Elementary school can be tough – kids are thrown into a social environment, many of them for the first time, and they have to face making friends, dealing with bullies, and establishing their self-worth, on top of the wealth of knowledge and basic skills in reading, writing, and math they are picking up at a fast pace. When we think of an elementary school teacher, we imagine a warm, compassionate individual who can be there for kids when their parents can’t be.
But what kind of person will be good at this? Elementary school teachers need far more than the ability to teach times tables and grammar – they need to have the mental and emotional qualities that make them great role models for their students.
#1 – Be Positive
Teaching, as you probably realize, is not easy. In fact, these days it could just be getting tougher, with budget cuts and increased class sizes, districts struggling just to pay salaries, and more and more pressure on faculty to prepare students for standardized testing. But the best kind of teachers are positive people. They are able to focus on the wonderful rewards they get from their job, which are many. Not only that, a positive attitude rubs off on their students, so no child ever has to feel like they can’t do something. A teacher can pick that child up and tell them they can accomplish anything, and they will really mean it.
#2 – Be Patient
Any parent can tell you that this is the first rule for dealing with children. They’re not always going to understand right away, and they’re not always going to listen right away. You will have model students who are exceptionally bright and well-behaved, and there will be other students who need a little more time and attention. And the elementary school day can simply get long – right before recess or lunch, or right before the bell rings at the end of the day, you could be dealing with a room full of restless young minds who need someone willing to work on getting them focused.
#3 – Be Able to Talk to Parents, Too
Teaching is collaborative. More often that not, you will be a lot happier if you can work with parents, keep them informed and keep an open line of communication about their student’s progress. And keep in mind, you will need a good relationship with the principal and other teachers at your school, because those are the people who will be there to help you when you get in over your head. Loving kids is great, but make sure you can drink coffee with the adults.
#4 – Be a Leader
It sounds easy, but taking control of a class can be one of the most daunting parts of being a teacher. Being stern with your discipline can matter just as much as being compassionate – you want to make sure they know you are in charge at all times.
#5 – Be Enthusiastic
They will want to know when they hire you that you have a passion for learning, and that you have ideas about new teaching methods and fun things to do with the students. Elementary teaching is one field where you can never have too much passion, because it will be important for the school and the parents to know just how much you really care.
Elementary teaching involves being entrusted with children at a very vulnerable stage of their development, which is why we picture teachers as exceptionally sensitive people. But a dash of perseverance and leadership qualities? These never hurt anyone either.
Nancy Meyers writes for education blogs where you can learn more about Top 10 Best Online Colleges for Teachers.