A role model is a person who inspires and encourages us to strive for greatness, live to our fullest potential and see the best in ourselves. A role model is someone we admire and someone we aspire to be like. We learn through them, through their commitment to excellence and through their ability to make us realize our own personal growth. We look to them for advice and guidance.
A role model can be anybody: a parent, a sibling, a friend but some of our most influential and life-changing role models are teachers.
My Teacher, My Hero
When you think of the type of teacher you'd like to be, who comes to mind? The math teacher that helped you conquer fractions? The English teacher who wrote great comments on your stories? The teacher that helped you discover a new sport, hobby, talent--or maybe even nudged you down your current career path?
Those are the teachers we're celebrating through our YouTube channel, My Teacher, My Hero. Together, we're paying homage to the teachers that have played such an integral part in shaping our lives, and to their importance in shaping the next generation of educators.
“When the student is ready, the teacher appears.” — Marlene Canter, My Teacher My Hero
Teachers follow students through each pivotal stage of development. At six to eight hours a day, five days a week, you as a teacher are poised to become one of the most influential people in your students’ life. After their parents, children will first learn from you, their elementary school teacher. Then, as a middle school teacher, you will guide students through yet another important transition: adolescence. As children become young adults, learning throughout middle school and into high school, you will answer their questions, listen to their problems and teach them about this new phase of their lives. You not only watch your students grow you help them grow.
“We think of teacher-heroes that taught us the academics but we don’t often think of those teachers that taught us life’s lessons.” — Maria Wale, My Teacher My Hero
Much of what students learn from their greatest teachers is not detailed on a syllabus. Teachers who help us grow as people are responsible for imparting some of life’s most important lessons. During their initial school years, students encounter, perhaps for the first time, other children of the same age and begin to form some of their first friendships. As a teacher, you will show your students how to become independent and form their own relationships, you will carefully guide them and intervene when necessary. School is as much a place of social learning as academic learning, and this is true, not only in our early years of education, but all the way through college. Though a teacher’s influence on the social sphere of school lessens as students mature, those early lessons still have an effect on how they will interact with others in the future.
Teachers are founts of experience. They have already been where their students are going, undergone what they will go through and are in a position to pass along lessons, not only regarding subject matter, but lessons on life.
Meet Great Teachers
Teach.com has been speaking with award-winning teachers from across the country to hear their stories and, hopefully, find out a bit about what it is exactly that makes them great. If you are currently a teacher or thinking about becoming a teacher, take a look at some of the Teacher Profiles below to learn a bit more about what can make a teacher great.
Here's how: Take a video of yourself discussing your favorite teacher. You can use the below prompts to get your wheels turning.
1. Choose an example of how your teacher changed your way of thinking or acting.
Did your teacher encourage you to take risks? To overcome self-defeating thoughts or behavior? Did he or she help you speak up more in class, or have more patience with solving problems?
2. Tell us how these changes have influenced your life's direction.
Did they help you uncover a unique talent, or steer you away from a dangerous life path? How did this change your eventual direction in life?
3. Share an interesting story.
Sometimes actions speak louder than words. And your story doesn't have to be serious! A teacher's impact often shines through the most.
And of course, remember to say thank you! Click to watch the rest of the My Teacher, My Hero series on YouTube
When interviewing for a teaching position, you really want to do everything you can to let your passion for teaching and love for your students shine. While you should always be prepared for common job interview questions, there are teacher-specific questions that you’ll want to make sure you have practiced before hand.
Why did you become a teacher?
This is a pretty common question that will be used to gauge just how much you enjoy teaching. Give this some thought so that your answer sounds genuine and personal.
“I’ve known from an early age that helping others grow is where my true passion lies. When I was in 11th grade I sat down with my favorite teacher to get a better understanding of the job and if it was something that I should pursue. I was so inspired by her love for learning and desire to make a change that I knew there was no other option for me.”
