Sorry to break it to you, but you’re not a teacher. Sure, you spent four-plus years learning about best practices and pedagogy and have created captivating lessons that align with state standards and benchmarks, but…you’re not a teacher.
A teacher instructs, plain and simple. If you were trying to teach yourself how to use your car’s navigation system and watched a video on YouTube, the person in the video is a teacher. They’re not interacting with you. They’re not stopping to make sure you understand. They aren’t activating your prior knowledge. They’re simply giving you information and honestly don’t care whether you learn from it or not. There’s so much more to your job than that. If all you had to do every day was stand in front of a classroom and give information, everyone could do it. But we all know there’s more to it than that, so let’s take a look at some of the other hats you wear in a day.
Leader. You set the tone in your classroom. If you smile and greet your students every day, then you create a caring environment. If you call your students “Mr. Brown” or “Miss Smith” instead of using their first names, you’re creating a business environment that takes some of the fun away from learning. You try things… sometimes you succeed, sometimes you fail, but just by trying, you set a precedent. You find what’s best about each of your students and you highlight it. You give each student a chance to shine. You also aren’t afraid to let your students take charge. A leader isn’t afraid of giving up control. A true leader wants everyone to have an equal chance of succeeding.
Scholar. If a student is going to have a love of learning, most likely they’re going to get it from you. You may not know everything, but you are constantly on the hunt for more information and you never stop getting tired of learning. When students see your genuine curiosity about the world, they become curious, too.
Parent. To someone not in the teaching field, this may be controversial. But as a teacher, you refer to your students not as students but as your kids. You pay for supplies out of pocket. You attend events and write notes of encouragement. And it’s always heartwarming when your students graduate and come back to visit. They don’t do it because you have a superficial relationship with them. They do it because you take care of them and show them how great it feels to succeed; they want to let you know that they did. Most of us can tell you the names of all of our teachers from grades Kindergarten through 12 because they left a lasting impression.
Coach. Your job requires coaching, motivating, and even some pep talks to help your student succeed. Have a student terrified of public speaking? You may work one-on-one with him or her before they have to give a speech in front of the class. You work hard to find out how to help each student master a lesson and work with them to find success.
Friend. Think back to your high school days…who was your favorite teacher? Chances are it was someone you’d consider a friend. Students decide pretty quickly whether they can trust you and whether they want to tell you about their lives. But once they’ve made that decision, you have a friend for life. That may mean students eating lunch in your classroom or staying after to help you put up a new bulletin board. As you create these friendships, your students want to be around you because they feel valued.
Constant. You’re well aware that your presence may, in fact, be the only constant in your student’s life. Some students have parents who work unconventional hours. Some students have family members in the hospital. Some students don’t eat dinner when they go home. Some students don’t talk to their parents. You, on the other, see your students five days per week, and your conversations may be what they most look forward to in the day.
Role Model. There’s a lot of controversy about whether celebrities or athletes should be role models. Just because you’re in the public eye doesn’t mean you should take on that task. But educators, on the other hand, are always role models. It comes with the job. You create an atmosphere where students want to learn and you set the example. It does matter what you do outside of class. Educators should set the bar for what it means to contribute to the world around them in a positive way.
We live in a world where virtually any information we need is at our fingertips. As an educator, you do so much more than just present information. By taking on each of these roles–usually concurrently–you help light a fire in your students and inspire them to make decisions about their own futures. You’re not a teacher. You’re so much more.