Considered pursuing a career in the Education Industry? This interview will take you through the ups and downs you can expect, what it takes to land the job, what you can expect to earn and more.
I am a Montessori-based preschool teacher of young children ages 18 months through 3 years old. This year makes my eighth year of working in preschool education as a lead teacher. As a Montessori teacher, I act as a facilitator in that I encourage young children to explore their surroundings and learn from the world around them. The biggest misunderstanding of preschool teachers is that we babysit children all day and clean dirty diapers.
On a scale of 1 to 10, I’d rate my job satisfaction at a 9. I would not change much that happens in my classroom with the children. But, I would change the administration at my school. The current administration at my school is too overbearing and does not give enough professional support to mid-level teachers. There is more emphasis on young teachers who start with little classroom experience.
Teaching for most people I know is a calling and not just another job. I started college as a math major and took a job working as a summer teaching assistant in a Montessori school. Montessori philosophy was new to me but I quickly learned that it celebrated the individuality of each child. In a Montessori classroom, children of mixed ages direct their own path of learning and the teacher is there to manage the classroom. So, after that summer, I changed my major to education and minored in math instead. Upon graduation, I completed my 1-year Montessori and received my Montessori certification. I worked at the same school as a full-time teaching assistant and then took my current position as lead teacher. I don’t really think my situation is unique. Teaching is not the most lucrative field but I think that teachers are the most passionate about what they do. I wouldn’t change anything about how I became a teacher.
The most important lesson I’ve learned about the working world is that you need to know who you are and what you want to do. This has to come from within first. In my daily life on this job, there is much that can be unexpected. This can be quite unnerving. I go to work each day to provide a safe and encouraging environment for the children I have in my charge. As a teacher to young children, I am an essential key to their growth and progress in their lives. This is a great responsibility. When you teach young children, they depend on you and their parents also depend on you. When my children are kind to each other and help one another in class, I feel especially proud because I know that they are getting the training to be better human beings.
Challenges in teaching are everywhere but it’s all about how you look at them! For my class, there are challenges in teaching the children concepts like kindness and sharing. Two year olds only see themselves in the physical world. The thought of sharing their favorite toys (trucks and stuffed animals) and favorite people (me as their teacher) is repulsive to them. Young children are about “mine, mine, mine”. In fact, I have many children who learn to say the word “mine” before learning their names. Other challenges with teaching young children come with potty training. In a class of twenty children, even with an assistant, having a child who has about five accidents per day while in pull-up diapers can be extremely frustrating.
My job can be very stressful and tiring. The most important strategy in dealing with the physical stress is to realize when I need to preserve myself and take a “wellness” day off from work and not feel guilty about it. I maintain work-life balance by not being so hard on myself. I’m also an avid hiker and go to local preserve parks and climb when I can.
As an assistant in a small, private school, I started at about $23K and after 8 years as lead teacher at the same school, I’m now making about $32K. The highest salary of a lead teacher in my school is about $40K and this teacher has been at the school about 16 years. These salaries are a little lower than the larger public Montessori schools in the Southeast. My work gives so much that having a decent salary to live on is just a plus.
In terms of vacation time, I get four weeks off in the summer months. I do get about six days of personal/sick time. At my school, you receive five weeks and eight days of personal/sick time at ten years of service. I think that this is fine. My only pet peeve is that my school is open all summer and that my vacation has to be taken through a 3-month summer period and not during the year.
To be a Montessori teacher, you need to have a Bachelor’s or Associates degree in Education or a related field like Psychology or Child Studies. In the state of North Carolina, you need to have a state teaching credential or licensure which is a year of education classes. For education majors, getting the credential is just a matter of applying for it. Montessori training can be done at a school or online for about a year. This education consists of classes in biology, child development and learning theory followed by practicum and a certification exam.
I would recommend teaching for anyone who likes learning. For my line of work, you need to have patience, a strong back and perseverance. I see many people who become teachers because they “love children”. There are many days that it is tiring, unglamorous and uninspiring. Something has to keep you inspired even when the environment is not giving back to you as much as you would like.
Five years from now, I would still like to be teaching but would like to get into consulting families on providing a Montessori environment for their children at home. Many parents of very young children cannot afford to pay for private education but could still benefit from introducing Montessori philosophy to their children in their homes. My school gives parent workshops on this subject and they are always packed with interested parents who want to learn.
This is a true career story as told to DiversityJobs and is one of many interviews with teachers and community education instructors, among other careers.