10 Reasons Why You Should Consider Teaching as Your First Job
Updated: Jan 10, 2021
I spent 8 years as a Physical Education teacher in a government school as my first job, before leaving public service for the “dark side” of the private sector. It’s been 7 years since I left and very often, I get asked the question of whether I miss teaching or if I miss being a teacher. I’ve realized for myself since that first few questions that one thing I really enjoyed about being a teacher was the mentoring and coaching of students, and this I also realized I had been able to continue doing even after leaving my job as a teacher. I have been able to apply the same approach and techniques to the individuals and teams that I have worked with in the different roles I have assumed.
So… “No”, I don’t miss teaching or miss being a teacher because I have all this while been doing what I enjoyed most about teaching, up until today, and I don’t see myself ever stopping.
In the time since I left education, I have moved from project management for a real estate company in a foreign country, to being a hotelier in 2 countries, to running my own events management company spanning operations in 4 different cities, to pre-opening the world’s first fitness and wellness coworking space, to now being an entrepreneur running my own wellness business and starting a passion project aimed at elevating the role of the community builder as a credible profession.
I have always been thankful for my “roots” and where I started my first job, where the environment was nurturing with mentors that allowed for mistakes to be made and lessons to be learnt. I want to highlight the skills I acquired from being a teacher that have helped me be successful in my professional and personal life today.
Inculcating of Values
The school was excellent ground for building the foundation for good and sound values like integrity, patience, humility and hard work. Living by the school’s values of Passion, Purpose, Drive, Integrity and Care for Others, and having to be a role model and mirror this behavior for the students allowed for these values to be further etched and was what shaped me in the formative years of my career. I have heard of stories of friends who started out in other industries and picked up undesirable habits, behaviors and attitudes.
These values have stayed with me since and have been my guiding compass in every new role and position that I have assumed since leaving education.
Teaching took up 50% of the time. But the other 50% of the time included coaching the sports teams, doing 1 on 1 mentoring, contributing in different capacities in multiple standing and ad-hoc committees, communicating with parents, lesson planning, curriculum design, and all-the-time worrying about the psychological, emotional and physical well-being of at-risk students. It was round-the-year multi-tasking and the wearing of many hats with different deadlines and deliverables.
Of course we were not experts at everything, but the ability to be versatile and multi-task to handle multiple timelines and deliverables in the course of the year and reporting to different “managers” helped to prepare me for the different stressors and hats I had to wear in the positions I held after education.
Being a teacher and sports team coach taught me about leadership. As a teacher responsible for student leaders, I was trained in The Leadership Challenge by @Halogen and this further fueled my interest in the field specialization. It seemed intuitive enough that if I was supposed to teach it, I should be good at it so there was always that pressure to know more and self-improve and also to understand industry standards and be able to deliver good content and have students actually be equipped with the (leadership) skills for life.
Through leadership, not just with the students but also with my managers and leaders, I learnt self-awareness, empathy, risk-taking, the power of giving second chances, and of course being a team player and working to each other’s’ strengths to compensate for another team player’s shortfall.
Towards the last few years of my time as a teacher I also had the privilege to manage a team of teachers and the training the years before indeed proved useful for this new responsibility. There was also at some point during the crossroads of my career, that I even wanted to pursue a post graduate course of some sort in Leadership at the Centre of Creative Leadership, but that never materialized.
Events Planning and Management
As a Physical Education Teacher, the school’s annual sports events had to be planned and executed by my department. There were between 2 to 4 events a year and this was good enough training to understand the risk assessments and what needed to be planned, and executed with contingencies for wet weather or other unforeseen circumstances. Having to deal with partnership and collaborations not just internally within the school’s different departments but also having to engage external stakeholders was part of the scope of work.
I was also responsible for school-wide camps and experiential learning activities which required pitching, negotiation to external vendors, budgeting, planning and team management and delegation.
There were also other smaller events confined to the Co-Curricular Activities and special interest groups that had runways anything from 2 weeks of planning to 6 months of planning before execution.
