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Whether you’re shifting careers mid-life or you’re just starting down the path to become a teacher, you’re probably feeling a wide range of emotions. There’s excitement, to be sure — teaching is more a calling than a job and it’s one of the most rewarding ways to follow your passion and impact the world for the better. There’s also no small amount of nerves. Embarking on a life-changing endeavor like becoming a teacher takes lots of time, resources and guts.
With that in mind, here are a few tips that might make taking on a teaching career just a touch easier.
- Talk to Other Teachers
You can read 100 textbooks, browse 1,000 blogs and know every theory on teaching ever proffered and still walk into a classroom and not know what to do. Teaching can be like war, in a way — only someone who’s been there can tell you what it’s like. So, to give yourself a better feel for what it’s like to be a teacher day in and day out, talk to everyone in the profession you can. In all likelihood, you know a teacher; it could be one who taught you, it could be a family member or it could be someone you find on a teaching forum. Point is, if they’re willing to talk, pick their brain about anything and everything.
- Find the Right Educational Program
To become a teacher , you’ll need a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution and you’ll need to complete a teacher’s preparation program. Sometimes these are combined; this is a good route for someone who doesn’t already have an undergraduate degree. For those who do, there are independent programs that help you prepare to become licensed as a teacher.
Even though nearly every school offers one, degree programs in education are like snowflakes. Some may offer a general overview of the field. Others may be hyper-focused on early childhood education, special education or English as a second language. Some may require students to be on-campus and go through the curriculum in an order preordained from the school and passed down for a century. Others may have online courses, multiple start dates every year, or asynchronous curriculum that students can complete whenever they have time. Balance all of these to fit with your lifestyle and goals and your educational path will be much smoother.
- Take Full Advantage of Your Practicum
Most teaching programs require teachers to do a practicum that gives them real-world experience in a classroom. They do this because most states require it as a part of teacher certification. Your practicum will be the most important part of your education when it comes to forging yourself into a bona fide teacher.
For many, it’s a terrifying experience; thirty little eyes are on you, waiting for you to instruct them (if you’re lucky – many will be misbehaving), your student-teaching mentor is waiting for you to lead and administration from the school is probably standing there with a clipboard.
As hard as it might be, lean in to the humiliation and terror. You’re guaranteed to fail. And that’s a good thing. In fact, it’s the best way to spend your time during your practicum. These ‘failures’ are the very things that will turn you into a success as a teacher.
And one final tip — always remember your motivation. You aren’t in it for the money or the recognition; you’re in it to impact the lives of the children you teach and create a generation that’s better than the last. Whenever things get hard — and they will — take a deep breath and remind yourself why you’re doing it.
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