We often conflate teachers, the people who teach, with teaching the science and art of transferring knowledge and skills.
Is the job of a teacher just to teach? And before you bite my head off, why is the job of a medical doctor not doctoring? Or the job of an architect not ‘architechuring’ or the lawyer not ‘lawyering’ or the bricklayer not ‘bricklayering’? The answer seems simple enough to me at least. The role is bigger than the job description. The role of the teacher is therefore not just the art or science of teaching. It includes the range of exceptional things that teachers do to facilitate success in their students.
Once upon a time when I started out my teaching career in 1979 I was assigned to teach mathematics to a bunch of unruly boys. I soon learnt that my excellent knowledge of the subject was not just enough. I had to sell myself to this group in what I still call the best pitch of my life. I had to let them believe that I was the most confident teacher they could get and my youth and inexperience at the time was not a barrier to their learning. This preparation took me way off my comfort zone and into the realm of the marketing and sales manager. I was unprepared for this. My education had not prepared me for this very strange world of the classroom.
These are my top 5 tips for teachers garnered from over 30 years of international experience:
- To teach you must learn first to be a popular brand with students. Very often pupils talk to each other about their ‘cool’ new teacher and what they can or cannot get away with. By popular I do not mean a push over. You just need to ensure that ripples of your entry into teaching are felt across the school. If this has not happened for you after your first year pick the TES and move on. Then get it right next time.
- To teach you must decide early on what image you want to cut with your class team. Is it that of the ‘conservative traditional teacher’ or the ‘vivacious, trendy progressive teacher? Positioning yourself either way has nothing to do with your age but everything to do with brand consistency and how you want your class team to recognise, understand and learn from you. You are the entrepreneur. Does this resonate with you? I know which I chose.
- To teach you have to find a way of balancing you acts. You are between two teams calling for your attention—the class team and the teaching team. Their needs and wants though completely separate can overlap and then you have trouble. For example, your better judgement tells you that a child needs counselling for some wrong doing but the school policy says ‘punish’. My suggestion would be to do both. It worked for me.
- To teach you cannot be an introvert. If you are one this is the right time to make a life-changing decision to cut your losses and move on. Or change!!!!!
- To teach you have to be in your twenties, thirties, forties or maybe fifties. You can’t teach in your sixties despite the government’s offer to allow people to work for longer. Good time to make a career change, if you want my opinion.