enjoyment as possible.
Con: You will have to deal with a different set of challenges than your high school colleagues.
Because they’re so young, your students may not understand the behaviors that you would expect from older students. So, you will have to explain to them (as patiently as possible) why they can’t leave a mess on the floor or why they can’t hit their classmates.
Pro: Students are more motivated.
Before middle school has crushed their spirit, elementary students actually look forward to coming to school. Children that age have a natural curiosity about the world, and you are helping to fuel it by sharing with them the wisdom of your experience.
Con: You're always busy.
Elementary school teachers are usually with their students all day, as opposed to high school teachers who get a prep period. There isn’t much time during the day when your hands aren’t moving. This means you’ll have to take care of most of your preparation at home.
Pro: You can’t beat the vacation time.
While teachers do work very hard throughout the school year, they have guaranteed breaks for summer and holidays that many professions don’t come close to matching. This will give you time to find supplemental employment or recharge for the coming year.
Con: There is a lack of parental support.
Parents think they know best for their children, even when their ideas contradict those of a trained professional (that’s you). When a student’s performance doesn’t show immediate improvement, you are likely to be the person who is blamed.
Pro: Classroom management is easier than you would think.
These students are at an age where they still (for the most part) respect authority figures. It may take a few tries, but they will eventually do what you ask of them. Also, parent phone calls and trips to the principal’s office work as incentive in a way that doesn’t affect older students.
Con: You need to have a working knowledge of all subject areas.
A high school English teacher can get away with not being able to master long division. At the elementary level, you’re teaching these students all subjects, so you have to at least have a basic understanding of all of them.
Pro: You will learn from your students.
Kids have an insight into the world that isn’t tainted by disappointment. You will be able to prepare for parenthood or just better understand interactions between others. Plus, you’ll have lots of great stories to tell.
Con: Your students aren’t as self-sufficient.
You will have to walk students through activities, which can eat into instructional time. This kids aren’t as independent as they will be when they get a little older, so a lot of attention will be required on your part.