Frederick Douglass said that “Without struggle there can be no progress”. As a new teacher, I hope that you will approach all situations in your classroom with that attitude because teaching can and will be difficult. Many people may ask you why you would want to go into a field that is underpaid, and/or under appreciated. At that point all you can do is rely on your beliefs about teaching and never lose your passion.
“Teaching today is more challenging than at any point in our history” (Kauchak Eggen, 2005). This statement alone would deter many people from the teaching profession. Teacher burnout is real, but it does not have to be your reality. Teaching is difficult, but it is also very rewarding. Although teaching may be difficult at times, hold on to the passion that brought you to this profession in the first place. The feeling one gets when the students have understood a lesson is one of accomplishment and satisfaction. Teaching will not always be easy. Only with practice will teaching become more familiar. There will be times when you may want to give up because there will be instances when you may feel as though you are not being effective. It is at that point that you will have to remember that you have to struggle in order to see progress. At that time you will have to go to your resources because teaching is a profession that must be studied continually. Becoming a teacher is a lifelong commitment to learning. As you begin teaching, remember that there are very positive aspects to teaching. My best advice is the following:
- Have a sense of humor: Teaching should be fun for both you and the students. When you enjoy what you do it becomes fulfilling and enjoyable, and that is what makes teaching so powerful.
- Be a culturally responsive educator: Some people believe making something culturally mediated means that you have to sing or rap, but you can be culturally responsive by gamifying your lessons, connecting lessons to the world around students, or by simply putting lessons in terms that are culturally specific to your students’ needs.
- Embrace the idea that you are a lifelong learner: Learning, like teaching, is a lifelong commitment. In order to fine-tune the profession of teaching we must first learn how to teach. Learning should be attainable to everyone. I believe that everyone should have an individualized learning plan that suites them because all students are different. Learning happens differently for different people and various learning styles must be explored in order to define what learning style works best for them.
- Be compassionate and patient. Learning requires optimism and an open mind. There are many factors that influence learning. “The quality of home life influences student learning and performance” (Kauchak Eggen, 2005). For this reason teachers must be compassionate and patient with their students learning abilities. Teachers also need to have an understanding about knowledge and what they want their students to know. Remember that knowledge is power. I know that is very cliché, but it is very true.
- Set goals with students. Students should know what goals are, and how they are going to set about achieving them. They should all have knowledge about reading, writing, and math, but they also need to know how to function in the world. Knowing about daily living skills is important for students, as well as knowing about values and morals.
- Never forget that students are people first. As an educator, always remember to empathize with your students. Remembering where you came from is an important part of what drove you to want to become an educator. Remember that you were once a student.
- Keep students at the center of everything you do. Students have the capacity to learn, you must first find out how to teach them. Students need to feel important. Students are the reason why we have schools, and they are the reason why we are employed. Keeping students at the core of everything we do as educators is the key to remaining relevant over the years to come in education. Each student is different and important. Their uniqueness is what makes the classroom lively and the curriculum come alive.
- Get students to value themselves. If you can get the students to value themselves, then you can get them to value their education.
- Become a high impact teacher. A high impact teacher is a teacher who creates a “caring, personal learning environment and assumes responsibility for their students’ progress” (2005). When students can trust you, they are more apt to open their minds for you. When people ask you why you would want to get into a profession that is underpaid, tell them that success is not measured in a paycheck. When people ask you why you would want to be in a profession that is under appreciated, tell them that you are not looking for a pat on your back. As an educator, look for the look in a student’s eyes when they have understood the lesson; that is all the appreciation we need.
- Never, ever, lose your passion! It can be easy as time goes on to forget the reason why you started teaching. Believe in your ability to bring about change – you can make a difference – don’t give up!
I once heard a quote that “Teaching is the profession that makes all other professions” (UNK), this is what I want you to remember as you begin teaching. Allow teaching to be more than a job for you; rather, believe that it is your calling. As you progress as a teacher, stand by your beliefs and your passion that motivated you to become an educator, and never forget that although it may be challenging, “Without struggle there can be no progress” (Frederick Douglass).
Kauchak, D., Eggen, P. (2005). Introduction to Teaching: Becoming a Professional, 2nd Ed. Saddle Ridge, NJ: Pearson Education.
Kelisa Wing is a Language Arts Teacher and AVID site team member for Faith Middle School in Fort Benning, Georgia. She is a 2016 ASCD Emerging Leader and the 2017 Department of Defense Education Activity State Teacher of the Year. She is also the Continuous School Improvement Chair for her school. She is an Army veteran and a proud graduate of the University of Maryland University College and the University of Phoenix where she earned her Educational Specialist degree. In her spare time, she enjoys volunteering in the community and spending time with her family. *All thoughts are her own.