How to Make a Difference in a Teaching Career

Teaching is one of the few career paths in which you can be certain to make a positive impact on the world. An effective teacher not only instills in students the knowledge and skill associated with a particular subject, but they have a noticeable influence on students’ confidence and capability outside the classroom. A good teacher can change the trajectory of the lives of hundreds or thousands of students; entire communities can change thanks to the work of one committed and conscientious educator.

So, how do you become a teacher who can make a difference? Here are a few strategies for doing the most good over the course of your career.

Commit to an Underserved Subject

Every teacher is a valuable member of the education community, providing priceless services to their classroom of students. However, there are some subjects that tend to be a bit more difficult for teachers to manage, which results in lower rates of teachers capable of providing instruction in those subjects during their careers. As a result, certain subjects tend to suffer more significantly from the teacher shortage, and schools are often in desperate demand for teachers in these fields.

An excellent way to make a major impact is to commit your career to one or more of these underserved subjects. Specifically, you might consider:

Special education. Students with disabilities have unique requirements for their learning environments. With a master’s in special education, you can learn how to tailor your curriculum to individual students’ needs to ensure safety, comfort and education for your classes.

English as a second language. Teachers trained in ESL, also called EFL and TESOL, are in increasing demand thanks to larger numbers of students who are coming to the U.S. or growing up in houses with minimal English. You will need an ESL certification, with which you can find work with children or adults.

Math and science. Test scores in math and science have been dropping in the United States, which now ranks in the middle of country lists for academic achievement in these subjects. If you have a bachelor’s degree in math or science and are enthusiastic about teaching, you can find a high-paying teaching job that helps familiarize students with subjects they might otherwise struggle with.

Inspire, Encourage and Motivate

Teachers who lead their classrooms with fear tend to create in their students a lasting anxiety around learning as well as a dread of certain difficult subjects. Instead of trying to force students to learn class material, you should strive to inspire, encourage and motivate students to engage with your subject, which will allow them to find their own way to learning the material they need to succeed.

Inspiration, encouragement and motivation look different for different students. Some ways you might inspire, encourage and motivate include:

  • Showing students how knowledge and skill can be applied outside the classroom
  • Giving them opportunities to experiment with course materials
  • Providing them options to choose the direction of their studies
  • Believing in a student’s ability to master a subject

Act as a Role Model to Students and Adults

Everyone needs someone to look up to. For most students in your class, you are one of only a few adults they regularly interact with, which means your attitude and behavior can have a significant impact on their worldview. To ensure that your students act honorably, you should model the mindset you want them to adopt, which includes treating everyone with respect and making choices that contribute to common good. It is possible that your behavior will also impact school administrators and parents of your students, so your position as a role model should not drop when you are interacting with adults.

Cultivate a Community of Learning

Learning should not stop when students step foot outside your classroom. You should strive to create a community focused on learning, in which your students will be driven to engage with their surroundings in meaningful ways and educate themselves and those around them into the future. You might make education resources available to your students whether they are in your classroom or not, and you should allow students to share those resources with their friends and family members. You can also plan extracurricular events that bring together learners of all ages to engage with an interesting subject. When your students are surrounded by a community of learning, they will develop a passion for learning that will likely remain throughout their lives.

Offer Safety and Security in Your Classroom

Finally, sometimes all students need from their teachers is a safe space. Not all students have a healthy or happy home life; a classroom can become a haven where they are fully accepted and given opportunities to express themselves without fear. You should work to develop deep connections with your students, show them respect and listen to what they say and how they say it. Eventually, students will come to trust you and feel secure in your classroom.

As a teacher, you have the opportunity to touch hundreds, perhaps thousands of little lives. You will always have an impact on your students’ lives and outlooks — so you should strive to make that impact positive with the above strategies.