06 Apr What Does It Take to Be a Teacher? A Checklist for Aspiring Educators
Author: Ilinca Stroe
There are people who enrol on a CELTA course to become qualified teachers of English without really knowing whether teaching is right for them. Despite the alluring prospect of getting an international certificate which can land them a job anywhere in the world, after the first teaching practice hours they find themselves at odds with that role and activity, and they feel they need to drop out of the CELTA – with a regrettable waste of time, money and other precious resources such as enthusiasm and high expectations…
So it is perhaps advisable for prospective CELTA trainees to take a moment, before actually signing up for the course, to reflect on their professional and personal makeup: do they have what it takes to become a teacher? Are they naturally equipped with the needed qualities and features? If they aren’t, do they have the capability to acquire them? That pre-CELTA moment of self-analysis and reflection may yield the just degree of awareness which prompts us on towards a teaching career we’ll be good at, or takes us one step back towards (re)considering more suitable and realistic career plans, before anyone gets hurt.
So what does it supposedly take for someone to become a teacher? Here are probably the five basic requirements.
Love it, or don’t do it. Just as in any other job, you need to ideally love doing it. Depending on the culture you work in, being a teacher may mean you should love being in the limelight, the centre of attention for at least a part of the lesson, with dozens on eyes on you, waiting for instructions and cues, watching and appraising you. Also, you should love being among people, enjoy connecting to them, socialising and sometimes comforting, encouraging or cheering them up. Finally, being a teacher may mean you feel more passionate about finishing marking those essays than calling it a day to go watch your favourite TV series.
Keep it all organised. A good part of the job is keeping records, updating attendance sheets, writing progress reports, filing lesson plans, worksheets and materials by category, name, topic, level, and so on. All that administrative work requires a clear mind, logical criteria, an organised way of being and an efficient work style. You also need to be organised in the classroom, from the timelines or tables you draw on the whiteboard to illustrate a grammar point to the classroom setting and where you put the marker or your glasses. Online, too, you need to handle well breakout rooms, the whiteboard and the chat box – sometimes at the same time.
Overcome your ego. Having to sometimes be the centre of attention as a teacher does not mean at all that you’re the most important person in the class. In fact, once you step into the (virtual or real) classroom, your own personal moods and feelings should be left at the door. With your students you are another “entity”: you are your superego, if you please – balanced, calm, fair, protective, caring and considerate. There’s no place for hurt feelings, not even when a student may make the occasional nasty comment. Instead, there needs to be an equanimous little supervisor turned on at the top of your mind, able to ensure the wellbeing of the whole class.
Have the student in mind at all times – where “the student” means each and every student in the class, and all of the class, too. You need to be constantly aware of the individual students’ reactions, responses, degree of attention and engagement, interest or lack of it, even moods and feelings. You need to be sensitive to how they are feeling about what you are doing (or what you ask them to do) during the lesson. How learning is happening for them and how efficient it is should be your main concern at all times in the class. In short, never forget while you are teaching and all along your teaching career that the beneficiary of your work is the student.
Be an avid learner. Great teachers learn an amazing lot from their students. A comment can trigger an idea of how to improve a worksheet, a complaint can inspire a whole new class activity, a suggestion can blossom into a great collaborative task or project. If you really pay attention to your students, they can be extraordinary generators of good teaching ideas – with the propitious effect that, if based on student-generated ideas, classes can be a lot more engaging and interesting to the learners. Teachers who reach a plateau and don’t learn, change or innovate anymore not only stop enjoying their work, but they also hold back the learners.
Finally, to make that moment of “Am I right for teaching?” reflection more practical and focused, here is a checklist of 20 statements that aspiring teachers can go through and answer for themselves, in order to decide whether they are suitable for a teaching career:
- I have good self-control.
- I can project calm and confidence.
- I can motivate people and myself.
- I can refrain from taking things personally.
- I can give and take feedback constructively.
- I can reflect objectively on my work and actions.
- I am honest about my mistakes.
- I have an unshakeable sense of fairness.
- I am a good listener.
- I can think on my feet.
- I can make the right decision in a jiffy.
- I am hard-working.
- I am a good time manager.
- I enjoy human diversity.
- I care about people.
- I can take responsibility for others.
- I have a clear idea of what kind of role model I am.
- I can explain, exemplify and communicate really well.
- I have a good level of cultural knowledge.
- I like to share (ideas, solutions, enthusiasm).
Is there any other statement that you think should be added to the checklist?
International House Bucharest runs regular CELTA and DELTA courses for teachers of English at its Teacher Training Centre, as well as training events online, onsite or at partner locations. To sign up for a course or event, contact [email protected].