I’ve been a teacher for 7 years now, I qualified when I was 37, so I was quite late to the game. In many ways, having a bit of life experience before you teach is a good thing but there are amazing teachers who go straight into teaching from university. I was wondering the other day, what inspired you to be a teacher (“you” being the rest of the teaching world!).
The reasons for becoming a teacher are numerous, but in my opinion, there are some reasons that are more valid than others. I stress, this is only my opinion but I feel I am in a good place to comment.
The best reason to be a teacher is that you want to have a positive, inspiring impact on children’s lives. You achieve this by being kind, caring, empathic, passionate and funny. These are great qualities that a teacher should possess.
Who Inspired Me to Be a Teacher?
There have been two people who have inspired me to become a teacher, although I didn’t realise it at the time. The first was my English teacher at high school, she was a relatively new teacher but was excellent.
I always struggled with writing and was always told, “you must improve your handwriting”. Miss Greig wasn’t bothered about it but was more interested in what I wrote, not how my writing looked. She inspired me to be the best I can. I enjoyed her lessons and looked forward to them. She was engaging and kind.
Next up, is one of my university lecturers. I was studying marine biology (I was a mature student, starting my degree when I was 31). I don’t think I ever spoke one to one with this lecturer but his 3-hour lectures passed in a flash, It was like watching an amazing movie, he was passionate and active, he had a sense of humor that permeated through the very technical topics he taught (e.g. Marine Ecophysiology). I was left always wanting more.
What Are the Qualities of a Good Teacher?
Between the above two educators, I realised that being kind, caring, empathic, passionate and funny were great qualities that a teacher should possess.
Children face an immeasurable amount of different life circumstances, for some, (more than we usually know or like to think) home life is not always a happy place. School for them can be a place where the troubles of home don’t matter, a place where they feel safe.
Having someone who is kind, is caring and who has chosen to be there for them means more than any fancy new device, clothes or money.
The is no more inspiring quality than passion, those we follow or admire, they all have a bucket load of it. Where that passion comes from doesn’t matter, the fact they have it is what is important. Think of someone you admire, what passion do they show, think a little deeper and you will find it’s their passion that is the reason you admire them.
As for the reason why humor is a good quality for a teacher? Has there ever been a time you didn’t want to laugh? No. All of these qualities serve one purpose, engagement.
If your students want to be in your room, the battle is won before it starts. Fail in this and you may as well not bother.
What Are the Qualities of a Bad Teacher?
In contrast, there are qualities that are bad for a teacher to have. I’m not going to state the obvious and talk about lack of subject knowledge or lack of classroom management, these are things that can be learnt. I’m thinking about the basic personality traits that a good teacher shouldn’t have.
Putting career before the student’s welfare and education is unforgivable in my opinion. Yes, it’s a positive quality to have but NOT at the expense of great teaching. Yes, it shows ambition but I’ve seen too many teachers think more about their career than the education of their students.
They change things for the sake of it, only to get their name mentioned and noticed by leadership. Children need stability and things should only be changed when there is a benefit to the those we serve, the children.
Not being able to think through their eyes. Expecting learners to adjust the way they think to our way is never going to be successful. The children in your classrooms do not live in the same world we do, theirs is a digital world.
If you find yourself thinking or saying anything along the lines of “I got through school without using a device” or “we actually spoke to people and went outside” then guess what? You’re probably not in the right frame of mind to be a good teacher. Yet.
How Do I Become an Inspirational Teacher?
First and foremost, you need to take a good look at yourself. Teaching is hard, it is very stressful but it also rewards great satisfaction. The pay isn’t great, the hours you work will be long and the things you are asked to do over and above your normal duties every growing.
There is no career more rewarding or more important. To be an inspiring teacher you must really want to do it. Inspiring teachers don’t go into it with the thought of it being a career move, more, that they want to help sculpt the minds of the future, to be there for those who need it.
The journey to being an inspiring teacher starts with your basic reason for wanting it in the first place. Teach with the passion that fuels you, show them your fire. Care for them the way you’d want your own children (or yourself, when you were a child) cared for.
As stated above, you must have the ability to see the world through their eyes, both from an educational and a nurturing perspective.
Great Personalities Who Were Influenced by Their Teachers.
Bill Gates attended Seattle’s View Ridge Elementary School. It was all thanks to Blanche Caffiere. She was the librarian and was his inspiration. Because of her empathy and guidance, he was able to florish into a man who would change the world forever.
Bill gates maybe one of the richest people in the world and we may mostly know him because of Microsoft and Windows but the Gates Foundation, run by Mr Gates and his wife Melinda, donate BILLIONS of Dollars to help people around the world who live in extreme hunger and poverty. He Gates tells his story on his blog:
“When I first met Mrs Caffiere, she was the elegant and engaging school librarian at Seattle’s View Ridge Elementary, and I was a timid fourth grader. I was desperately trying to go unnoticed, because I had some big deficits, like atrocious handwriting … and I was trying to hide the fact that I liked to read—something that was cool for girls but not for boys … Mrs Caffiere took me under her wing and helped make it okay for me to be a messy, nerdy boy who was reading lots of books.”
He credits Mrs. Caffiere for many things but he attributes her guidance as one of the initial sparks that ultimately lead to the Gates Foundation.
He also said this of Mrs Caffiere, which I think is pertinent to this article:
“It’s remarkable how much power one good person can have in shaping the life of a child.“
As we know, Maya Angelou was a civil rights activist, an author and a poet. Her early life was full of horrid physical and emotional abuse, abuse administered by a family member, someone who should have protected her. The abuse was so bad that she became mute for five years.
That was until she met a teacher named Bertha Flowers. Mrs Flowers was a family friend, she introduced Angelou to Dickens, Shakespeare, Poe and other hugely influential writers as well as artists and performers. It was through Mrs Flowers’ influence and guidance that Angelou found her voice again, A voice so powerful and influential, it is still heard in classrooms across the globe years after her death in 2014 and will continue to do so for many years to come.
Maya Angelou also is quoted as saying this, again, it’s very relevant to this article:
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
What Inspired You to Be a Teacher?
What comes up time and time again is that behind every great person there have been one or more great teachers inspiring them. Scientists, writers, leaders, the list goes on, all guided by the hand of a teacher. Maybe not always in the traditional sense but always a teacher.
I decided to be a teacher because I wanted to do something worthwhile in my life, I love working with kids, no day is the same, they never cease to make me laugh and they are a lot more bloody interesting than the corporate robots that I’ve encountered in previous careers. There are some exceptions (in case they are reading this!) and they would be the ones who influenced me.
But, what inspired you? Leave a comment below and let me know, I’d love to hear your story. New teachers and those thinking of education would really benefit from hearing it. I’m sure they would greatly appreciate it.