When I was young, my grade school teacher asked us what we wanted to be in the future. As you may have guessed, most of the kids in my class wanted to be police officers, doctors, lawyers, and engineers. I, however, only had two things to say to her. First, I wanted to be a princess. Yes, I blame Disney for my highly unrealistic fantasies. On the other hand, I’m also quite realistic. I told my teacher that If I don’t get to meet a handsome prince who would sweep me off my feet by the time I was 20, I’ll be a teacher instead.
My classmates, amused and yet a little confused, thought it was quite a downgrade from wanting to be a princess to becoming a teacher. Why not be a doctor or a lawyer instead? At the very least, why not be a movie star? (which is in fact the next best thing to becoming a princess when it comes to fame and fortune).
Of course, at that time, I didn’t know what kind of teacher I wanted to be. All I knew was, without teachers, there wouldn’t be any doctors, lawyers or engineers because there would be no one left to teach them how to be one. Every successful human being in this world started off as a student, may it be in a formal classroom, or an informal setting. Fast forward to now, after many years of jumping from one job to another, I finally pursued my passion for teaching English.
If you clicked this article, it means you’re either interested in pursuing a career in teaching or you’re interested in improving your teaching skills. Either way, I’m glad you’re interested. Here are some helpful tips that I’ve gathered throughout the years:
1. Be your own favorite teacher – Take a trip down memory lane, back when you were a student yourself. Think about your past teachers, and make a list of all the things that you love about their teaching styles. Were they good story tellers? Did they have a good sense of humor? Be the kind of teacher that you want your high school self to appreciate, respect, and even remember for life.
2. Be a real person – Remember, being a teacher is not all about just giving homework and checking test papers. It’s also about having a real connection with your students. In that way, you can better understand their learning needs. Care enough to ask them why they looked a little sad today. Go the extra mile by remembering their birthdays and preparing a little something to make their day. Fill your room with positive vibes instead of focusing on their negative behavior. Get to know them as people, not just as clients whose parents pay you to do your job.
3. Patience is a virtue – We’ve all had that one kid who just can’t wait to test our patience and self-control. They can’t seem to understand anything you explain to them no matter how many times you repeat yourself. If you think you’re the only one getting frustrated, guess again. At this point, perhaps the student is more stressed than you are. Breathe in, breathe out, and try another approach. Rephrase your question, use relatable examples, and speak slower. There are many ways. If you started your week with a whole box of patience only to find it empty within the first 20 minutes, then teaching is probably not for you.
4. Admit when you don’t know – You have to remind yourself that you are a teacher. You are not Google, nor are you Wikipedia. There will always be things that we don’t know about, and we shouldn’t be embarrassed to admit it. Of course you shouldn’t say “I don’t know” off the bat, but you shouldn’t just make stuff up either. Be sincere and let the students know that you’ll get back to them with the correct answer.
5. Be an inspiration – Whether your printer jams, you lose your keys, you’re having a terrible hangover, or your boyfriend breaks up with you over the phone, you have to pick yourself up, go to work, and leave all your troubles behind the classroom door. Your students are counting on you to show up. They’re counting on you to feel inspired, and how could they be if you can’t even get your head on straight? I remember a quote from William Arthur Ward that goes, “The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.” Your role as a teacher is not just to tell, explain, and demonstrate. It is to inspire these young minds and help them be the best versions of themselves. Would you teach differently if you knew that the answer to world peace, poverty and world hunger is trapped inside the mind of one of the kids sitting inside your classroom?