Teaching is a profession that requires infinite patience, resourcefulness and creativity -- not to mention being proficient in the subject matter you are teaching. While job growth in the teaching profession is expected to be steady -- especially for teachers in primary schools or those working with younger kids -- the career is not for everyone. Even among those who thought it was their life’s work, stress levels and turnover can be really high.
Before you take the leap and decide to pursue training to become a teacher, spend some time learning about the profession and figuring out whether it’s the right one for you. Here are some ways to get started.
Job shadow a teacher
If the last time you were in a classroom is when you were a student, you might not have the perspective you need to know whether you’ll fit in at the head of the room. One of your first steps should be to contact a teacher friend and ask to spend a day in his classroom, simply observing. If you don’t have any contacts who are teachers, simply contact a local public school and inquire about job shadowing. You’ll likely have to submit to a criminal background check, but that small hurdle will open the doors to experiencing what a real-life classroom is like.
Take online personality tests
Taking career assessments and personality tests can be a helpful exercise for learning what you’re good at, what skills you already have, and which ones you’re going to need to work on. Websites such as iSeek.com or Assessment.com provide career assessments, but by doing some searching online, you’ll find any number of other options that can help you sort out what types of careers would suit you. As mentioned, teachers require skills in patience, creativity and resourcefulness, as well as strong communication skills and knowledge of the subject matter you plan to teach.
Volunteer in a classroom
If you find that you’re still interested in teaching after completing those first two steps, the next step could be to spend even more time in the classroom, actually working with students. Public schools are notoriously short-handed, and might be happy to allow you to volunteer to help students with reading, to assist with special projects, or any number of other tasks. Spending time with kids on a regular basis is going to give you an even better sense of the amount of patience and perseverance you’ll need to succeed as a teacher.
Teach something that doesn’t require training
Primary, middle and high schools aren’t the only places to gain experience, however. Consider leading a youth group at your church, teaching a workshop at your local community center, or even tutoring someone one-on-one in a subject you’re already skilled in, in order to test your skills and gain even more insight into the world of teaching.
Ask for advice from trusted colleagues and associates
As you begin to get experience, you’ll also make connections that can help you figure out who you are and what you’re good at doing. Talk with teachers or principals with whom you’ve worked and ask them to assess your strengths and weaknesses. Getting that honest feedback can help you develop a solid sense of who you are and what you’ll need to work on when you enter a formal teacher training program.
As you go through this process of discovery, remember that you don’t have to know it all just yet. Your teacher training program will help you work out many of the kinks and come up with ways to work around your shortcomings. In the end, you’ll hopefully be ready for a long, successful teaching career.
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