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Educator Checklist: Skills You Need to Become a Great Teacher

written by: Pamela Rice-Linn•edited by: Wendy Finn•updated: 6/19/2012

If you’re considering going into the teaching profession, take a moment to tabulate just how many skills you need to become a teacher and which ones you might already possess. After all, teaching is a tough but rewarding job. You’re going to need every advantage you can find!

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    FEMA - 40000 - Centredale Elementary students receiving STEP program So, you’re thinking of becoming a teacher? While some might ridicule your choice and question your sanity, just remember that teaching is a noble profession. Are you sure you’re cut out for the job? Just to make sure you have the skills you need to become a teacher, read through this list of handy abilities every great teacher possesses.

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    The Knowledge

    The most essential skill any teacher must possess is knowledge. Have you acquired more than just a basic understanding of your subject area? Do you subscribe to magazines about your subject area, watch educational videos or constantly think of ways your subject can be incorporated into the world around you? As a teacher, questions will arise and people will turn to you for your expertise. Avoid appearing foolish and know your stuff.

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    Exploratorium teachers Feel the passion to share what you know with others, especially youngsters. Teaching requires fervor for a subject area. Children will immediately sense your lack of enthusiasm if your reason for teaching is anything other than your curriculum. At the same time, children will pick up on your passion for getting them to understand your lessons. This is what makes lesson writing interesting and helps those lessons ignite a desire to learn within your students.

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    The More You Know

    Enjoy learning! This has nothing to do with your passion or the knowledge you already possess. So you know every detail there is to know about history or English; prepare to learn how to share this information with students, how to deal with troubled students, how to modify instruction for your students, what to do in case of a fire alarm, how to improve test scores and the list goes on and on. You will have to attend dozens upon dozens of meetings, trainings, workshops and maybe a conference or 10. Don’t feel you need to recall every last tidbit as if there’d be a test before you were dismissed, but jot down a few notes and open your ears and eyes to a new experience, which leads to my next and most important of the essential skills you need to become a teacher…

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    Artistic Ability

    Doodling. You must know how to doodle if you are to survive all of those meetings they’ll throw at you after a day full of teaching. Plan ahead for your doodling time by considering the many variations of doodles: swirls, plaids, plain parallel lines, flowers, clouds, hearts and the occasional block lettering. Avoid being artsy about your doodles. Nobody likes a show off. And at the next meeting, should artwork be required, you’ll probably end up doing all the drawing.

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    Hand-Eye Coordination

    It’s called juggling. Yes, juggling. The modern lingo equivalent is “multi-tasking,” but it’s just plain juggling because guess what—your classroom is now a circus and you’re the ring leader. You’ll do more in one day than most people accomplish over an entire Christmas season, Ms. Teacher, and if you think this sounds like an exaggeration then you’re correct. Still, be prepared to juggle dozens of requests, issues, dramatic situations and other such fun on a daily basis.

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    Patience is a Virtuous Behavior

    800px-Teacher Make sure to haul patience in by the truckload before your first batch of students arrives in your classroom. No, don’t look for it at the teacher store. It’s no surprise that not every child works at the same pace, not everyone comes in with a positive attitude, and not every person learns the same way. As a result, don’t lose your cool when the one kid in front raises his hand for the fourth time to say, “I don’t get it.” Don’t flip when a parent loses their temper with you. Don’t crack when that “brief” meeting stretches beyond five o’clock. But make sure once your day is over, you scream into a pillow, run a marathon or do something relaxing to alleviate your stress.

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    Never have so many trees lost their lives than for the sake of education. If you’ve never used a filing cabinet before, acquaint yourself with one. They are metal lifesavers without the rainbow colors. If filing isn’t your cup of tea, find a shelf or a stack of trays to place your paperwork and all future paperwork or else you’ll find yourself buried alive by vengeful tree corpses. Also, buy yourself a personal planner and take it everywhere you go that concerns school. Use your planner to note meetings, lesson ideas, absences, behavior issues, parent contacts, teacher appreciation week and every precious holiday during the school year. Other ideas for staying organized include keeping lists, jotting sticky notes and keeping up to date with lesson plans. If you know what to expect each day, you’re two steps ahead of the program. Too bad you didn’t realize it was a million-step program before you signed that contract. So if you’re not the type of person to stay organized, understand this is one of the essential skills to become a teacher. Start practicing.

