Hear from Dana Richliew of  3rd Grade Gridiron talk about her career as a 3rd grade teacher in Georgia.  You can also find her on her Twitter feed in the sidebar of this interview.  

What do you do for a living?

I’m a 3rd grade teacher.  I teach all subjects.  I work with 23 8-9 year olds every day.  I’m also a blogger, sharing ideas and resources with other educators around the world.

How would you describe what you do?

Rewarding, life-changing, and time-consuming.  Being a teacher has ups and downs like any job, but knowing that I could help mold and change someone’s life in a positive way…priceless.

What does your work entail?

This is a loaded question.  A teacher must completely understand their grade level content and be able to teach it to varying learning styles.  One must also find (and maybe even create) engaging, meaningful lessons and activities for the students to participate in, helping them reach mastery of each skill and concept.  One must also stay current with classes and professional development.  It’s important to stay up-to-date with the latest educational news and trends.  One must also keep up with paperwork (grading, notes about behavioral or academic issues, parent communication/conferences, etc.).

What’s a typical work week like?

I work from 7am-4pm at school each day.  I try not to take too much work home, but sometimes it’s inevitable.  I may work anywhere from 1-3 hours at home each night.  I will admit, some of this is blogging.  But keep in mind, my blog is an extension of my classroom.  I usually finish grading papers for 1-2 hours on the weekend and spend anywhere from 1-2 hours planning for the upcoming week.

How did you get started?

I have always enjoyed working with kids.  I worked at a gym in high school, keeping kids in the daycare and running the kid’s fitness classes during the summer.  It was then that I knew I wanted to have a career that allowed that same interaction and impact with children.  I went to college, majored in Early Childhood Education, and the rest is history!

What do you like about what you do?

I love the fact that every day brings something new.  Whether it’s a new challenge, a new concept to teach, or an off-the-wall comment by a silly kid, each day is completely different than the one before.  I’m not sure I could say that about an office job.

What do you dislike?

Honestly, I dislike certain behavior issues and how they’re handled.  That’s kind of a catch 22.  The kids need to be in class, learning the content, and getting prepared to move on to the next grade level.  But at the same time, if a student is misbehaving to the point of disrupting the entire class, they may need to be removed.  Sometimes teachers, administration, and parents don’t agree on how to solve this issue.  It can get extremely frustrating as a teacher dealing with defiant, disrespectful children.

How do you make money/or how are you compensated?

I have an annual salary based on my certification and extra degrees.  My years of service is another factor of my salary.  The more years of experience one has, the more they are paid.  I do not get paid for extra hours worked.

How much money do 3rd grade teachers make?

It honestly depends on where you work.  My first county I taught in paid starting teachers almost $10,000 less than my current county pays for the same starting employees.  This amount can be anywhere from $25,000 – $50,000 per year.  As I said above, my extra degrees and years of experience allow me to move up into higher pay brackets.

How much money do/did you make starting out as a 3rd grade teacher?

$25,000, but that number is different depending on the state and city you teach in.

What education, schooling, or skills are needed to do this?

You need a Bachelor’s Degree from an accredited institution.  One could continue to get further degrees if desired, but is not necessary.

What is most challenging about what you do?

The most challenging part to me is that my job never ends…or at least I don’t allow it to.  I bring work home each night and on the weekends.  I spend time search for or creating activities at night and on the weekends.  When I go out to dinner, to the mall, or the movies, I must “behave” myself.  Having a glass of wine at dinner can turn interesting when you see a current or former student and their family.  It’s just awkward.  Teachers have to hold themselves to a higher standard and must be role models at all times.

What is most rewarding?

The most rewarding part to me is watching children grow and develop as young learners.  They’re applying strategies and concepts learned in previous grade levels to accomplish tasks in our current grade.  When the light bulb turns on and they realize how it all relates, it’s like magic.  It’s priceless.

What advice would you offer someone considering this career?

First and foremost, have a plan for time management.  If you’re not careful, you’ll come in early and stay late every day.  You will push your personal life to the side and become a hermit in the school!  Secondly, have a classroom management plan.  Know how you’re going to reward students for positive behavior as well as how you will punish those for negative behavior.  Once this plan has been formulated and introduced, stick to it.  CONSISTENCY is crucial.  Say what you mean and mean what you say.  Students thrive on the structure, organization, and discipline.  Give ‘em what they want.

How much time off do you get/take?

In my state (not sure about others), we get 12 sick days per year.  We also get 3 personal days.  We also get several holidays off and have 2 months off each summer.  (See question/answer below to further elaborate the “summer” debate.)

What is a common misconception people have about what you do?

Haha!  This is a great question!  The biggest one is that I have 3 months off each summer.  True, I get most of the summer off.  But it’s only 2 months, and some of that time is filled with staff development, professional learning courses, and getting prepared for the upcoming school year.  Trust me, I don’t sit by the pool each day for 2 months.  I wish!

What are your goals/dreams for the future?

I would love to continue teaching in the classroom for a few more years.  But I would also love to be an instructional coach one day.  I would love to have a position where I get to work one-on-one with both teachers and students, assisting with instruction and learning.

What else would you like people to know about your job/career?

Don’t become a teacher for the time off.  Become a teacher for the desire and passion of helping children learn.  It isn’t the easiest job, but it is by far the most rewarding decision I’ve made in my entire life.