Friends and family often say to me that they admire my profession, but that they could never be a teacher because of their own personality. I smile and nod. However, I completely disagree. I think just about anyone can be a teacher. I feel that the skills and attributes needed can be moulded and developed no matter who you are. However, I do think that there are some characteristics which can help.
As well as teaching, I have also had the privilege of working with other teachers to develop their practice. I take a great deal of pride seeing what progress teachers can make in terms of their practice in a short space of time. However, there are certain teachers who make more progress in their first years of teaching than others. I think this is primarily down to a few characteristics which is what I look for in a potential teacher.
Teachers take a lot of flak. From those who are more senior, students, parents, the press and each other. If you are the type of person who is going to fall apart at the first sign of any criticism, then I suggest you look at looking at other careers (or developing resilience!).
It is one attribute that we try and develop in our learners and the reason for this is that it is key in nearly all aspects of professional life. As a teacher, you will have some bad, awful and horrible lessons, but you need to develop an attitude that there will also be positive days as well. I have seen colleagues cry before because of the stress of teaching, but the best ones never did this in front of the students.
Some people think that humour is a necessary trait in teaching. I disagree. But, enthusiasm is essential.
That Year 11 lesson where you are going over the importance of the embedded clause for the millionth time. That Year 7 lesson last thing on a Friday in the library. That Year 9 assessment lesson straight after OFSTED. All these situations and countless others require an abundance of enthusiasm. There are students that don't want to be in school. Your enthusiasm must show them that they need to be there.
Linked to resilience, enthusiasm is needed for those times when you have had a rough day and face another four days of teaching after. It is needed when that student is saying that they can't use the semi-colon and need some motivation. It is needed on a hot day when all the students (and you) want to do is go outside. Enthusiasm will help you most importantly during those first tricky years of teaching. If the students see that you want to be there and help them, they will often want to impress you as well.
Unfortunately, there are enough people still in education who are forever criticising without offering any better solutions. This can be politicians, but can also be teachers in the staff room. If you are an optimistic individual, you can look through this negativity and appreciate the career for what it is.
I wasn't entirely sure whether this was the correct term. However, friends and family always say that I am a 'good-listener' and that I am 'inquisitive'. I like to think that this is because I find that I learn a lot more from listening than I do from talking.
However, this is more linked to the idea that you need to want to learn as a teacher. You need to want to learn to develop your behaviour management techniques; you need to want to learn your subject knowledge; and you need to want to learn how to essentially get better.
I was lucky enough to have some fantastic role model teachers when I was developing my practice. However, none of them said to me 'you need to read this blog' or 'you need to read this book'. I wanted to do that because I wanted to get better for myself. If you're an inquisitive individual, you will want to be learning all the time (which all teachers do - or should be doing) and therefore be a better teacher as a result.
Teaching is knackering. Standing at the front of a classroom for a whole day is enough hard work, but then you have the administration, marking not to mention the stress of it all. But no teacher ever said to me that it was going to be easy.
People often revel in hard work. Students don't find a task enjoyable if it is ridiculously easy - they need to be challenged. And this is exactly the same for teaching. You need to want to work hard and to improve, otherwise you're going to find yourself drowning in the marking, administration and behaviour.
This has always been the characteristic that I value most as a teacher. I always prided myself in being able to recognise the strengths and weaknesses of my lessons. And I still do to this day which enables me to develop my practice.
It is slightly different when training to be a teacher, as you often have another teacher in to give feedback about the strengths and weaknesses of the lesson. However, there are still times when you are alone teaching and there will certainly be times in the future where you are teaching individually, and it is those times when you need to be able to evaluate how the lesson could have been bettered.
As well as this, it is crucial when trying to develop specific areas of your personality. I have always been someone who has shied away from confrontation with colleagues. However, I understand that as begin to line-manage other individuals, it is not my job to be liked by them; but I need them to develop their practice for the sake of the students' learning.
Although these five characteristics aren't a necessity when starting teaching, they are certainly traits I look for in potential candidates and trainees.