By Andrew Hawk
Teachers’ motivations for becoming professional educators usually follow one of several themes. Some people love working with young people. Others love learning, maybe even a specific subject, and want to share their knowledge with others. Many teachers join the field because they want to make a difference in the world.
The biggest part of teaching is interacting with students, and this is no problem for most teachers. However, there are other duties that come along with teaching, of which many prospective teachers are not aware. Take, for example, open houses, family nights, and school carnivals. All of these events require teachers to mingle with their school’s stakeholders. Then there are the school committees on which teachers are likely to serve. These committees most likely involve brainstorming with colleagues and possibly public speaking. Also, professional development seminars are required. Most of these will be simple sit-and-listen sessions. However, some of them will require more participation. Many professional development seminars seat participants in groups to complete activities together.
While these non-teaching aspects make up only a small portion of a teacher’s duties, they take many teachers out of their comfort zones. For introverted teachers, they can lead to sleepless nights. Here are some tips that I hope will help put your mind at ease.
I have had several opportunities to serve on interviewing committees. One thing I have learned from my experiences is that administrators gravitate toward confident, outgoing candidates. This is unfortunate because many of my introverted colleagues are some of the best instructional leaders I have met. When you are preparing for an interview, go on the Internet and print out a list of interview questions. Have a friend or family member interview with you. The more times you practice answering questions, the easier the words will flow out of your mouth when it comes time for a real interview. One more thing to remember if you have not interviewed before is that there may be anywhere from one to five people interviewing you. Keep this in mind so that you are not caught off guard.
Prepare for public speaking.
Just as in college, you will probably be called on to complete some sort of public speaking engagement during your teaching career. This may be to deliver a presentation to staff members or parents. The good news is that you do not have to like public speaking to be good at it. Practice, practice, and practice some more. You will gain confidence by knowing the material you have to present inside and out. Practicing will also ensure that you do not falter during your presentation even if you are feeling anxious. Public speaking experts like to point out that a little nervousness helps prevent a flat presentation.
Participate in school events.
Taking part in school events is an important teacher responsibility. The first thing to remember is to wear a smile for as much of the event as possible. You are representing your school, and parents are likely to notice if you look unhappy. If talking to unfamiliar people takes you too far out of your comfort zone, keep the interactions short but pleasant. If you are working a booth, say phrases like, “Hello, thank you for coming tonight.” Even if you start off slow, you will likely relax as the event progresses.
Attend professional development.
First, capitalize on as many professional development opportunities as you can with your teaching schedule. Many school corporations cannot afford to send their staff members to professional development, so jump at the chances you get. The skills and knowledge gained from workshops and seminars are valuable to teachers as they further their careers.
Second, life isn’t the only thing that is like a box of chocolates. I have attended professional development seminars that ranged from a couple of hours to two weeks of full work days. These can be very different depending on the material and presenters. Currently, most presenters are embracing a philosophy that adults, like young people, learn more by doing instead of listening, so many seminars and workshops are hands-on these days. This usually means some form of group work. If this takes you out of your comfort zone, try to recruit a colleague to attend with you. In the past, group work at professional development was not my favorite thing in world, but it did get easier with experience. When the time comes, take a deep breath and try to learn everything you can. If you are uncomfortable at a workshop, chances are you are not alone.
Communicate clearly at parent-teacher conferences.
Parent-teacher conferences are vital to running a successful classroom. It is important to present to parents an image that is confident and approachable. My colleagues who have struggled with parent-teacher conferences usually projected one of two images. They either overcompensated for their anxiousness by coming across too strong. Or, in an effort to avoid a conflict, they sugarcoated unfavorable information to the point where the message was not properly conveyed. Avoid these mistakes and aim for the middle of the road. Be honest and upfront with information, whether it is good or bad. Just as with interviewing and public speaking, rehearsing does help.
Remember why you teach.
Schools operate best when their faculty contains a variety of personality types. While working at a school can take an introverted person out of his or her comfort zone, this does not diminish that teacher’s ability as an instructor. Often, teachers with this personality type are so passionate about teaching that their passion will elevate them past the parts of the job they find challenging.
Andrew Hawk has worked in public education for fourteen years, starting as a teaching assistant in a special education classroom. He has taught first, second, and fifth grade as a classroom teacher, and for the past three years, has worked as a resource room teacher, providing services for fourth and fifth graders. Working as a special education teacher has given him the opportunity to work with a variety of age groups and exceptionalities. In 2011, he earned his master’s degree in special education from Western Governor’s University. When Andrew is not preparing for school, he enjoys spending time with his wife and daughter.
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