Coaching and Mentoring
The opportunities to coach and mentor were aplenty, especially since I was coaching 2 sports teams, and also Head of Student Leadership. Teaching allowed me to do this on a daily basis and to hone the skill daily. There were also resources for training and facilitation that the school provided for, which helped me tremendously in improving my craft to do my job better.
My personal interest in wanting to know more and do more for my students also helped propel this forward for my own growth and development.
As a teacher, having to speak to a class, whether in the confines of the classroom or school field, trained us to be observant and to work on tone, rhythm, volume, body language with hand gesture, and most importantly spatial presence.
My role as a teacher gave me the confidence to address a crowd of any size. Today, I am able to do so fairly eloquently to address topics that I am familiar with. This has helped me with hosting, facilitating panel discussions, and also speaking about my areas of specialization, which is in entrepreneurship, community building and recovery modalities.
Structure and Systems
Working in the ministry of education helped me to appreciate structure and systems which although at that time sometimes seemed bureaucratic, on hindsight has actually helped me frame my mental model on setting the right processes to ensure all bases are covered to allow for lower probability of hiccups, and where the right paper trail allows for tracking.
This has been exceptionally important for me in the pre-opening phases and entrepreneurial space where I’ve had to work with a blank canvas and where everything is fluid with no systems having been put in place.
Being a teacher imbued in me that life-long learning is the zest for life and that there is always something new to learn and that there is always possibly a better way to be doing something. I do not read as much as I would like to, but the mindset with the desire to read more is important, and I see the cup as always half full.
I joined @NewCampus as a mentor and this amazing community is a virtual “gym membership for the mind”, where I can share and also learn about anything under the sun from leaders who are specialized in their respective fields. Check it out!
The school itself has its own brand, identity and community. This wider community includes current students, aspiring students, alumni, staff, stakeholders and partners. There are pockets of smaller communities within each group and I learnt about alignment of vision and values to help build, coordinate and facilitate interactions within the groups just because it was my responsibility to do so. Of course, the more I did it, the more I leant what was required to be done and as I got better at it, I also found my own style and winning formula, with the incorporation of specific formal as well as informal rituals.
This was the start of my community building “training” which I only realized in recent years, was my passion and calling, which lead me to start Kampung Collective in 2019 with Andee Chua.
Teaching has taught me that building relations is important.
Internal relationships between colleagues and different departments help to get things done a lot quicker and this most of the time saves the red tape.
Naturally relationships with the students and the class is important because building rapport is one of the most important requirements of being an effective educator.
Having a positive relationship with students’ parents helps to build trust and is that important bond and teamwork required to nurture the child’s curiosity, learning and development.
Building good relationships with external vendors is always beneficial for better pricing and getting latest deals and products for the school and student community.
And lastly, establishing and maintaining favourable relationships with leadership, because that determines the performance grade and bonus!
I didn’t know so much was happening with relationship building until I wrote this article!
I would say 5 years is the minimum amount of time you would need in the public service as a teacher to be really internalizing the “training” and reaping the benefits of this profession. That’s essentially your teaching bond and another 2 years. Something to consider for fresh graduates!
I have had the opportunity to work with some amazing teachers and am on very good terms with my teacher friends who are still in public service. This article is dedicated to all of them because there is a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes and unnoticed, that the layperson will never understand.
It is often said that our experiences define us as a person. I want to add also that the relationships that we keep from the experiences define us even more as an individual.
About Alex Loh
I am a consultant and trainer in the fitness, health and wellness space, business owner, loving husband and doting father.
My compass is guided by the desire to help people. I help individuals and business owners to find purpose. Together we unlock fruitful solutions, experience growth and achieve targeted success. Having successfully built and maintained communities over the years, my focus is to help businesses and organisations harness community as the vehicle to connect, and build credibility, trust and authentic relationships.
Come speak to me about Developing Wellness Strategies, Finding Purpose, Building Communities and/or in Optimising your Life!
Photos from www.pexel.com