If you're looking for a job with minimal accountability, don't even think about becoming a teacher. Working as a teacher carries as much responsibility as working as a neurosurgeon, albeit in different ways. Teachers directly affect the lives of hundreds, if not thousands, of students during their careers -- a responsibility that has staggering implications. Still passionate about teaching? Examine the responsibilities before deciding to be a teacher.
The primary responsibility of any teacher is to teach, and to do so with excellence. Not only do you need to know your subject area well, but you must have the ability to transfer what you know to a classroom of restless youngsters. This is easier said than done, as almost everyone remembers that boring teacher who droned on and on about some obscure battle during the Civil War. Fulfill this responsibility by taking classes to learn teaching pedagogy, and take the time to observe master teachers in the classroom. Finally, commit to practicing and experimenting until you get it right.
Be a Role Model
Like it or not, students look to you -- their teacher -- as a role model. In fact, for some students, you might be one of the few professional adults they encounter in their daily lives. Here are some of your responsibilities in this realm: demonstrate how to peacefully resolve conflict, show how to dress appropriately and teach how to communicate clearly. Model positive, pro-social interactions with other people at all times. Demonstrate integrity, kindness, compassion and other qualities that you -- and your school administrators -- want your students to develop. Even the neatness of your handwriting is important, because students are always watching.
All students deserve a safe environment that is conducive to learning, and the teacher has a responsibility to provide this. To this end, help students learn not to run in the halls, bully other students or use profanity. Teachers must be consistent so that students feel secure and know what to expect. When you must discipline a student, do so with compassion. Rules also apply to you as a teacher. Keep personal information about students and their families confidential, and follow the school district's guidelines to ensure equal opportunities for all students, and safety and effective communication.
You're never finished preparing to become a teacher. The teachers who make a difference are the people who stay on top of current educational research and continue to learn more about their content area. The teacher who goes on a summer trip to China and takes photos of the clay soldiers in the Tomb of Qin Shi Huangdi to share with her students is a much more fascinating and effective world history instructor than the teacher who relies solely on the curriculum she used five years ago.
Elise Wile has been a writer since 2003. Holding a master's degree in curriculum and Instruction, she has written training materials for three school districts. Her expertise includes mentoring, serving at-risk students and corporate training.