What contributions can you bring to our school?
Every school needs teachers, but this question is to see if you can bring more to the table than just what you do in a classroom. Think of examples of different activities you ran in other schools or passions you have that can translate into student activities.
“I truly believe that learning doesn’t end in the classroom. In my last school I actually started a creative writing club. I noticed that’s something that you don’t yet offer. My students really excelled and were not only able to put the club on their college applications, but they used it for help writing their college essays. I’d really like to bring something similar to East Washington High School.”
What is the biggest challenge in teaching?
This question will give the interviewer a good idea of where your frustrations lie and what, if anything, you will need to make up for. Think of something you can work toward making better and that you feel would be a challenge for all teachers.
“In my career, I’ve found that the most challenging students are the ones who don’t apply themselves. We all see their potential, but they sit in the back, don’t pay attention and don’t seem to care about their future. It is these types of students that I really try to reach out to. I’ve seen kids start really trying when it’s too late to get into college and it can be heartbreaking. So, I take them aside to let them know that someone is rooting for them and that I am invested in their future. I’ve seen students really turn themselves around when they know that someone is in their corner holding them accountable for their studies.”
Can you give me a specific example of when you helped a student experience success?
Interviewers know that some of the best teachers are the ones who invest in their students’ successes. Even if you haven’t had any official teaching experience, you can pull from your time student teaching to show them how seriously you take your job.
“One example that has really stuck with me happened while I was student teaching. There was a girl who was really struggling with her math lessons and you could tell that she would get very frustrated with herself. Her grades were quickly declining and it was definitely something she was embarrassed about. I pulled her aside one day and offered to sit with her during lunch two days a week so she could get some one-on-one attention. I’m not sure if it was the fact that someone was paying attention to her or that she had been waiting for someone to reach out, but we quickly started our mini-tutoring sessions and her grades started to improve. I really think it was this experience that made me realize how much I love teaching and how much of a difference I can make in kid’s lives. Her parents actually reached out to the school to let them know how much they appreciated me taking the time to help. To me it was such a small commitment, but to her it made a big difference.”
How do you stay current in your field?
There are always new techniques and theories popping up in the field of education. Schools like to see that their teachers stay up to date on the newest technologies and plannings. Think of different thought leaders you follow or technology you’d like to bring into the classroom and work that into your answer.
“I think it’s so important to keep a close watch on what others in the field are doing. I closely monitor a handful of blogs and Twitter accounts from some of the teachers and organizations I respect most in order to look for new ideas or projects. For example, during the last Olympics, Scholastic tweeted some fantastic Olympic-themed games that would not only teach the children about the games, but also incorporated math. It was a fun way to learn and everyone in the class got really into it. I may not have been able to do that had I not made it a point to stay up to date with what others are doing.”
What do you think is the most effective way to communicate with parents?
Dealing with parents is a very big part of any teaching position. Think about what you’ve seen that works with parents and throw in any specific examples of steps you’ve taken to ensure that there is clear communication between you and your students’ parents.
“I’ve found that one of the best things to do is give parents a clear idea of how they can contact you and how they like to be contacted. During open houses, I ask that parents fill out forms to let me know their preferred method of non-emergency communication. This way, they can’t get annoyed if I call and they prefer email. I set those types of expectations up front. I also like to make it clear that I have their child’s best interests in mind and that we are in this together. Learning can’t stop in the classroom and parents have to be held accountable to be sure their student isn’t ignoring his/her studies. This type of open, team communication has proven to be very effective and creates a positive environment for the student."
When interviewing for a teaching position, keep in mind that the school will be searching to see if you have the drive to be a success with the students, parents and fellow teachers. Pull from any past experiences or volunteer work that proves you would be an asset to the school and that you have the passion they are looking for in a new hire. Interviewing can be scary, but if you prepare yourself by practicing sample interview questions you’ll go in with a confidence that you have what it takes. Good luck!