Being a teacher involves more than simply being able to convey knowledge to students. Teachers play social roles that vary greatly. Some of the skills and traits that are most important to being a teacher are rarely acknowledged formally, but you’ll soon learn their importance on the job.
You need to know the material and be well-versed in whatever topic you’re teaching. If you’re teaching kindergarten, elementary or high school, you need to have at least a bachelor’s degree and state certification. More states are requiring a master’s degree. You’ll need a doctorate or professional credentials to teach post-secondary classes. Licensing varies from state to state, though it usually involves taking a teacher's exam and passing a certification course.
Teachers must develop the most effective means for conveying lessons based on the makeup of each class. Class size affects the way you present new material. Students' cultural and social backgrounds, prejudices and attitudes toward authority are all variables that you must take into consideration and address. You also must be able to clearly articulate expectations, goals, and policies to give students a guide to expectations and to minimize conflicts based on misunderstandings of the requirements.
Effective teachers have compassion for their students and the social and emotional needs they bring to school. Despite the occasional tendency of students to misbehave, most students respect and look up to teachers who make an effort to develop real relationships. Students respect you for being well-versed in what you teach and for being a functional adult who is successfully navigating the world. Regardless of age and background, from kindergarten to college and from wealthy to poor, students are usually in their formative years and need emotional support, encouragement, and guidance as much as practical information.
You don’t want to be one of those teachers who match the preconceived notions many students bring to school. Students often see teachers on one side with all the answers and themselves on the other side with all the questions. In fact, this sort of relationship is just what ambitious teachers seek to transcend. Effective teachers inspire students to develop their own learning processes. Creativity in the classroom can make the difference between bored students and excited students. Giving creative initiative to students and fostering a passion for active learning is the real job of good teachers, and there are as many ways to do this as there are teachers.
- University of Southern California: What Does it Mean to be a Teacher
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Kindergarten and Elementary School Teachers
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: High School Teachers
- All Education Schools: Essential Information on Teacher Education and Careers
- Carnegie Mellon University: Teaching Principles
- ITE.edu: What Does Being a Teacher Mean to Me
Linda Ray is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years reporting experience. She's covered business for newspapers and magazines, including the "Greenville News," "Success Magazine" and "American City Business Journals." Ray holds a journalism degree and teaches writing, career development and an FDIC course called "Money Smart."