Doctors and lawyers get prestige and money. In the U.S., even the best teachers get neither. Being a highly effective teacher is no easy task. Teachers train and inspire the next generation of leaders. Most adults have fond memories of their favorite teacher decades after the fact. It takes years to learn this, but becoming a competent educator requires patience, practice, and planning.
There are a great many intelligent people who lack the patience to teach, whether it is their own children or fellow adults. The patience to deal with unruly children is only a small part of that virtue necessary for classroom success. Equally important is the patience to repeat, day after day, year after year, the same concepts that are no less important the 10th or 20th time around. Some teachers focus on the middle. The result is that the kids at the bottom are left behind. Those ahead of the curve become bored with school. Life in the classroom is a constant juggle, but one that goes more smoothly from practice.
First-year teachers ought to be sainted. They have entered the most difficult of professions. Oftentimes, pay is low and support nonexistent. No one will be an effective teacher on their first day. It takes practice. Ideally, novice educators are not given too many different classes. It is easier to teach the same class four times than to teach four different subjects. Lesson planning is a time consuming activity. Modifications and accommodations have to be made for students with IEPs. The ability to practice instructing the same lesson multiple times per day expedites the learning curve. The faster teachers become effective, the better it is for students and schools.
Planning is the unglamorous side of teacher. Some schools give planning periods for teachers, but an hour is simply not enough to prepare high-quality lessons. Planning happens on nights, weekends, holidays, and the wee hours before any of the kids arrive to class. It is slow and laborious work. Reading textbooks and checking answers is important. Creating sample questions and handouts can be done easily enough. It is making sure different learning styles are acknowledged that separates the good from the great. Many teachers make the mistake of focuses exclusively on oral and written instruction. Students who are visual learners will struggle. Even for teachers in higher-level grades, ensuring that different types of students are engaged is necessary in the planning process.
Mastery of a subject is important. Couple this with the three P’s—Patience, Practice, and Planning. Do not dismay after a bad class or even a bad week. It gets better. Teachers who learn from their mistakes will become that much more effective in the classroom.