Becoming a Teacher: The Evolving Job Description (page 2)
A recent job posting for a teacher described the position as requiring someone who must be "responsible for providing an educational atmosphere where students have the opportunity to fulfill their potential for intellectual, emotional, physical, spiritual and psychological growth." Those are big shoes for one person to fill!
Traditionally, the role of a teacher was clearly defined to instruct. Today, the role is much more encompassing, because learning has become a larger part of our everyday lives. All children in the United States must, by law, attend school. Because 90% of today's fastest growing jobs require training or education beyond high school, more and more high school graduates go on to attend vocational schools, community colleges, or four-year colleges. People of all ages and from all walks of life continue their education throughout adulthood. In fact, the average person will have five careers in the course of a lifetime. Each career change requires "retooling"—that is, learning new skills—and each formal learning experience requires a teacher.
In the traditional model, it was assumed that the teacher had the information and that the teacher's job was to pass the information to the students. But teachers no longer only impart information; their job is to facilitate learning. This includes using a variety of teaching techniques, maintaining a safe and orderly classroom, developing lesson plans, assessing student progress, and interacting with members of the administration and community. To successfully play this role, teachers need an ever-expanding set of skills and knowledge to keep up with the needs of their students.
Teachers now teach children how to learn. Teachers not only motivate students to learn, but they teach them how to learn in a manner that is relevant, meaningful, and memorable. However, most educators agree that before they can do this, teachers' first job is to make students believe they can accomplish the task. This is done by building the students' self-esteem, often in one of the following ways:
- setting realistic student expectations
- creating classroom situations where students cannot fail
- developing innovative activities
- finding ways to give criticism in a positive manner
- keeping a record of successful activities
Is Teaching for You?
You say you want to be a teacher, but does the job suit you? To help you determine your answer, ask yourself these questions:
- Do I like working with children or young adults?
- Do I explain things well?
- Do I want to teach children or adults to appreciate their own worth?
- Do I have a solid command of the content I intend to teach?
- Am I inherently fair-minded?
- Am I a nurturing and encouraging person?
- Do I have a sense of humor?
- Am I a problem solver?
- Do I keep my cool in stressful situations?
- Do I rise to a challenge?
- Am I able to lead or follow, depending on the situation?
- Am I able to work with people, young or old, who might be difficult to get along with?
- Can I expand my direct assignment, working with the students, to include working with their families?
- Am I able to set expectations and hold people to those expectations?
- Am I detail-oriented?
- Do I manage time well?
- Do I want to feel tremendous personal reward and satisfaction at the end of my workday?
If you answered yes to most of these questions, then teaching is probably a very good choice for you. Every teacher interviewed for this book has similar sentiments about the rewards of the profession. In fact, not one teacher wanted to change his or her career path.
If you answered no to several of the preceding questions, think about what draws you to teaching. You really have to be a people person and a good problem solver to be a good classroom teacher.
But there are all kinds of related work you can do if the checklist above doesn't seem to apply to you. For instance, if you don't like to work with groups of people, think about a career as a reading or a resource room specialist, where you can work with students one at a time. If you want to teach because you love, say, English literature, think about teaching in a private academic high school or even a college, where you can indulge your scholarly side. There are many ways in which you can build a satisfying career in education, so make sure you find one that's right for you.
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