A Day in the Life of a Teacher

What do teachers do in the classroom?

That question seems simple enough, but teachers do a lot more than you may have observed in your experience as a student: there is plenty going on behind the scenes. We see teachers as people with a set of responsibilities, including asking questions, evaluating students, lecturing, praising or critiquing, assigning homework, supervising and grading examinations, and, at the end of the semester or year, grading each student.

Teaching involves a lot more than just performing a set of actions in front of students. A significant portion of a teacher’s work in the classroom is mental. Teachers will need to provide solutions to problems as they arise. Generally, our understanding of teaching is based on our recollection of our teachers in school. Our memories lead us to conclude that we know what teaching is and what teachers do.

However, in a seminal article titled “The Way Teaching Is,” educational researcher Philip Jackson noted the changing nature of classrooms, due in no small part to differences in the nature of the classroom environment created by different teachers. In some ways, our notion of what it means to teach may be an amalgamation of the various classrooms we were a part of.

Teaching is a science and an art that requires teachers to continually examine and modify lessons based on the experiences of their students. In his book The Art and Science of Teaching: A Framework for Effective Instruction, Robert J. Marzano suggests there is no one way to teach and no one right method that will lead to effective instruction for all children. If the one effective method existed, it could be taught in the same way that children are taught to ride a bike and everyone could implement it. Marzano leans toward the belief of teaching as an art: effective teachers, he feels, find the right blend of strategies given the students they are teaching.

The teacher as a role model for students. We know teachers can be role models for their students.

At the pre-K and elementary school levels, students look up to teachers as adult role models. At the secondary school level, teachers can be extremely powerful influences on the development of positive attitudes and behaviors among students. Students learn as much from what teachers say as from what teachers do. Also at the high school level, student–teacher relationships are critically important. Students often seek out teachers when they are experiencing academic, social, and/or emotional issues.

The teacher as a spontaneous problem solver. Teachers must be able to respond rapidly and appropriately to completely unpredictable situations that may occur in the classroom.

For instance, a self-proclaimed relative pulls one of your students out of class. How do you respond? A student may decide to stop listening to any of your lectures, or another may faint due to health issues. While it may be easy for teachers to plan and reflect on previous experiences outside the classroom, such luxuries are usually not available when working face-to-face with students. Teachers need to be able to think on their feet and respond to complex, ever-changing situations.

The teacher as a reflective thinker. Teaching has an element that cannot be defined or described—it can only be experienced. You will gradually develop your ability to listen to students and to communicate to your students a genuine sense of concern for their education. How you show this concern will depend on your personality and your strengths, as well as your educational background. Teachers’ thought processes are influenced by a wide variety of factors, such as the curriculum, the community, the school principal, and personal theories and beliefs about teaching.



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