What Does a Teacher Do?
Great teachers do it all. Across all ages, languages, ethnicities, and subjects, teachers are some of the most widely skilled people around in order to be successful. A day in the life of a teacher can vary greatly depending on the subject and grade level in which they teach. From Kindergarten to high school and special education to statistics, one theme runs consistently throughout every great teacher’s career: their job does not end with the school day. Although standing in front of the classroom is a huge part of a teacher’s responsibilities, they extend far beyond that into the lives of their students, their students’ families and their community.
Teachers are in a unique position to have a direct impact on their students. Teachers can see their work in action, see the changes they affect, and in so doing they witness firsthand their goals coming to fruition. No matter what the goals are, they can pretty much be summed into a single sentence: You want to help people. And there are many ways you can help someone as a teacher. To name a few, teachers aspire to educate, to inspire, to learn and to affect positive change.
A great teacher should love educating students, and one of the principal goals many teachers set for themselves is to be the best educator they can be. There is something extremely gratifying about imparting information to your students and working with them to ensure they understand, not only concepts, but practical applications as well. There are different methods you can use to teach, and while your teaching style is unique to you, the most important thing is that you engage, motivate and inspire students to learn. Many people teach out of a passion for their subject. If you truly love a particular topic, you may have a desire to share that knowledge with others indeed, that passion can make you excel at it! Other people teach out of a concern for some of the issues facing the education system and because they want to be a part of the solution. Whatever the reason, a teacher can do nothing if not educate their students, so many teachers set this at the forefront of their goals: impart lessons that will last a lifetime.
Teachers seek to inspire students in all aspects of their lives, and for many teachers, their greatest goal is to be a role model. A role model is someone who inspires and encourages students to strive for greatness, and teaches them through experience and commitment how to realize their full potential to become the best they can be. Teachers can inspire an uninterested student to become engrossed in learning. They can motivate them to participate and focus, and even bring introverted students out of their shells. A great teacher can get students reading, inspire a passion for languages, make math or science fun, and turn history lessons into fun and exciting stories. For many teachers, one of their simplest goals is to inspire their students to love learning. But the inspirational power of a teacher can transcend the classroom. So often, we hear people say that they were inspired to pursue their careers because of their teachers. A great teacher can leave an indelible mark that lasts a lifetime, and for many of us, some of our most important decisions were inspired by our teachers.
Teaching is one of those careers where you learn something new every day, and many educators cite this as one of the main things they hope to get out of their career.
On a strictly professional level, the education you attain to become a teacher opens your eyes to many things you may never have been exposed to before. Pursuing a degree in education teaches you so much about learning itself: pedagogy, methodology, etc. You learn how people learn and how to best teach students. Additionally, so many other elements go into teaching that the process of becoming an educator in itself teaches you a great deal. No matter what you teach, your knowledge in many fields will deepen and expand. Then there’s the question of the teacher credentialing process which is also a learning experience.
Teachers also learn a great deal about themselves through teaching. Teaching requires you to step out of yourself in a way you may have never done before, and through this you learn about yourself as a teacher and as a person. You may learn more about how you work with others, particularly with children, and better understand how to communicate effectively and teach efficiently. You can learn how to better handle stress, and the organizational skills you’ll gain from planning lessons and grading assignments will be invaluable. Furthermore, many teachers say the lessons they learn from their own students are the ones that make the job so fulfilling. Students bring a lot of their own life experiences to the classroom, and some of the things they have to say will enlighten you in ways you might not expect. Hearing your students out when they want to voice their opinions can broaden your perspective.
Ambitious teachers are the ones who enter this career to affect change. These are the ones who want to meet the demand for great teachers: They make it their goal to help improve the quality of education for everyone. These teachers are willing to work in high needs schools, where there is low teacher retention and impoverished communities desperate for committed, talented teachers.
Very ambitious teachers take it a step further. As described in our “Benefits of a Master’s” page, having a Master’s in Education or another advanced degree increases a teacher’s career prospects. Teachers with advanced degrees (Master’s, Doctorate, etc.) are eligible for more promotions and many go into the field with the intention of becoming a principal or school administrator. You can even end up working for your district or state’s board of education. At this level, you can effect real change by helping shape the future of education in your area.
When a teacher says their goal is to "make a difference", this is what they mean. They not only want to change the lives of their students, they want to change the face of education.