As a veteran teacher of twenty-plus years, I've counseled many young people and adults about the teaching profession, and I am always excited to speak about the career of molding and inspiring young minds. I am always amused by people who are surprised and impressed that I can spend my days with teenagers and not go crazy. It is a true calling, and it's a labor of love - both of content and people.
If you have aspirations of a teaching career, you should consider the qualities of secondary education teachers. What makes a great teacher? Do these qualities fit your personality and style? If the following qualities match your identity, teaching may be a great career option. And the field needs qualified and inspired people who seek to improve the world through education. Consider the following qualities. Do they sound like you?
- Passionate - Students can read a teacher very easily, and they respond to people who are passionate and excited about what they are teaching. For, if the teacher doesn't care deeply about the subject - about the class and the lesson - why should the kids? No matter what you are teaching, you must be passionate - you must find something about the topic which excites and inspires you. When you are a teacher of secondary education, you may end up teaching a course or a lesson or a topic you don't absolutely love. However, it's important to avoid letting this lack of enthusiasm show to your students. They follow your lead, and finding something engaging about the topic is essential to success. Approaching a new and less-than-appealing course with an open mind, you may be surprised by the joy you find there.
- Creative - See the world - and your subjects - the way a teacher or artist or inventor does, with a fresh eye. Avoid simply teaching straight from the book, and, instead find a new angle when planning lessons. Consider what might excite you, or how you may connect the subject to something you enjoy. That could be a story or a movie or a game or a personal experience. Read voraciously and look for connections to your lessons. Switch up and adapt materials on a regular basis to keep students engaged. A successful class is an engaged one. The world - and your school - is filled with creative teachers willing to share ideas. Look online, follow some blogs, attend conferences, and network with teachers to keep creative ideas flowing.
- Flexible - Any programs for a master's degree in secondary education will emphasize the importance of flexibility in teaching. Teaching is a fluid and always changing career - from year to year and day to day, your teaching schedule is never set in stone. While it's important to plan ahead and be prepared each day, it's important to be comfortable with change. No lesson plan should be so rigid it can't be adapted to meet the changing nature of the day - a fire alarm or an assembly or a teachable moment or a great digression can take precedence. That's OK. It's always about what is "best for kids." If students seek extra help, be available for them. Work the time for extra help or review sessions into your schedule. If students come for extra help, embrace and appreciate that desire for learning.
- Openness to Integration and Connection - Subjects become more meaningful to students when they understand how it connects to other subjects as well as the real world. Be that connection - or connector - for them. Justify and explain why what you are offering is valued. Seek out opportunities to present real world examples and integrate other disciplines or subjects with your own. The teaching profession is about integration and connection. Share your thoughts and connect with others. You don't need to invent every lesson yourself. There is nothing wrong with borrowing from the best and making it your own for your classroom.
- A Mentor and Educator, Not a Friend - Any program for a master's degree in education will address the unique nature of the teacher-student relationship. However, this quality isn't always fully understood by teachers until they are in the classroom. In an era of Facebook, the personal connection between teacher and student can be blurred. And students often see no difference between caring about them and being their friend. And some teachers feel they can create better relationships by being friends with their students. But they have friends - what they need is a teacher. They are looking for educators and mentors. Embrace this honor and do it well. They look to you for leadership and guidance.