7 Rewards of Teaching

Black Male Teacher

When one makes the decision to become a teacher, he or she will receive numerous rewards.  Too often the focus is placed on the negative dimensions of teaching (and justifiably so in many cases); however, discourses that concentrate on the more challenging aspects of teaching should not deter one from joining such a noble profession.  What follows is a list of seven rewards (both extrinsic and intrinsic) one will gain by becoming a teacher:

1.      Modest salaries.  Although teachers are not paid what they deserve to be paid, one will receive a salary that is fairly comparable to those in similar fields with similar levels of educational attainment.  Most teachers receive a benefits package, which usually includes healthcare insurance, retirement compensation and etc.

 2.      Social Status

 3.      Power

 4.      Good Work Schedule.  Most teachers don’t have to work during the summer and are paid while they enjoy their summer vacation.

 5.      Change Students’ Lives.  Each day, you will have an opportunity to ameliorate and impact the lives of tomorrow’s leaders.  Your students’ interactions with you will have an enduring impact on how they think, learn, and progress.  When you see them evolve into great citizens and leaders, you will know that you played in an instrumental role in helping them to become who they are.

 6.      Stimulation and Support from Fellow Teachers

 7.      Performance of a Significant Social Service

What are some rewards of teaching you would add to this list?

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Creating an Active and Exciting Learning Environment

At some point, we all have been students—even though some have never received formal education.  Although some topics in every subject area cannot always be the most exciting topics to engage students with, teachers can find meaningful ways to engender an active, engaged, responsive, and fun classroom for their students—no matter if one teaches at the Pre-K – 12 or college level.  No one wants to be bored!  If you’re a teacher, you need to make it a serious priority for the majority of your lessons to include opportunities to have fun with your students.  Don’t let your classroom become more boring than watching paint dry.

Give your students opportunities to speak during your class.  The teacher shouldn’t be the only person who talks the entire class period.  Teachers, if you discover that you’re doing all of the talking in your classroom for more than 15 minutes at a time, then it should trigger in your mind that you need to get your students involved in your topic or topics of discussion immediately.  No one wants to listen to you talk forever and ever—your voice is not that attractive.  Some teachers like to talk the whole period.  Even if you’re discussing some highly complicated issues in your class, still don’t find yourself doing the majority of the speaking in your classroom.  It’s understandable for you to need to do the majority of the speaking in your classroom sometimes, but you shouldn’t make it a habit.

Did you have teachers at any level of the educational pipeline who would do all of the speaking in the classroom most of the time?

If you desire to have an active classroom where all of your students are engaged, then you cannot do all of the speaking.  Even if you’re a phenomenal speaker/lecturer, you need to offer your students opportunities to speak and participate in what you’re discussing.  Never forget that you’re not speaking to desks—there are living human beings occupying those desks.  If you want to be a good or great teacher, you must have an authentic concern for how your students perceive your teaching and classroom.  In no way does this mean you have to allow your students to solely determine how you teach and conduct your classroom.  However, the input of your students should be valued, especially if you claim to have a commitment to serving them.

You may think you’re such a great teacher, but if your students are bored out of their mind, you’re not going to reach them.  If you allow this to be the case, you can simply forget about how great of a teacher you think you are—the students will tune you out and focus on how many minutes they have left before they can leave your classroom. (Can you picture them counting down the minutes now?)  Don’t allow this type of relationship to develop between you and your students.  You don’t have to become friends with your students, but you should at least engage with them at some significant level.

A good or great teacher loves to listen to others.  Some people don’t ever want to listen to what you have to say—they’d rather just listen to themselves talk.  Academic instruction suffers when teachers only want to hear their voices.

Beyonce knows how vital listening is, which is ostensible through her song, “Listen.”  When you listen to her song, one of the dominant messages the song unveils is through listening to others you will gain greater insights about their innermost emotions and thoughts.

If your classroom is not an engaging and fun classroom, then you need to make changes to the way you operate it.  This might mean that you need to make significant changes.  Don’t get so consumed by your routine that you care more about the routine than the students who the routine is supposed to serve.  You may find that having a routine could be the very reason why your classroom is uninspiring.

Take some time to think about your classroom and the way you manage it to develop ways to ameliorate it.  Invest some time in ways to engage your students and increase participation.  You may find that you need to move yourself more out of the way to accomplish this.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Substitute Teachers Are Overlooked Treasures

Substitute teachers are not given the credit they deserve. These educators, yes I said educators, often have the same level of college training as certified teachers. In many places across the nation, substitute teachers are required to have at least an undergraduate degree. In Wisconsin, substitute teachers are not only required to have an undergraduate degree, but they are also encouraged to have obtained or work towards obtaining teacher certification. When certified teachers are unable to make it to school, substitute teachers step up each day and ensure that classroom instruction continues. In many places across the nation, substitute teachers are asked to shoulder a significant amount of responsibility, especially if they are long-term substitutes. The work they do is important to helping our children to ameliorate their academic achievement.

Substitute teachers are professionals. They deserve to be considered as more than “babysitters.” When you think of substitute teachers as “babysitters,” you are being tremendously disrespectful to these professionals. Most substitute teachers have other jobs or careers besides their substitute teaching positions. You should not, therefore, assume that these professionals don’t have professional lives outside of the classroom. Most substitute teachers could become certified teachers if they desired, but they elect not to because their work outside of the classroom does not allow them to be full-time teachers. Being a certified teacher is a full-time job. When one commits to being a certified teacher, he or she has committed to a full-time career. This is one of the dominant reasons why substitute teachers don’t become certified teachers—their schedules simply will not allow them.

