“Why do you do it? Why do you work so hard?” I heard a voice say quietly at the back of the class. I glanced up from my paper, and stared ahead across the empty classroom a bit dazed. I thought, “I’m the student teacher, and my mentor teacher is asking me why I work so hard?” All I could think to tell him was my simple truth, so I looked at him and said point blank, “Because I love it.”
As a teacher seeking excellence, I believe there are certain building blocks that all successful teachers need. The following are 5 essential questions that every student teacher should meditate on before committing to the field.
1. Do you love it?: Education is a labor of love and takes serious man hours inside and outside of the classroom. My mother told me that she knew during her student teaching that the general classroom was not for her. She did not like managing discipline. However, she decided to become a Speech Language Pathologist, and went on to have a wonderful, enriching career. Make sure you’re in the right fit for your strengths.
2. Do you want to be a teacher for the right reasons?: Before becoming a teacher, I asked myself a lot of tough questions. I did not choose middle grades because of the convenience of when I would graduate. I chose middle grades, because I firmly believe these children need strong guidance, and need teachers that care during those difficult adolescent years. I knew it would be hard work. If you choose education for summer vacations or because your “other career” just didn’t work out and somehow this is your back up plan, then please try something else. There are other career choices that offer flexibility.
3. Do you love to learn and expand your skills?: Teaching requires constant learning, but this shouldn’t be a drag or bum a teacher out, it should be fun! Teachers should be learners. I don’t know of anything more disappointing than if I offer a book to another educator due to a conversation, and then months later he/she hands it back saying, “Sorry, I just didn’t have time to read it.” I say, “Ok, thanks for bringing it back.” Then, I look down and wipe the dust off the book, and give it a little squeeze to bring it back to life. Great educators know that they didn’t become great from what they know, but because of constant learning and growing. The desire to expand and learn is what makes teaching great! If that willingness is not there, then education may not be the best career option.
4. Are you willing to be a teacher and not a friend?: There is a big difference. Once I heard a young teen state that his teacher was so great because more than a teacher, he was a great friend. Although endearing to some, I found it a bit concerning. I do believe in mentoring young people and setting a good example, but students should be friends with other students, not their teachers. Teachers set the example of professionalism. As such, teachers don’t need to worry so much about hurting students’ feelings. Students need a leader, not a friend.
5. When the going gets tough, will you keep smiling?: Teaching is tough! It is the toughest thing outside of parenting that I have ever done. There are days when I am exhausted and just want to cry. However, new teachers must find ways to stay inspired. Read. Write. Reflect. That is one key to reaching higher, and feeling stronger.