Successful teachers make sacrifices to improve the lives of their students.
Tips for School & District Administrators

Four Sacrifices the Best Teachers Make — Because They Want To

By Brian Gatens

Successful teachers make sacrifices to improve the lives of their students.In my experience, the best teachers have an inner drive that helps them realize their hard work improves the quality of their students’ lives. They get that teaching is a tough way to make a living, but they pride themselves on doing whatever it takes to help the kids.

In other words, they are willing to make sacrifices. Here are four that they embrace:

They work long hours

In comparison to the corporate world, the school day is relatively short, but teachers are expected to be working the entire time. With the exception of a built-in prep period and a 45-minute (or so) lunch, a teacher is in the classroom with the children.

On top of that, good teachers recognize they’ll have to work outside the regular day to complete lesson plans, communicate with students, grade student work and prepare for the next day.

This adds up to long hours, no doubt. But it’s time well-spent because the harder they work at their teaching craft, the better things go in the classroom, and that makes the work more enjoyable. Great teachers take extra time to do it right.

They keep learning

Learning never stops for quality teachers. While there may be tried-and-true classroom practices that you’re always going to employ, you have to be open to doing things differently if you think they will improve your practice.

One of the most frustrating aspects of teaching is having a colleague who won’t upgrade their practice because learning and applying it is inconvenient or time-consuming. I would venture to guess that same teacher would not want their heart surgeon to take that approach. Our students deserve the same.

They practice patience

Children require bucket loads of patience because they are mistake-making machines — that’s simply a part of growing up. Being a high-quality teacher means you know when to correct, when to let something go, and when to take a patient and kind attitude.

I’ve found that my most unsettling moments as a teacher came when I grew frustrated with certain children. Work hard to avoid getting frustrated like that. Instead, try to explain your frustration to the child, and say what they must do to correct it. Don’t plan on those corrections happening overnight. Sometimes they only became real after the child grows up a bit more.

They care deeply

Some students require a deeper level of caring. Regardless of your school’s location, socioeconomic status or reputation, I assure you that there will, from time to time, be a child in your school who needs you to listen, offer advice and care more deeply than you ever have before. The best teachers find a way to care for these children.

Not every teacher wants to deliver that level of caring, of course. There’s nothing wrong with having a simple desire to teach subject matter. After all, some schools and disciplines need specialists who can pass along information and test for it.

But inevitably, you’ll encounter a child who needs a teacher who is more than just an adult who knows a lot about math, science or English. They need a caring and compassionate attitude.

Teaching will never be an easy profession. That much we know, but we also know that being a teacher is far more than just a job or a backup plan for people who don’t know what to do after college. Frankly, teaching is second only to the family as the most powerful influence on the life of a child. And to do it well, you’re going to have to be prepared to make sacrifices that stretch beyond sharing subject matter with your students.

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