George Lucas Educational Foundation

Wants to be a teacher... Advice?

Wants to be a teacher... Advice?

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Hi, I'm a 26 year old male who is just starting college. I'm planning on getting my AA and then transfering. I'm wondering what should I major in? If I major in Journalism and get the 1 year teachers certificate, can I still teach English? I'm interested in film, journalism, education, and teaching poetry. But I want my degree to be as versatile as possible. Also, what's the best 'alternative' schools that would allow me to do poetry classes? Thanks for your help! You can see the work I've done with the youth so far at: Thanks everyone

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Mrs. C's picture
Mrs. C
Adjunct faculty at Ramapo College and Elementary Education teacher in NJ

Hi Apollo,

It sounds like you have a lot of ideas on your plate and you're in the perfect place now to start discovering your true interests and talents. If you want to become an English teacher you certainly need your regular four degree in Education(secondary) as well as taking classes in your area of interest(which I believe for you would be English). I would encourage you to try to enroll in a college that has a five year plan where you can graduate with a master's in your area of study. To teach English at the High school you need to be "highly-qualified" and classes are required in that subject, as well as passing a state praxis to ensure that you "know" your content. My husband teaches at the high school so I am pretty familiar with the requirements, however, I am primarily an elementary education teacher so I would reference the department of education website to determine your eligibility requirements for teaching. As far as your degree being as "versatile" as possible, we are in the age of specialization when it comes to teaching and educating. I think versatile degrees are becoming a thing of the past with laws that are being passed for educators to specifically be an expert in a subject matter. It makes sense, if my son is in an 8th grade math class, I certainly want that teacher to know math inside and out. You mentioned "alternative schools" I think most private schools seem to allow for greater flexibility when it comes to teaching alternative subjects....the public schools again are held to mandates. I hope I did not discourage or overwhelm you, teaching is an amazing field, but one that is ever changing and requires constant updating of one's skills and knowledge base.

Shared Ideas Teresa's picture

I encourage you to pursue a career in education. Make sure you select an area of interest. When selecting a career it is just like going into business for yourself. However, whatever you choose as an enterpreneur is something you will love doing the rest of your life.I agree with Mrs. C's response you will definitely need a four year bachelor degree. If you are trying to teach after the first year, exploring the private sector might be the best option. As for being versatile, I think it is important. It would be difficult being versatile with a degree in English. Perhaps, you could become a facilitator for clubs that focus on your interests.I am sure you will make a wonderful educator. Good Luck!

Mrs. M's picture
Mrs. M
Associate Teacher


In which state do you live? The requirements will probably vary from state to state. This will include how many hours of English that would be required to teach it. Have you looked at your state's Board of Education website? I imagine there would be more detailed information there. I hope this helps a little!


Robert Kostka's picture

From someone with 40 years in the profession, (retiring at the end of this year) the best thing that I can tell you is that teaching is a lousy job but a great profession. The pay and benefits will never compensate you for what you do, if you do the job properly, but the satisfaction that you will receive when you realize that you are doing the most important job for our society will be worth it. Listen to veterans who still love their job and avoid at all cost those who are toxic. Regardless of what you are experiencing, be happy, engaged and demanding and remember, you may be the only adult in their lives who actually cares about them. Also if you think and worry 24/7, you will burn out and be of no use to anyone. Be sure to budget into your time schedule time for fun and exercise.

Thierry Uwilingiyimana's picture

I am a recent graduate but I did my undergrad in engineering. I find myself on this website because I found myself overwhelmed by the amount of work being done on learning and teaching methodologies while at the same time still running into way too many students unhappy with learning and doing their best to just get by or simply giving up and dropping out.

I applaud your desire for versatility in education. But as you could tell from the advice from professionals above and their many years of experience, trying to be a licensed teacher is buying yourself a ticket down the same road that will take decades to even start resembling what you have in mind. It is disheartening for me to find that even a lot of teachers realize that the way they teach or the way they are forced to teach by standards does NOT allow them to reach the students and interest them at a level that will foster learning.

For most students in high school, school is just an obstacle to something else, a hurdle they have to train for just enough to clear and be free...some of these then go to college to graduate and join the workforce, others look for the easiest things to cruise through, while a tiny minority choose passion over stability and study what they really love regardless of job assurance.

What is even more depressing is that for these college graduates who do what they need to do to get a job, sometime sacrificing their interests and dreams, find out that everything they needed for the job the end up with they learn on the job anyway. Companies don't trust our school systems to produce ready workers. This is probably because our education system is too inflexible to readjust itself to the changing times and teach students what they need to know to thrive in today's environment.

My advice to you if you're still checking is to find another way to inspire these students. They're not getting what they need at school and they won't be for a while, most of them anyway. So find a way to reach as many of them as possible through other creative means. The teaching profession would stifle your creativity. You don't need a Bachelor's degree to teach the poetry that you already live and breath. You don't need 5 more years and hefty loans to teach people what you can already teach them today. Use your creativity to find ways to reach these poor souls. Standing in front of them 5 years from now to lecture and test them is not what you really want to do.

SLK1020's picture

Look into the ACT program at Wheeling Jesuit University. WWW.WJU.EDU. I am in it now and will finish in May. It has only taken me about 1 year to complete the program since I had so many undergrad English courses already. I have a Bachelor's degree in journalism and am planning on teaching secondary English/Language Arts. Good luck!

Hilary Lang Greenebaum's picture

Robert - GREAT advice for Apollo Poetry! I would add for any aspiring teacher to volunteer at a local school/s. Get in there, feel it, hear it, see it, most importantly think about if this is the world you want to enter. Try different locations and different settings; you might be surprised with what resonates. Teaching is a life style not a job. It is the best work I have ever done and love it. that being said, done well it is also the hardest.... good luck!

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