Teaching is a noble profession and can be either the toughest or the easiest job one can ever have – if one survives, that is. I began teaching in my early 20s and I am now in my 6th year in the profession. Despite my supposed maturity, it took me until my third or fourth year before I was quite competent and fulfilled by how I was going about my work, even though the students, parents and administrators were all pleased with what I was doing.
Gradually, over time I began to list my priorities. Why had I taken up a teaching job? What made me different? What I hoped to achieve and all those ideas began to affect the way I saw my responsibility in the classroom. I learned to re-think each lesson, from class to class and to adjust my lesson plans according to the students in each of my classes. Even today, I’m not bothered by the presentations and the paper work, for I know that when I make my lessons relevant to the lives of my children, they’ll make the most of it anyway.
You see, that’s the toughest part, thinking more about the students than about the content itself. This is also probably the biggest challenge for many teachers today. You see, one doesn’t have to be a buddy to the pupils, if they see you as a friend I think that’s an added bonus. But one has to build relationships of trust. Nothing can replace that. It is irreplaceable. Through that trust, students will either become willing to try when they are struggling, or to go the extra mile when they’re already doing pretty great.
Each year, the most important thing I do (and the hardest) is getting to know the students individually and building on those relationships. The pedagogical processes that need to follow are all easy second steps. Building that relationship of trust is vital. If you can’t do it then why should your students learn what you want to teach them? When I’m planning a lesson, I take into account the needs of the pupils in my class. I think of their stories, I re-live their familial situations and ensure that they are able to relate to what they learn. I’m so glad I teach literature, it makes my job so much easier.
As I said earlier, teaching flows from what a teacher believes is the best way to teach. That belief is not demonstrated in eloquently professed mission statements and other lofty sounding pledges, but it is clearly visible in the way teachers set up and run their classrooms and in how they treat their students with respect and love.
Once a teacher understands the mechanics of their group of kids, discipline and classroom management take a secondary role. I strongly believe that we teachers have to go beyond the mundane technicalities of our profession. Effective teachers are the ones that really do give a damn. If you’re the kind of person who dreams of making a difference that way, become a teacher today. Heaven knows we need more of you around.