Saturday, February 9, 2013

What it Means to be a Teacher

      To me, being a teacher is a great honor. I feel truly humbled that parents feel comfortable enough to allow me to care for and teach their greatest gift in the world. I take great pride in my profession, and feel truly blessed to have the opportunity to teach children all day long. When I say I teach children, it sounds simple enough….but when you dig deeper into the true job description of a teacher you will see that it is so much more complex.
     Teaching goes far beyond content. Yes, we have a curriculum and content that must be covered, but that is such a small piece of a very big puzzle. If teachers only had to know content, teaching in an elementary school would be a piece of cake. If knowing content was the most important part of teaching, why were my days as a preschool teacher the most challenging in my life? I am no Einstein, but I know my colors, shapes, and even the alphabet. To be honest, that didn’t help me out much when teaching preschool. Yes, teachers obviously need to understand what they are teaching, but teaching is so much more than being able to tell somebody what something is.
      I truly believe that above all, teachers have to want to be teachers. If you don’t want to teach, you probably shouldn’t. So much of teaching, I believe, has to do with personal character. I am not saying that you have to be a perfect person (if that were so I would be out of a job), but you have to sincerely care about what you are doing.
       Here are a few things I feel fall under a teacher’s job description. Teachers need to understand their students and build relationships with each and every one of them to truly understand how their brains work. Teachers must WANT to help their children and be self motivated to do so. Teachers must be caring, kind, and compassionate because children need to feel acceptance and warmth while at school. Teachers need to have patience for all students, because a day will not go by that patience are not tested. On that note, a plan for classroom management is a must. Teachers must identify the unique qualities of their students and pinpoint their individual learning styles. Teachers must have energy to keep up mentally and have the ability to be on their feet all day long. Teachers must have endurance to keep up with the long days of a teacher – some days you may not have a prep, a lunch, or even a free evening or weekend. Teachers must have excellent communication skills to convey thoughts and observations positively and accurately to students, colleagues, and parents. Teachers must have some type of organization system to keep track of student files, grades, lesson plans, notes, meetings, lunch money, homework, individual student schedules, etc. Teachers need to identify any disabilities or challenges their students may have, anything from needing glasses, to test anxiety, bullying, fine motor skills, reading fluency, or any possible medical conditions just to name a few. Teachers should be prepared for recess duty, it sounds like a break period but can actually be quite the opposite. Teachers should be prepared to change their well thought out daily plans at any given moment, because as teachers know, plans can change and they usually do. Teaching life lessons is a huge priority in the classroom and can often take precedence over a lesson you are supposed to get through that day. Although many teachers are soft hearted, they should be ready for some criticism from parents and colleagues – it will be impossible to make them all happy. Teachers should be prepared to enjoy a few days off on their summer vacations, but most days on. Attending professional learning conferences, attending continuing education classes, buying school supplies on sale with your own money, and likely trying to revamp or create better lessons for the upcoming school year…..because you want to.
          Being a teacher has the greatest rewards of any profession I can think of. You get to work with children. Be their role model. Watch your students transform and learn things they never thought they would. Get compliments from them when you are looking and feeling your worst, and doing the same for them. Feeling a huge surge of excitement when you see their confidence level rise and their happiness grow. Knowing that you make a positive impact on children every day is priceless. I wouldn’t change the smiles, hugs, and even boogers for anything in the world.
          It baffles me how the government leaders, the general public, and even parents can criticize people who put forth such great effort into teaching, caring for, and even loving the students in their classrooms. There are so many factors that influence how a child performs at school. Teachers with heart do their best to help that child to the best of their ability in whatever circumstance they are in.

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