A decade and a half as a teacher and now more than a decade in the corporate sector, I am increasingly realising a teacher’s role teaches you professional and personal skills like no other job. There is an increasing focus on skill development as the world economies are moving towards being more empathetic and people oriented. Isn’t that where teachers always were? Let’s look at the skills that a teacher needs, has and uses on a daily basis.
I would like to add a disclaimer to the reference of the teacher as she/her. It is just my conditioning. I have the highest regard for men who work in this area too!
Communication: Well, that’s what a teacher does. Communicate across age groups in a school. From her students who range from 2 to 20, her colleagues who range from 20 to 60 and the multitude of parents, grandparents uncles and aunts who come to school to meet her! Communication to the child is the key to being a successful teacher. This communication is not the transferring of information in the class but the ability to communicate to the heart of the student.
Problem Solving: While corporate sectors may claim to solve a gazillion problems that impact the global economy, a teacher plays a different game altogether. Every day poses multiple problems. Every student in every class has some issue to discuss. Every class teacher has some feedback to give her and every parent wants her doubts clarified immediately. This happens 200+ times in a day considering that’s the minimum number of students she deals with. Along with this comes instruction from the management, the principal, the board and the government.
Out of the Box Thinking: ‘Can you rush to grade four A?’ A request two minutes before the bell rings will rarely find a negative response. Off she goes to a class she has never gone to. On her way to the class, she has planned a forty-minute session in her head to engage this new class. She has plotted games, activities and a book reading session as Plan A, B and C.
Interpersonal Skills: She navigates issues of parents with children, parents with parents, children with children and her students with other teachers. Dealing with a variety of age groups on a daily basis while having to keep a check on the emotional implications of each conversation is a big ask!
Critical Thinking: Every child is unique. How a teacher reaches out to 40 odd children on a daily basis in ways peculiar to them, modifies her lesson strategies at the nick of time, researches on pedagogy to suit the needs of all, while trying to be inclusive and unbiased and fair to each one is a detailed case study in critical thinking in itself.
Decision Making: A teacher’s day is full of decisions. Some impact students for a lifetime and hence need to be taken with thought and care. The decision to let the class have a free play session to the decision to take a test, the decision to redo the content to the decision to award marks in a test. Every single decision that she takes as a teacher in the class has its own implications. Every decision needs to be thought of, planned and yet at times be in the nick of the moment.
Time Management: While corporate jobs have lunch times and break times, a teacher’s day is scheduled day after day with lunch duty and no recess through a seven-hour shift. They figure out the time to have food or even the time to take a loo break according to the school timetable. Rarely will you catch a teacher not adhering to timelines?
Public Speaking: This, again, is a part of her personality. Give her an audience of any age group. She can keep them motivated and going.
Negotiating: The art of negotiating homework, timelines with colleagues, parents, and students and distributing tasks in the class is a major skill.
Event and Project Management: Every day in school is an event. Duties are laid out. School events like Annual days, Sports days, Parent Teacher meets, bring out the innate event and project management skills in a teacher. Working in collaboration, as a team, leading the teams, and following up timelines alongside the regular teaching in class is what teachers do year after year. Working for every event is a skill that is needed for every teacher.
Marketing: Every teacher is a walking talking image builder of the school. No one markets the school better than the teacher who has a buy-in with the school.
Collaboration: One look at the staff room and you will see what collaboration looks like on a daily basis. No class is left unattended, no board is left undecorated, no club is missing an activity if a teacher is absent, and others clamour to take the class. Can there be a better example?
Data Analysis: Marks, report cards, attendance data, fee collection, notebook collection. There is data everywhere in a school. Teachers deal with data on a daily basis. Not do they just analyse scores; they give a humane outlook to it.
Attention to Detail: A teacher knows about every student in her class. If there’s something amiss, there is a teacher somewhere out there who would have noticed the difference in her student. The smile on the face speaks to the teacher as much as the frown on the face. The presence in the classroom is as impactful as the absence. No student, parent, or official can escape the watchful eye of the teacher.
Perspective: Every generation you deal with is younger and younger. They help you develop a sense of perspective while dealing with issues. Your perspective is constantly refreshed.
A teacher’s job helps you grow as a multi-skilled person, not just professionally, but also personally. Every individual, at least for their own sake, should be a teacher for a minimum of 2 years in their lifetime. They will be changed human beings forever.
- Priya Gopal