A couple of weeks ago I included a question within my survey asking readers if there is a particular subject they’d like to see addressed in a future post, and I had several people ask me to address the same thing – if I ever saw myself being able to balance having a teaching career and being a military spouse.
This is a subject I’m very open about with my friends and family, so I’m more than happy to share my thoughts here as well. When Jamie and I started talking about a future together during my senior year of college, I felt optimistic that his career in the Army wouldn’t negatively affect my career as a secondary education English teacher. I’d always heard that being an educator is one of the best careers a military spouse can have simply because those are jobs that are needed and often available regardless of where you’re stationed.
It’s true. There are schools everywhere and if I planned and networked well enough I more than likely could find a job wherever I go. In my opinion though, being an educator and a military spouse unfortunately don’t go together quite as well as I’d dreamed they would. Here’s why it’s challenging.
Typically PCS schedules don’t align well with the school year. The easiest and most enjoyable situation for a teacher is to be hired in late spring/early summer, have all summer to prepare a classroom, lessons, and policies, and then begin strong in the fall. This timeline is hard to meet for military spouses, and being hired mid-year and potentially taking over for another teacher isn’t an ideal start. Military families are PCSing 365 days a year, so the odds of a PCS aligning perfectly with finding a new job at every duty station is slim. With other jobs, spouses can find work any time of the year; For teachers, that window is small.
New Grades/Subject Matter
A teacher’s first year at a new school teaching a new grade or subject matter is often overwhelmingly busy because one has to plan a whole day’s worth of lessons every single day for 10 months. It’s exhausting. The following years should be much easier because teachers aren’t having to start from scratch every single day, but rather can pull from what they used the year before. Each additional year of teaching the same grade at the same school allows teachers to continue improving and building on the lessons they’ve already used, resulting in stronger, more confident teachers. They don’t have to reinvent the wheel year after year. For example, when I taught 8th grade literature I had to read and heavily study every new novel, play, short story, etc. at least once before I taught it (obviously). When I moved and began teaching 11th grade I had to start over with reading a whole new set of material. When I started my second year teaching 11th grade I freed up some time by just skimming the material instead of studying them because I’d already read and taught them the year prior. PCSing and taking a teaching job within a new school requires you to learn new state teaching standards and start from scratch with planning a year’s worth of lessons.
Like with many careers, each state requires educators to apply for and obtain new teaching licenses and certifications. This licensing process typically costs at least a few hundred dollars and requires a mound of paperwork and time before it’s in hand. Many teachers have also been required to take additional college courses just to be certified in a specific state.
Work Place Learning Curve
Though all work places have a learning curve that employees have to go through before they feel comfortable with knowing their jobs, a teacher’s learning curve typically lasts an entire school year. Each school has different policies and procedures for they way they do things, such as state exams, mid terms, finals, pep rallies, special events, and much more. Feeling like a newbie and needing guidance for an entire year gets tiring, especially if you’re having to do it at new schools every few years.
I know that there are hefty/early retirement benefits for those who teach in the same state or school system for 20-25+ years, and military spouses miss out on those benefits entirely.
My readers know that I strive to maintain a glass half full perspective on our military lifestyle and am thankful for so many aspects of it, but there’s no beating around the bush when it comes to this topic – being an educator and a military spouse is challenging. Possible though? Absolutely.
1.) I’d love to hear from military spouses who also have degrees in education. What are your thoughts?
2.) How has the military made your career in other job fields besides education challenging?
3.) Do any of my military spouse readers have a career field that they’ve found very conducive to the transient military lifestyle?