What You Need To Know Before You Teach

Oct 5, 2017 at 12:00am ET By Alyssa Walker

Happy World Teachers’ Day! In 1994 in Paris, UNESCO proclaimed October 5 World Teacher’s Day to celebrate the adoption of the rights and responsibilities of teachers and international standards for their initial preparation.   

Interested in learning more about teaching? You’ve come to the right place.  Today, we celebrate World Teachers’ Day by informing you about some things you need to know before you enter the profession.  Ready?  Good.    

1. You are not easily replaced

In an age where fears that automation will replace people, you have nothing to fear in teaching. Why? Good teaching requires relationships—and robots aren’t so good at those.   Teachers need to navigate complicated social interactions and work with students to give them the tools they need to succeed.  Not only that, a good teacher needs to understand a student’s mindset.   Think those skills are easily automated?  Think again.   While AI is evolving quickly and online education is blossoming, the need for real people doing the complicated work of relationship-building and teaching won’t diminish.  The upside? AI technology may be able to help you with all of that grading.  

2. Education can save the world

It’s cliché for a reason. It’s true. In low-income countries around the world, there’s a skills gap—and a burgeoning unemployment rate. Even where there is work, it’s low-paying and requires educated workers.   As of last month, the International Labor Organization (ILO) estimates that 156 million—38 percent—of employed youth are living in extreme or moderate poverty.  That’s about $3,10 per day.   What will happen if this population does not get educated? A lifetime of poverty—for themselves and their children.   What will chronic unemployment cause? An inability for developing economies to grow, innovate, and develop more jobs.   Education will help to narrow the skills gap in developing countries and give young people and their families the opportunity not just to succeed for themselves, but to succeed for their future.  

Want to learn more? Check out the Global Partnership for Education.  

3. Teachers need to stay ahead of technology

You not only need to keep up—you need to get ahead.  Why? Technology is here to stay and it’s constantly changing.   The tools you use to teach children—SMART boards, iPads, tablets, computers, and even phones continue to engage students. It’s your job to find ways to engage students in productive meaningful ways and make yourself a valuable asset to your school community.   Here’s a bonus: the tools you use with your students now are the tools they will use to innovate the future.  

4. Parents can be difficult

Your job? Find a way to manage unruly parents. Sometimes, parents won’t like you. Sometimes it’s your style, or the kind of homework you give. Sometimes, it’s for no discernible reason.  How do you plan for this? Ask for administrative support if you need it, and always be honest with yourself and the parent.   While it’s not fun and can be stressful and demoralizing, keep your chin up. As long as you’re doing your job with dignity and respect, you have nothing to worry about.  

5. Choose your school

Decide where you want to work—or at least define the qualities that you want in the school where you want to work.   Why? You need to have a sense of your professional responsibilities in the school and what the teacher culture is like.  While it’s really hard to discern those things from a visit or two during your interviews, you should ask questions about professional development, opportunities for interactions with your colleagues, and public perception.   Get a sense of the pros and cons of the school climate—and be choosy.  Teaching in a place that doesn’t feel right won’t be good for you or your students.  

6. Serve as a role model

One of the joys of teaching? Being a role model and inspiration to your students—and sometimes your colleagues.   What does this mean? It means that you give them a sense of joy and pride and hope in what they can do—and what the future holds.   Go for it. You can do it.   

Alyssa Walker is a freelance writer, educator, and nonprofit consultant. She lives in the White Mountains of New Hampshire with her family.

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