Students should not view having substitute teachers in the classroom as an opportunity to abandon their responsibilities in the classroom. They should work just as hard as they do when their regular teachers are in the classroom. When I was in middle and high school, I took substitute teachers for granted. I thought that they were just people who needed a job that didn’t require them to have much skill and education. My lack of respect for the position and them led me to perceive substitute teachers in the classroom as opportunities to misbehave and just play around for the entire duration of class.

When I graduated from high school and learned the important role of substitute teachers, I deeply regretted my views about them and how I disrespected them. My undergraduate experience taught me just how vital they are to our children’s education. Substitute teachers are not placeholders—they are valuable contributing members to our children’s future. I had good substitute teachers but I didn’t give myself an opportunity to benefit from their true value.

Parents can play a stronger role in helping substitute teachers to have a better experience with doing their jobs by teaching their children to give substitute teachers just as much respect as they do their regular teachers. When a student sees a substitute teacher in the classroom, this should not signal for him or her that it’s time to play. A substitute teacher should signal that it’s business as usual in the classroom.

I want to thank all substitute teachers for the often thankless work you do. The work that you all do makes a difference in advancing the academic achievement of our children. Thank you!

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

End Unnecessary Barriers for Prospective Teachers

I don’t think that those wishing to become Pre-K – 12 teachers should have to take a standardized test to become a teacher. If a person did not graduate with a degree in Education or in a specific content area, the individual should be able to simply take the necessary coursework and then become a teacher. A standardized test does not help us to see if a prospective teacher can teach. People can master knowledge on a test, but that does not mean that they can teach. If there is a desire to evaluate a prospective teacher beyond the coursework that he or she has taken, then we should seek more evaluative measures that assess his or her actual teaching performance rather than what he or she can or cannot accomplish on a standardized test.

One test I have found to be nothing but a scam is the Georgia Assessments for the Certification of Educators (GACE). This test is preventing so many new good teachers from being able to enter into the teaching profession because of this poorly constructed test. If you don’t pass the test, you never get any feedback about what you missed and you get the same test each time. This test is simply a get rich scheme for the state of Georgia.

The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 needs to be eliminated too. It’s simply an unfunded mandate that does not provide teachers and administrators with the financial resources they need to improve their schools and student academic achievement. With all of the problems with the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, it puts too much additional stress on teachers who already don’t have the resources they need to improve student academic achievement.

We need to be doing everything that we can do to get new teachers into the classroom who have demonstrated a strong commitment to entering into the profession by completing the necessary coursework, which includes student teaching. Let’s abolish all of these standardized tests that are preventing quality teachers from helping us to fulfill the mission of a high quality education for all. I really don’t understand why we are putting so much investment in a test to certify teachers to teach when they have devoted a significant amount of time in college to becoming a teacher. It looks like we have more faith in a test than we have in four years of college education.

I would like to thank all of our teachers for doing such a great job. You are truly not paid what you should be paid. I applaud all of those prospective teachers who are still committed to joining such a noble profession. When you are considering your votes for politicians in the mid-term elections, be sure to find out what they have planned to improve education in America, and be sure to ask them what they will do to make it better for new teachers to enter into the profession.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

The Falsehoods of Classroom Participation

How many of you have ever looked at your course syllabus and found that you were being evaluated for “classroom participation”? How many of you have also looked at your course syllabus and discovered that you were not provided with an understanding of how you would be evaluated based on “classroom participation”? I have wrestled with these two aforementioned queries for some time now. I contend that it is quite problematic to evaluate students based on “classroom participation” when they are not given specific details about how they will be evaluated.

One of the chief reasons why I find being evaluated based on classroom participation is it becomes a way for your instructor to punish you if he or she does not like you, or if he or she has ever taken offense to something that you have said in class. When one views classroom participation from this perspective, it becomes tremendously easy for one to understand how “classroom participation” can become a mask for discrimination. In college, I’m not sure that we (instructors) should even be focusing on evaluating students for their classroom participation. The focus for instructors should be on ensuring that students are learning and not on punishing them for a lack of attendance, which is often the larger rationale for why classroom participation is included on most course syllabi (in my opinion). The challenging way in which the course instruction is offered should be enough to drive students to class. Instructors should not use false ploys like “classroom participation” to try to punish students for not attending their classes.

I must say, however, that if a clear standard is being employed when one includes “classroom participation” on his or her syllabus, then I do not have a problem with including it. For example, when an instructor decides to engage students in a significant amount of the learning activities inside of the classroom, then I think that it would certainly be reasonable for classroom participation to be included on the syllabus, and, in this case, it is justified to have it account for a significant percentage of students’ grades (if this is the desire of the instructor). From my experience as a college instructor, I know how important class attendance and participation in class is. I do not think, however, that it is my duty as an instructor to be students’ parents and force them to attend my classes. I have hardly ever had a problem with any student who elected to not attend my classes. One of the dominant reasons why I believe that this has happened is I empowered students to make the decision about whether or not to come to my classes or not. From the very first day of class, I always let them know that without an excused absence I would not do anything to help them with what they missed in class.

Instructors need to rethink how they construct their notions of “classroom participation” and students need to begin to understand the value behind coming to class and actively participating in class. It is not simply the responsibility of the instructor to provide students with knowledge, but students have to become stakeholders in their own education. The next time you see “classroom participation” on your course syllabus be sure to ask probing questions of your instructor about what it really means, especially if he or she has not provided you with any specific details.

Antonio Maurice Daniels
University of Wisconsin-Madison