The decision to enter a profession that has the potential to affect hundreds of lives of children each year should not be taken lightly. One must make sure they are ready for the challenges and responsibilities as well as the joys and humor before entering this profession.
1. Emotional Commitment
Teaching is not a desk job. It requires you to be on your game every day and furthermore, every single moment of the day. You must account for every minute they are in your care. . . with that being said, be prepared for anything to happen on your watch, and always have a back up plan. Great teachers emotionally commit to their subject matter and students daily. The class you are handed every year is full of faces that are referred to as “your kids.” You grow to love your kids more than you would have ever thought possible, and you will go through a lot together in a year. You’ll never lack for conversation, because you can always think of a great story to share about one of your kids. Those kids look to you as much more than their teacher, and you will teach them far more than just academics. You’ll fulfill the role of: a parent, a friend, a counselor, a nurse, a coach, a referee, their biggest cheerleader & one who leads them into their bright future ahead. Teaching can feel incredibly rewarding when things go well, but it takes a heck of an emotional and mental toll when it doesn’t. Look for small things to rejoice in and don’t beat yourself up when they don’t “get it.” Tomorrow brings another chance to try harder. We all have our better days, even kids.
2. Community Expectations
Everyone has their opinion of what a teacher should be doing. You will be pulled in many different directions. The modern teacher wears many different hats as noted above in number one. You must realize that in each class you will have students of varying levels and abilities and you are judged on how well you can reach them by individualizing their instruction and education. This is the challenge of education but at the same time, it can be a very inspiring and rewarding experience. If you need accolades and a pat on the back for every good deed, teaching isn’t for you. While it is very internally rewarding, it is often outwardly a thankless job. Don’t base your accomplishments on how many “good jobs” you receive. Remember why you chose to teach in the first place and you will not lose sight of your passion.
If you don’t have unwavering patience, get out now! You will repeat yourself over and over and over and a student will STILL have a question about what you’ve asked them to do. Repeat yourself again with a smile and move on. Kids are impulsive , be patient with them as they learn how to behave and act in society. They need constant reminders for everything! To stop talking, to stay on task, to finish their work, to use their manners, to walk in a line, to wash their hands, and the list goes on and on. Give the reminders in a calm tone of voice so they don’t sense frustration. You have no idea what is going on inside of them, or what they deal with at home. Sometimes a conversation on the side with students may be needed. You’d be surprised how much they open up when you give them the time and chance and just listen; then you better understand them and their actions. Be warned that all the patience you had when you walked in the school early that morning will be sucked dry by that afternoon, but will somehow be replaced by the next morning. If you ever want a real test, just ask for patience. You’ll get it.
4. Student teaching doesn’t prepare you for teaching
Some placements are absolutely wonderful and some are horribly painful to endure. Thankfully, I never experienced the latter. All of mine were exceptional, to the point that some may not have been a true reflection of reality. It is hard to compare your student teaching experiences to your first year of “real” teaching because of several factors. You may have a job in a different area with economic differences, a totally different grade level, different school with different expectations, and so much more. Learn what you can where you are with what you have and make the most of the experience. Your first year will be a year of learning, so be prepared to make friends with constructive criticism and continue to push forward. You’ll get there and one day you’ll have student teachers in your class and you’ll know exactly how they feel. Help prepare them in ways you wish someone would have prepared you.
5. Time Commitment
In order to be an effective teacher you must realize that the 8 hours you’re at work, you should be focused on your students. This means all other paperwork needs to be done on your own time; from writing lesson plans, to grading assignments, to doing report cards, and so much more. In addition to that, parent conferences and the plethora of meetings that educate us even more are often times after school hours. One key to being an effective teacher is knowing your students. Every single one of them. Know their family and what’s going on, know how they learn best, know what they are interested in, know what they are involved in (and go see them in their performances and watch them play their games) know what makes them tick, know what makes them feel appreciated and loved, know how they best respond to discipline- know as much as you can. Finding out all of this takes time. If you really want to be an effective teacher, you have to pour your time into it. And lots of it. Especially in the beginning. As years pass, you learn how to better manage time, but never rob the students of the time with you they deserve.
Becoming a teacher was always my dream, and now I get to live my dream daily. There is nothing I’d rather do. In college, I was told multiple times I’d never become a teacher by different academic advisors. I’m now in my third year. If you have a dream and a passion, go for it. No one knows how strong that passion is but you, and no one will fight harder for it to become reality than you. Whether it’s teaching or not, go follow your dreams and live out your passion.
As submitted by J. Arnold – Teacher by Devine Design