Teaching can certainly be considered to be one of the more multi-faceted careers and aspiring teachers should be aware of a number of fundamental aspects that the profession involves. Student teachers should be prepared to be adaptable, quick-thinking and perhaps most importantly, be willing to work as a part of a team with common goals. I have seen these requirements unfold as I began my teaching career this year. The necessity of a team approach cannot be overstated. In so many ways, as a teacher, you are working in a team and in a number of partnerships. A teacher works with fellow teachers, support staff, parents and the students themselves so that a common goal can be achieved. It is, quite simply, not a profession where you can go it alone and hope you reach the destination you are supposed to – you need ongoing consultation.
“To be effective, good communication and teamwork between the adults is vital to ensure that students are getting the time, attention and levels of instruction required.” – L McQuerrey
This ongoing consultation goes hand in hand with the ongoing professional development that needs to occur in order to be a successful teacher. At the conclusion of my tertiary studies in teaching, I had not given much consideration to the continued updating of skills that would be required throughout my profession. Amid the euphoria of graduation, it can be easy to not give too much thought to the skills development needed later on. An example of such skills development is the learning that is required in terms of understanding the changing nature of pedagogy, a term that seems to be heard regularly in today’s teaching world, pedagogy being the functioning of a teacher and how they carry out their work of educating students. You cannot master the concept of pedagogy simply by collecting your teaching degree or diploma – you need to keep up to date with the accepted pedagogical standards and the evolving methods that various educational departments/systems use to implement them. I spent three years working in a support staff role and the education system I was working in made a number of changes to their approach to pedagogy, including structural changes to staff and the introduction of staff roles that specifically dealt with the education of staff , specifically on best pedagogical practices. It was essential for all school staff to be aware of these staff members as they needed to know how to relate to these roles and how they could help in passing on information.
Knowledge is ever-changing as new information and ideas are unearthed. Just as a patient would want their doctor to be aware of the most current medical information, so do parents who want their child to be able to access the most current and informed teaching. Digital technology is a prominent example of a teaching element that needs to be learned about by teachers. Given the regular updates available in this realm, I have found it vital to keep informed in terms of what technologies are expected to be shared with students – for example, digital and interactive whiteboards, which have dramatically changed the way classroom activities take place. Information can be relayed more quickly, an important point given the necessity of using time well in the classroom.
“At a time when change is faster than ever, a key advantage of e-learning is that it has faster delivery cycle times than traditional classroom-based instruction.” – City & Guilds Kineo
Another element of teaching I have quickly taken on board is the need to effectively communicate with support staff to deliver the best learning environment for special needs students. Teacher aides in particular are often tremendous in terms of gathering learning resources for students with special learning requirements and in informing teachers on the progress of such students and the specific learning conditions that would help them. It would be highly beneficial to any teacher to develop a good working relationship with their teacher’s aide, with strong, clear communication whereby knowledge of each student’s abilities is shared. I have found that taking part in a collaborative approach to education can also be beneficial in terms of building confidence. It is helpful to discuss with colleagues methods that you have used in the classroom and the related results and to confirm that you have followed the correct path for a given situation.
A key element of teaching, as with many professions, is the willingness to adhere to a constant framework of review, evaluation and progression – in other words, it is important as a teacher to look back on the learning that has taken place, decide on how successful this learning was and then move forward, making adjustments where necessary to ensure progress. As with many endeavours, the challenges of teaching only serve to make triumphs all the more satisfying. If you are prepared to continually look to improve, learn from others and take pride in the role of guiding the upcoming generation, then you can look forward to a successful career as a teacher. As with most (if not all) professional roles, you will have good days and bad days, but try to view the bad days as useful learning experiences and start each day with a clean slate.
McQuerrey, L. 2014, “Why is teamwork important in the classroom?” , Hearst Newspapers, LLC.
City & Guilds Kineo. 2014, "The Benefits of E-Learning" , City & Guilds Group.
Image: Jeff Styles, 2014.