What is a Teacher?

A teacher not only teaches, but inspires and encourages students to be their best. School is not only a place of academic learning, but of social learning as well, and will have an effect on how students interact with others in the future.

Whether teaching kindergarten, music, physical education or special education, a teacher is someone that students look up to, and aspire to be like. Some of our most influential and life-changing role models are teachers.

What does a Teacher do?

A teacher is an effective communicator and motivator so that knowledge can be shared and conveyed to the students in an interesting and understandable way.

A day in the life of a teacher varies greatly depending on the subject they teach, and the age level of the students. If teaching kindergarten or elementary students, a teacher may cover a broad range of subjects. On the other hand, a high school teacher will typically specialize in a particular subject, such as math, english, music, or science.

A teacher especially needs to be an effective communicator and motivator, as it is irrelevant how much knowledge a teacher has if that knowledge cannot be shared and conveyed to the students in an interesting and understandable way.

There are various types of teaching careers available, all with different duties and responsibilities:

Preschool Teacher
A preschool teacher is responsible for assisting toddlers (ages three to five years) prepare for kindergarten. They help them with their social, motor, vocabulary, language, personal hygiene, and social skills through play, field trips, interactive activities, and games. Activities are often based off of music, art and crafts, dance, rhyming, storytelling, and play-acting. Preschool teachers also show their students how to maintain orderly conduct by teaching behavioural rules and boundaries.

Conducting both small-group lessons and one-on-one instruction allows the preschool teacher to tune into the different needs of each toddler as well as recognize even the smallest amount of progress made. There is a less structured approach to teaching at this level which encourages discussion and problem-solving from the children. Ultimately, this type of curriculum is designed to promote mental, social, and physical development.

Effective communication skills are extremely important, as children may be at different stages of learning. Creating an atmosphere where children can make their own discoveries and learn how to express themselves verbally, mentally and physically is key to their growth and development.

Kindergarten Teacher
Kindergarten is the bridge between preschool and elementary school. A kindergarten teacher integrates young children into the world of learning and prepares them for elementary school by teaching them social skills, personal hygiene, basic reading skills, art, and music.

Kindergarten teachers may have children in their class that are experiencing school for the first time, as not all children go to preschool. Therefore, they will need to show them, and remind everyone, how to behave in the classroom and how to play nicely with others, whether it's in a group setting or doing artwork quietly on their own. The needs of each student will be different, so the teacher's methods of educating will have to be changed to meet those needs.

A kindergarten teacher is responsible for planning the curriculum for each day and for the collective school year. Basic skills in reading and writing are taught by using hands-on lessons and creative play. Any instructions need to be very precise yet easy to understand. If a child has developmental or emotional problems, kindergarten teachers should be able to recognize this and help parents put together a plan of action to ensure their child is given the same educational opportunities as other children.

Elementary School Teacher
An elementary school teacher is a person trained to educate children from kindergarten through fifth grade. Some elementary schools also include grade six, while some private and rural public schools include seventh and eighth grades. They are responsible for the educational and emotional growth of children in a classroom setting, as well as managing the materials and resources used for educating them.

  • Kindergarten teachers spend the day teaching children the basic skills of letter recognition, phonic learning, reading skills, proper social skills, and confidence. This is done through activities that are based off of music, art and crafts, dance, rhyming, storytelling, and play-acting.

  • First grade teachers are a vital building block in a child's early development, as they strive to build confidence in each student. They use hands-on learning approaches as well as discussion groups in their classroom. They teach the core subjects of math, science, and english, as well as art, physical education, and music.

  • Second grade teachers spend less time helping children become adjusted to standard school routines and start to expect more from students. They are responsible for further teaching of the aforementioned core subjects, as well as in positively shaping each student's behaviour and emotional well-being.

  • Third grade teachers know that students at this stage are ready for a more diverse field of learning. In addition to math, reading, and english, students now move into the studies of social studies, science, and a higher level of physical education, art, and music.

  • Fourth grade teachers are responsible for all the core learning subjects, however, the job becomes more complicated as students have matured and need a strong, intuitive teacher that possesses excellent communication skills, patience, energy, and creativity to hold the attention of their class.

  • Fifth grade to eighth grade teachers will need the same wealth of patience and communication skills as a fourth grade teacher. At this stage of learning, it is easier to recognize which students will need more attention than others. Getting to know each student is necessary to offer a solid learning experience to each one. Teachers at this level need to be firm, but kind.

High School Teacher
A high school teacher teaches academic, technical, vocational or specialized subjects at public and private secondary schools, typically from grades 9-12. The subject taught could be science, language, mathematics, history, art, english, drama, or music. In a typical high school, where there are rotations of five to six classes everyday, a teacher could potentially have more than one hundred different students to teach each and every day.

A high school teacher can have a very fulfilling career by virtue of the responsibility they have to influence the future of young students. They play a key role in a student's outlook and career prospects. There are times when students are difficult to deal with, and teachers must exhibit a great deal of patience. However, this is overshadowed by the many wonderful student accomplishments that they are able to be a part of.

