1. Education

Four Stages of Teaching

The Life Cycle of a Teacher


Just as with any career, it takes time for teachers to truly excel in their job. Many teachers quit within the first three years. This makes sense because these are when new teachers have the steepest learning curves. Teachers typically progress through four main stages during their career. Each stage brings its own challenges and rewards. The key to being happy and fulfilled as a teacher is embracing each stage, learning from it, and moving on with grace and joy.

1. Learning the Basics

This is the stage where all new teachers begin. Each person coming into the teaching profession has fears and concerns about what they have chosen to do with their lives. Typically, the primary focus in the beginning is classroom management and keeping students on task and engaged with daily lessons. Teachers at this stage must learn to manage student behavior. This includes the daily enforcement of classroom rules in a fair and consistent manner. Teachers in this stage must also begin to create their repertoire of lessons. Expect a lot of bumps and bruises during this stage. However, most teachers pass through this stage within a year or so. The high number of teachers who leave within the first three years of teaching do so because they never progress past this stage.

2. Creating Systems That Work

Once the basics are down and teachers realize that students are not going to eat them for breakfast, they can move past classroom management concerns and begin to put into place more sophisticated systems that work for them. These systems would help teachers deal with issues like tardies, collecting homework, dealing with latework, controlling restroom use, and book check in/out. Refining these systems helps the teacher move into the next stage.

3. Refining Lessons and Growing in Confidence

This stage is reached when the classroom really seems to come together. Student behavior is under control. The teacher has created lesson plans that they can use throughout the year. They have come up with their own educational philosophy on which they base classroom decisions. They have also put systems in place that make their daily housekeeping tasks easier. Now is when they really can become effective in their role as teacher. They can begin to refine their lessons and stretch towards new ways to present information. They grow in confidence and can judge much quicker not only if issues are going to occur in class but also whether ideas for lessons will work with their students. They also begin looking for ways to extend their lessons and create greater connections for students. They include a greater range of multimedia or try out new methods for teaching information. By the end of this stage, they have created excellent lessons and if they are not careful can become complacent in their day-to-day teaching. This leads to the last and final stage where the goal is to avoid going on autopilot and instead finding new ways to challenge yourself as an educator.

4. Avoiding Autopilot

The fourth and final stage of teaching is one that is rife with dangers. Teachers have their systems in place and have worked on and refined lessons so that they are better than ever before. The temptation might be to rest on their laurels and let teaching go on "autopilot." This is to be avoided at all costs for both yourself and your students. Personal and professional growth is the key to avoiding boredom and breathing new life into lessons that you have been teaching for 15 years. Mix things up. Try new things. Scrap entire sections of lessons and start from scratch. Teachers who continue to reinvent themselves and their lessons stay away from boredom and burnout.

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