Monday, April 4, 2016

So, You Want to be a Teacher?

Not that long ago I wrote a post from the perspective of my current role as building principal in which I shared out the question, "So, You Want to Be a Principal?" What (at the time) was just a listing of the attributes that I felt were significant to those considering taking on this charge, became a post shared countless times over by my peers with great feedback from many. Little did I know it would have the impact that it has. A humbling experience. With that in mind, I share this. 

It is the time of year in the school calendar in which thousands of soon-to-be-graduates and countless substitutes teachers are feverishly filling out the endless on-line applications in the hopes of landing one of the few coveted jobs that exist in today's ever competitive educational market. Some jobs more desired than others, it is an opportunity for our newest generation of teachers to set themselves apart from the competition.

For those of us already fortunate enough to be given an opportunity to teach we know what it takes to do this job. The countless hours, the growing needs of our community and the mandates passed down from above, teaching is not easy. Yet, we still come to work each day excited for what lies ahead. Teachers are unique in every sense of the word.

So, You Want to be a Teacher? Well, you may want to check what it will take as you jump in with both feet to this profession that so many of us are already fortunate to be a part of.

1. Be Connected. For the past two years I have participated in countless twitter chats in which I have been impressed and amazed by the number of pre-service teachers that are participating to expand their knowledge. These up and coming future teachers embrace the power of social media to grow themselves as learners. With that, being connected will literally connect you to thousands of other educators before you even are handed the keys to your first classroom.

2. And, be Digital. It is difficult to find districts that are not already 1:1 or well on their way to becoming just that. We know the power of the digital world for the social side of our lives but in this case makes sure you are well-versed in how being a digital native will support instruction and empower your future students well into their learning. Being knowledgeable of the resources out there will separate you from your peers. Model the importance of being digital with others.

3. Be Innovative. Hopefully while student-teaching there was an opportunity to truly dive into the role of teacher. If you were lucky enough to get an innovative cooperating teacher then by all means don't hold back! Try new things, take risks, fail and try again. As a substitute always have a quick mini-lessons on hand in the event you get an assignment in which the teacher did not leave plans, students finish the plans early or you just have a chance to get creative with your content. Be innovative in every sense of the word.

4. Bring Passion. After spending countless hours being in classrooms as an administrator it is quick to recognize teachers that bring passion to their work day in and day out. As you are feeling your way through your current experience, make sure that your passion for teaching and learning is evident. Let others see your passion and bring that spirit with you each day that you are fortunate enough to be in front of students. Your passion is crucial to your success.

5. Do Your Part. Being a pre-service teacher comes with some stereotypes that are as old as the profession itself. Avoid the trap of being considered less than the staff's equal when it comes to your interactions. If there is an opportunity to take on a role among colleagues, hop right in. Show your willingness to get involved and take initiative. The reward is two-fold. A position could open within the building you're doing your field work or you could simply wind up with some on-the-job training for your future employment. The return is priceless.

6. Ask Questions. I have yet to run into a pre-service teacher that asked too many questions. Be inquisitive and deepen your knowledge of the profession over all. Imagine all of the insight you can gain by talking with teachers from across the building, departments and grade-levels. Remember, you need to know, and they have many of the answers you seek.

7. Learn. Above all else, show your willingness to learn. And, be willing to share when you have failed and what you did to overcome adversity within that moment. Show not only what you do know, but what you are willing to be taught. Learning is at the heart of what we do. And, to get where we are, we have to make countless mistakes as part of the journey. We are better for it.

Being a teacher requires a skill set that is unlike any other profession out there. Our job is not for the faint of our heart. We chose this path as an opportunity to serve others. We are here to serve our students and our community. Whether a pre-service teacher or a substitute that is anxiously awaiting that first opportunity, make sure you are doing everything within your ability to get yourself positioned to be the candidate selected. Lead with your heart, believe in yourself and always, always know that we teach because we believe in the spirit of the child.