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    Technologically Willing

    Mom teaching A computer isn’t just a pretty typewriter. Know how to create presentation slide shows, word documents, spreadsheets and navigate the Internet like a pro. If you aren’t familiar with computer programs or the latest in classroom technology, search for on-line tutorials, trainings or even a tutor. There are also a slew of teacher resources available online if you know how to access them. These online teacher resources will make your job easier, make your lessons interesting and will inspire your own future classroom practices. You won’t regret becoming a techie.

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    Are you kind, compassionate, empathetic? Stop and consider, if you had a child, would you like your son or daughter to be treated the way you treat your students? Some might not categorize compassion as a skill, but think about how you treat children. Teachers can be a tremendous influence on a young mind. You’ll become the positive or negative associations students have when they think of school. No, you don’t have to be the “cool teacher,” but be a positive role model and mean what you say. Take a few minutes to talk to your students each day. Develop a respectable relationship with them so that you come to recognize them as little humans and not just names on a class roster. They’ll respect you, view you as human in turn, and eventually work to please you, even if they have to learn in the process. As a result, you’ll feel compelled to help them overcome their bad days and become successful students. Is this a skill? Just remember: we wouldn’t have teachers if we didn’t have students to teach. Give your students a reason to trust and care for you.

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    Brain Power—Extrasensory Perception

    ESP doesn’t always come in the mail with your teaching certificate, so this is something you’ll have to learn on your own. Once again, you won’t find it at the teacher store. ESP, a very handy teaching skill, will tell you who’s chewing gum, who is texting under their desk, who threw a paper while your back was turned, and figure out who really needs to use the bathroom and who just wants another tour of the campus. ESP also allows you to break down the drama force field around some students to see through to the real issues at hand. Of the skills you need to become a teacher, this one will distinguish you as either the wimp or the wizard on campus.

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    Teacher LSI School is the place where the unexpected happens. All of those trainings before the school year begins will try to teach you a dozen step-by-step solutions for any situation. Your best bet is to do what is best for the students. What will get them settled down faster, keep a fight from starting or protect them from danger? With their best interests in mind, you will do the right thing nine out of 10 times. So, do you have a habit of figuring things out for yourself or do you turn to others for help?

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    Presentation Skills

    Can you be histrionic, dramatic or magical? Or are you a monotone droid programmed to distribute worksheets? Go for costumes, learning games and startlingly loud revelations. My students never know when I’ll break out in song and dance, toss in an accent or give a demonstration with accompanying artwork. Those are the moments your students will remember 10 years from now. It’s not about being the "cool" teacher, but it is about showing students that learning can be fun.

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    Know How to Laugh

    800px-Laughing Can you find a reason to laugh in all sorts of situations? Start by laughing at yourself. This makes you human in a student’s eyes. Avoid being crass or making students the brunt of your jokes. Young minds don’t deserve that sort of impressionable experience. Save it for your co-workers!

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    A great boss once told me a lesson plan is just a guide. There will be moments in class when you can sense you’ve lost a student’s attention. One of the best skills you need to become a teacher is the very spontaneity that will drive you away from that lesson plan to try a new, unplanned activity that changes the tone of the lesson altogether. Take a chance and ask the students for their input on learning a lesson.

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    Lack of Guilt

    The top three reasons for becoming a teacher are June, July, August. It takes skill to fend off jealous hordes of friends and family who can’t understand why you still get paid if you’re not working. What the rest of the world doesn’t realize is while you’re suffering from a TV coma while flipping back and forth between game shows and soap operas, you’re recovering in rehab from piles of paperwork, endless hours of grading and planning and parent phone calls, even on weekends. You probably spent more time with the students than their parents did. That’s exhausting! Don’t feel guilty as the rest of the world drudges off to work. You’ve sacrificed more than non-teachers will ever know and you’ve earned the right to relax. After all, there’s no such thing as a 24-hour circus.

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    Teaching english In close, if you feel inspired to motivate students to learn, then you probably have the most crucial of the skills you need to become a teacher. You’ll know you’ve chosen the right profession not just because of a high test score for a state assessment or because you have two weeks off for Christmas break, but when you see the smiles on your student’s faces as they walk into your class, when former students come back to visit and thank you for what you’ve taught them, when you feel good because you know you put your all into a lesson and succeeded…that’s how you know you have what it takes to be a great teacher.

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    Image Sources

    1. Wikimedia Commons,
    2. Wikimedia Commons/Lsiryan,
    3. Wikimedia Commons/Amy Snyder,
    4. Wikimedia Commons/Aburt006,
    5. Wikimedia Commons,
    6. Wikimedia Commons/Eric Ward,
    7. Wikimedia Commons/Flipflop2011,