The Appeal: Helping the next generation flower sounds like a great vocation. Plus, you get summers off. Teachers have good job security, too, with benefits that are often more generous than those in the private sector. And...you get summers off. If you stick with the career, salaries can approach six figures (in many metropolitan areas). And did we mention you get summers off?
The Reality: In many public elementary schools, classes are grouped at random, which means one class can include special ed students, gifted kids, and foreign-born children who speak little English. Trying to meet all of their needs can be exhausting, if not impossible. Government rules often put pressure on instructors to teach all students high-level material, even if it's over their heads. And summers aren't sacrosanct: Increasingly, teachers are required to work, or "volunteer," for part of the summer.
The Alternatives: Teach at schools where classes are grouped by ability, or at a private school that focuses on students of a particular ability level. Or, be a corporate trainer or instructor, teaching adults English as a second language. You may be particularly marketable if you're skilled in conducting training online. Tutoring can be a particularly rewarding option. Most students learn much better one on one, and you don't have the discipline and organizational problems that come from teaching a class full of students. Many parents hire tutors, who make in-home visits and/or work by E-mail and phone, often charging $50 plus per hour. Or, if you're not much for soliciting business, you can tutor for an entity such as tutor.com, Tutoring Club, Score/Kaplan, Sylvan, Kumon, Huntington, or Princeton Review.