A high school teacher helping a student.

Special Education Teacher
Special education teachers work with children and youths who have a variety of disabilities. Children with special needs require unique instruction and encouragement to help them achieve their highest potential and strive to progress beyond their limitations. Special education teachers are patient, understanding educators dedicated to giving each individual student the tools and guidance needed to help them maximize success.

A small number of special education teachers work with students with severe cognitive, emotional, or physical disabilities. Their job is primarily teaching them life skills and basic literacy. However, the majority of special education teachers work with children with mild to moderate disabilities, modifying the general education curriculum to meet the child's individual needs and providing required instruction. Most special education teachers instruct students at the preschool, elementary, middle, and secondary school level, although some work with infants and toddlers.

Teacher Assistant
A teacher assistant works under a teacher’s supervision to give students additional attention and instruction. They work in public and private schools, and for childcare centres. This career should not be confused with a graduate teaching assistant, who is a university graduate student serving in a support role for his/her professor.

Generally, teachers introduce new material to students, and teacher assistants help reinforce the lessons by working with individual students or small groups of students. For example, they may help students learn research skills by helping them find information for reports.

Physical Education Teacher
Physical education teachers, commonly known as Phys Ed or P.E. teachers, are responsible for the education of primary and secondary school students in physical activity. The physical education class was once little more than an organized recess; however, physical education teachers now engage students in much more than game play. Recent developments have steered the physical education curriculum towards the goal of overall wellness and teachers now incorporate health and nutrition topics into their classes.

After creating a lesson plan, a physical education teacher's responsibility is to motivate students to participate in prescribed activities. Teachers then evaluate the student's performance, attitude, and level of physical fitness.

Music Teacher
A music teacher teaches people how to play an instrument (for example the piano, guitar or violin) or gives singing and voice lessons. Some music teachers work in schools from elementary to high school levels, and teach many students. These teachers are responsible for directing the school bands, choirs and orchestras. They may also teach appreciation, theory, or composition classes to advanced students. Other music teachers give lessons on an individual basis, and may work out of their homes or from a music store as a private music teacher.

Additionally, a music teacher must evaluate and grade a student's performance, which often takes place by way of recitals and performances, and must give the students feedback on how to improve their skills.

Art Teacher
Art teachers typically work in the school system teaching students how to paint, draw, create sculptures and ceramics, and learn photography. However, art teachers may also work privately or at art centres. They educate their students about the creation of art, art history, as well as art theory. Most art teachers are practicing artists themselves who teach out of a passion for what they do and a desire to share it with their students.

An art teacher will look at the basics when teaching students: how to create art using various mediums; the types of structures/functions involved; the choice and evaluation of the content; the relationship of art to different cultures and the past; the assessment of works of art; and the relationship between art and other disciplines.

Health Educator
Health educators teach people how to incorporate positive and healthy habits into their lives. They develop programs and materials that promote wellness, and encourage children and adults to make healthy decisions. Health educators work in a variety of settings, including schools, hospitals, non-profit organizations, government, doctors' offices, private businesses, and colleges.

Professor
Professors instruct students in a wide variety of academic and vocational subjects beyond the high school level. They also conduct research and publish scholarly papers and books. They work in public and private colleges and universities, professional schools, junior or community colleges, and career and vocational schools.

Professors often teach large classes of several hundred students (usually with the help of several graduate teaching assistants), small classes of about 40 to 50 students, seminars with just a few students, or laboratories where students practice the subject matter. They teach an increasingly varied student population as more part-time, older, and culturally diverse students are coming to postsecondary schools.

Graduate Teaching Assistant
A graduate teaching assistant is a qualified graduate student who helps a professor by performing specific tasks (with the professor's guidance). There is a stipend (financial assistance) that is provided for this type of part-time academic employment.

Graduate teaching assistants may help a professor teach an especially large class, grade papers, run classroom related errands, and perform other menial tasks at the suggestion of their overseeing professor. At some schools, experienced graduate teaching assistants are given their own class to teach, and only meet with their assigned professor occasionally to discuss how things are going. The classes that they teach are usually introductory courses in their field of study.

Are you suited to be a teacher?

Teachers have distinct personalities. They tend to be social individuals, which means they’re kind, generous, cooperative, patient, caring, helpful, empathetic, tactful, and friendly. They excel at socializing, helping others, and teaching. Some of them are also enterprising, meaning they’re adventurous, ambitious, assertive, extroverted, energetic, enthusiastic, confident, and optimistic.

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What is the workplace of a Teacher like?

You can find teachers in schools, colleges, universities, schoolyards, on computers, in offices, in classrooms, and at home grading papers.

The working conditions of teachers, which includes the convenience of most school hours and having summers off, have always contributed to the appeal of the teaching profession. However, reality is that teachers work far beyond the actual school day, and spend a large portion of their evenings, weekends, and even summers planning lessons, grading papers, and communicating with parents.