Every year, careers fairs and and a slew of media advertisements try to convince you of the nobility of the teaching profession. If you have a degree and a well-worn copy of The Dead Poets' Society you might be tempted to believe them. But not everyone is suited to becoming a teacher -- whether your prospective students are children, young people, or adults. Before you sign up for teacher training, it is worth considering if you are showing any of the signs that it isn't really the career for you.
This may sound obvious, but if you are planning on teaching in junior or high school, you really must like children. You must like all children, not just the clever, well-behaved ones who do not give any trouble. And you must understand the way that children think. If you become annoyed at being asked the same question repeatedly, or at suddenly being asked something that does not apparently relate to what you are discussing, you are probably not on the right wavelength to be teaching children. This does not automatically mean that you are suited to teaching adults, though. The role of a teacher at any level is to engage students in learning. To do this effectively you must like and relate to the people you are teaching.
Teacher training will tell you that one of the ingredients of successful teaching is thorough preparation. This is partly true. But even if you have prepared your lesson down to the last five minutes, you have to be prepared to be flexible and adapt your plan if you realize that it is not engaging your students. Similarly, if something you say really excites them, if you are a good teacher you will recognize this and nurture their enthusiasm.
Non-teachers envy teachers their short working days and long summers off. But if you decide to go into teaching for this reason, be prepared for a shock. Teachers spend long hours outside the classroom building their skills, preparing lessons and learning modules, understanding the curriculum and assessing students' work. They also work with their teaching colleagues and administrative staff to monitor students and manage the school. Many participate in summer schools and run extracurricular activities.
Unless you are teaching in a very selective private school, as a teacher you will come across students from a range of socioeconomic groups and ethnic and family backgrounds. They will have different beliefs and different abilities. At high school, they will be discovering their sexualities and may be gay, straight or bisexual. Some may have disabilities or special educational needs. With adults, you may find that you are teaching people who are older than you are. If you cannot deal equally, respectfully and compassionately with students with different needs and backgrounds, you should not be a teacher.
Teachers have to be passionate about their own subjects and remain engaged themselves even if following the same curriculum year after year. If you cannot face teaching the same text for five years, or think that you cannot learn anything new in your field, then you will not enjoy teaching.
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