What would you say if you were asked to address potential education majors? What would you want them to consider and remember based on your experience? Here are my remarks from when I was asked to offer my perspective. I hope you will share it with the potential teachers in your life.
If you want to be a teacher, don’t do it because school is all you have ever known. Don’t decide on teaching merely because you have little world experience and you think you babysit well. Standing in front of a class every day is not at all like babysitting. It is not being a camp counselor or a fun neighbor. It is a rewarding career for the right people. It just isn’t always easy to know if we are right for a career we’ve never tried and not yet lived with choosing.
Teaching is a calling for quick thinking, patient performers who enjoy plotting and planning. Teaching is both a natural ability to communicate while being engaging and a learned set of skills. Not everyone with knowledge can teach. Not everyone with knowledge should teach.
As you proceed on your educational path, take every opportunity to be in classrooms in a leadership role, not just as an observer. If you can, find a job working with young people. Each young person you encounter comes to you with talents and challenges. If you find behavior more challenging than intriguing, you may need to consider the age group you are concentrating on or the profession as a whole.
The most important classes you will take are those that address child psychology and classroom management. Personally, I think everyone who is in classrooms, coaching, teaching art or gymnastics or working with camp groups should have to take courses in child psychology and classroom management. It isn’t hard to state your knowledge. Dealing with all of the personalities is, however, a dance that takes lessons and practice to get anywhere close to mastery.
Remember that as a teacher, you have the awesome responsibility of touching the future. Everything you say and how you say it impacts your students. You are human. You will make mistakes – we all do. Learn from them. As a teacher, you never stop being a student of human nature – yours and your students.
And someday if you find that teaching isn’t joyful or you hear yourself yelling or feel yourself getting exasperated at the students all the time, consider getting out. Remember that your peace of mind matters, too.
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