Teaching young people can be a fulfilling, yet demanding job. A combination of specific skills, knowledge and experiences are required to excel in the profession. Before you decide to embark on this career path, it’s worthwhile to do a self assessment to determine whether teaching is a good choice for your future.
Teachers need a variety of skills to become proficient in their careers. They need excellent communication skills so they can explain the material in the curriculum in a variety of ways to students who have diverse learning styles. They also need superior interpersonal skills, such as patience and the ability to remain calm in stressful situations. Collaborative skills enable them to work productively with their colleagues. Creativity and presentation skills are important when planning lessons to motivate students and hold their interest. As schools become more technologically advanced, teachers also need basic technological skills for audio-visual presentations and for reporting and taking attendance electronically.
It is essential for teachers to have a strong grasp of the material they are teaching. Elementary school teachers must have very good content knowledge in basic numeracy, literacy, social studies and science. High school teachers, who usually specialize in only one or two subject areas, must have a thorough knowledge and understanding of their area of specialty. Teachers also need to know how children learn. They need to know the expectations in development for children of different ages. They also need to know a variety of teaching strategies and disciplinary techniques.
Most teachers are initially drawn to the profession due to positive learning experiences they have early in their lives. There might be a favorite teacher who was instrumental in helping them fulfill their full potential or any opportunity they had to teach something to someone, such as a younger sibling learning to ride a bicycle or a friend needing help with homework. These experiences help potential teachers understand the dynamic of transmitting information from teacher to learner. Other experiences, such as being a camp counselor, scout leader or sports coach also contribute to increased awareness of how to interact with youngsters and how to motivate and inspire them.
An essential component of teachers’ college programs is practice teaching. These practicum placements should occur early in the teachers’ program. It is only by preparing lessons and delivering them that teachers can determine which methods they are most comfortable with and which ones are more likely to ensure student success. Teachers need to be lifelong learners and take advantage of the many professional development opportunities that are available for them to expand their repertoire of teaching strategies. Throughout their careers, excellent teachers constantly adjust and adapt their approach as they reflect on their past experiences and improve upon them.