Do you want to do something useful with your life? Do you appreciate the variety of life and experience? Do you enjoy reading and thinking? And do you delight in watching as understanding dawns on the face of a child who has previously not been engaged? Then you might be interested in an education career.
As you look back on your own years as a student, you know that some teachers seem to have wasted a year or a semester, while others created special memories of growth and learning. A good teacher can make the difference, and if you want an education career, you want to be that good teacher for the students in your classes.
10 Characteristics of Good Teachers
- A good teacher is patient. A good teacher recognizes that, although not every student can excel, all students can improve. A good teacher will take the time and effort to bring out the best in each of her students. A good teacher won't be afraid to repeat a point, but will find a way to do so with a bonus - a detail, application, or approach that keeps the students who got it the first time from being bored.
- A good teacher has good communication skills. Education is communicating knowledge, skills, and culture to the next generation. Good communication is straightforward, clear, and cogent. There is no teaching without learning, so effective communication draws in the students and motivates them to learn. Effective communication includes a well-modulated voice, good speaking skills, awareness of grammar, visual aids, and body language. The speaker is aware of those listening and their spoken or unspoken responses.
- A good teacher is able to relate well with others, especially those from varied backgrounds. Knowledge of cross-cultural communication is useful, but so is an honest effort to be open and not take oneself too seriously. A good teacher treats all students with justice and fairness, involving all without discrimination. A good teacher knows how to listen.
- A good teacher has a commitment to teaching. A good teacher is willing to go above and beyond the basic requirements to keep lessons current and interesting. A good teacher will work with students as a group, in small groups and individually, and will encourage students to teach each other.
- A good teacher sets a good example. She models the behavior and attitudes she desires from her students, including courtesy, kindness, respect, honesty, helpfulness, and sensitivity. She has high expectations for herself and others while recognizing their humanity and not taking mistakes personally.
- A good teacher knows the power of positive reinforcement. The old adage that you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar is particularly true in education. Students learn better if they feel good about their successes than if they feel bad about their failures. Point out honest examples of each.
- A good teacher is a good leader. A good teacher is confident, kind, and fair. She makes good use of time and believes in herself despite setbacks. She has clear expectations and realistic goals for classroom performance.
- A good teacher is passionate. He loves his subject matter and is eager to communicate that love to others. He loves his students and takes satisfaction from seeing them succeed. He is interested in his students beyond the classroom.
- A good teacher is prepared. She knows her subject matter and puts time and effort into planning lessons that convey that knowledge, together with strategies for responding to different learning styles. She is not rigidly bound to her plans and is able to adjust “on the fly” as the situation demands. Her lessons include clear, suitable, and achievable aims and activities.
- A good teacher is professional. Good teachers take their work seriously. They pay attention to their dress, grooming, and bearing. They get to school early and rarely are absent. If they do have to miss class, they have complete lesson plans to supply to substitutes. Their students are clear about the focus and aims of the lesson and can enjoy and find value in it.
These 10 characteristics of a good teacher can help you assess whether you are suited to an education career.
Advantages of an Education Career
Before deciding on any course of action—especially one as major as beginning an education career most people consider its advantages and disadvantages. This article can help with that evaluation. The following are 12 advantages of teaching:
- Teachers invest in the future. The students you teach, mentor, or counsel today will be tomorrow's leaders. Teachers influence the kind of future we all will have.
- Teachers work with children. Children are refreshingly honest and provide immediate feedback, increasing teachers' sense of fulfillment. They often withhold judgment and long to have relationships.
- Teachers help children become self-aware. A good teacher can start children on the road to lifelong learning.
- Teachers enjoy job security. Though requirements differ from state to state, good teachers can always find jobs, and layoffs and downsizing are rare. Education careers offer regular advancement and pay increases.
- Teachers earn a solid income and benefits. Benefits begin accruing with your first paycheck. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, teachers make 11 percent more than the average for all professionals. Healthcare, sick days, tuition reimbursement—teachers make a lot more than just their salary.
- Teachers' work schedules better fit their own children's schedules, reducing child care costs. Teachers take summers, weekends, and evenings off, allowing greater opportunity for family time.
- Teachers enjoy good vacation time. Most teachers have up to three months off a year, allowing time for travel and continuing education. Private scholarships and federal funding are available for additional study.
- Teachers learn new things while teaching others. Teachers have the challenge of using their brains all the time. Teaching is the perfect profession for people who enjoy learning. It's stimulating to think constantly how to explain a subject or to react to a situation or question.
- Middle school teachers and above specialize, becoming experts in their fields. Especially at the college and university level, many are recognized as experts and are called on to give speeches, write books and articles, and apply their specialized knowledge to other fields.
- Teachers work collaboratively with colleagues who are interested in learning. Teachers can enjoy the stimulating experience of working with people who are interested in and keep abreast of the same subjects. And they work with people who are usually fun to be around.
- Teachers have a lot of independence. They are able to make many decisions about what happens in their classrooms. They are able to choose resources, methods, and approaches.
- Teaching is constantly varied. No two days are ever the same.
Disadvantages of an Education Career
Though it is important to consider the many advantages of an education career, the wise career seeker will want to look at the disadvantages as well. The following are some of the greatest disadvantages of teaching:
- The pay can be low relative to the workload. Even though the school day is short, adding the time to prepare lesson plans, grade papers and tests, and maintain performance records can bring hours up to 50 or more a week. In addition, meetings with parents might be possible only at night, and professional development opportunities are often on weekends.
- Classroom size can be overwhelming. Classes of 25 students might promote optimal learning, but budget cuts have resulted in class sizes of 30 and even 40 students a class, which can make it challenging to spend time teaching rather than managing the classroom.
- School budgets are small and constantly shrinking. In a nation with an aging population and limited resources, people might have higher priorities than education, resulting in education budgets that are under continuing attack.
- Teachers are seldom appreciated. Don't look to teaching to get your ego stroked. Children are more concerned about themselves; parents are more concerned about their own children; community people tend to be interested in the schools when they have children attending and lose interest when their children graduate. You need to develop strength internally and not depend on external reinforcement.
- Teaching can be stressful. There are many demands on a teacher. Administrators are watching those standardized test scores. Parents want advantages for their individual child. Communities want model citizens who don't make too much noise or cause disorder.
- It can be frustrating to try to teach people who don't want to learn. It's hard for children to value future benefits over current pleasures. In fact, that can be difficult for anybody, but children in particular live in the now. Too many students come to school for social, not educational, purposes, or are indolent and uninterested in learning.
- Staff stability is low. Many people get into teaching for idealistic reasons and then discover that, as in most things, the reality falls short of the ideal. This results in a lot of turnover among teachers, which hurts the students and causes other teachers to suffer the loss of a collegial learning community.
- The decline of literacy in the nation as a whole has negative effects in the classroom. Students can be poorly motivated, disrespectful, and poorly prepared to learn. Working parents might not have anyone at home to look after the kids and supervise homework. They might not model an interest in reading or watching educational television programming.
- Schools can be rundown and lack modern amenities. Technology demands constant upgrades, and subjects like science require up-to-date equipment and laboratories.
- Teachers lack control over subject matter. The current emphasis on standardized tests limits the flexibility of teachers to determine subject matter and to adapt learning to the needs of individual students.
- Teachers can't select their clients. You can't refuse service to anyone, even the manipulative, apathetic, or downright dangerous.
- Excessive non-educational paperwork is frustrating. Most teachers would like to spend more time interacting with students. Despite these and other disadvantages, teaching is an old and honorable profession, filled with satisfactions and challenges beyond the tangible.
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