By Johanna Anderson
Do you feel as though you were born to teach? For some people, becoming a teacher is a true calling. Few things can compare to the joy of the moment when a struggling student's eyes suddenly light up, because she finally "gets" it.
Human beings are constantly learning, from birth till death. Considering this fact, teachers can choose students of literally any age or stage of development. It should go without saying that the instructor must have an excellent command of the subject in which he professes to be an expert. Teacher certification is required in many situations, as well as inside-out knowledge of a given field. However, being an effective teacher also requires other skills--skills which might not be so apparent at first glance.
The ability to manage a classroom is probably the most important of these. To successfully guide a motley assortment of learners in their studies, the teacher must have complete command of the classroom. When students sense that the teacher isn't really in control of the class, they become nervous and insecure. Usually, this insecurity manifests itself as unruly behavior that makes true learning impossible.
It's not just kindergarteners who act out when the teacher is "asleep at the wheel"! Junior high school students pass notes, gossip, and kick the person sitting in front of them. High school and college students text and listen to their iPods, if the instructor isn't at the top of her game. Special needs students lose the ability to focus, and even senior adults are tempted to get off track.
Thus, a successful teacher must also be a successful people manager. The key to becoming a strong authority figure, in any situation, is taking ownership of the right to exercise that authority. In reality, teachers not only have the right, but also the duty to run their classrooms in a manner which is conducive for learning.
The first week of class, it's a given that students will test the teacher to find out whether or not she is really in command. That first crucial week sets the tone for the entire time that the teacher and this class spend together. If an instructor makes it clear from the start that he is the boss, the class will run smoothly, and students will learn. The teacher can even slack off from his authoritarian role a bit, once a consistent routine has been established.
If, however, strong leadership skills are not put in place during the first week of class, it is very difficult to regain control later on. A teacher who starts off as permissive may find it nightmarish to gain her class's respect later on, even if she tries to rule with an iron thumb.
To summarize, having knowledge and love for a subject--any subject--is not adequate qualification to teach. The simple desire to teach isn't sufficient, either. A successful teacher must have both expertise of the subject matter and the desire to share it. However, the " secret sauce" is being a successful manager of people. Believe it or not, the ability to properly handle authority may be even more important than expert mastery of the subject being taught. Doesn't sound right? Doesn't sound fair? Whether or not it's right or fair, this, Dear One, is reality in the trenches of the classroom.