Skills to Become a Professional Teacher

by Mark Applegate

Today's teachers have many challenges unknown even a few generations ago. The rise of technology, the decline of the nuclear family, federal and state regulations, and a host of other challenges have transformed the profession. Nevertheless, a teacher must have certain skills to navigate the sometimes choppy waters of modern education.

Subject Matter Depth

You must have a measure of subject matter knowledge to be an effective educator. In secondary and postsecondary education, while you have a set of subjects to teach, you'll also need skills in other disciplines to help your students apply the facts. Science teachers often assist in reading comprehension. Math teachers may assist in science or technology. In preschool and primary education, you'll likely teach all core subjects, sometimes with the help of specialists or aides. Creating engaging lesson plans is challenging if you have no interest or knowledge in the topic.


Communication skills are used from before the first bell until well after school is finished for the day. In a technology-saturated world, parents may communicate through email or social media before and after hours. The challenges of communicating with parents is often cited as a reason why some teachers leave the occupation. Classroom instruction requires you to communicate both facts and applications to your students in a way that shares information and teaches them to learn on their own. Teachers share lesson plans and presentations within a school district and at conferences on a regular basis. Teachers must also communicate effectively with administration about job expectations and methodologies.


Flexibility in teaching is sometimes overlooked. Teaching standards and methodologies change frequently. There are often fads in teaching led by successful educators in conferences or seminars, but these can be very hard to duplicate in your unique situation. The mark of a flexible teacher is that she can apply the good parts of these fads and discard the bad. Flexibility is also important since every student is an individual and responds differently to teaching styles and methods. While some students memorize, others require hands-on, personal attention. Standardized testing highlights the need for flexibility since material and expectations change frequently.

Classroom Management

A teacher who knows the subject and how to teach and apply it, but can't maintain order in the classroom, will not be an effective teacher. He must use discipline when necessary, while not forgetting to offer praise when deserved. He must set clear expectations and rules early in the school year and must be consistent in executing the rules to the end. He must gain the respect of students and address disrespectful ones quickly.


Technology saturates teaching. While many schools offer technology classes, students in most classrooms use technology to research, organize and present material. Interactive whiteboards, laptops and projectors are essential "tools of the trade" for many teachers. Most schools require teachers to update an electronic gradebook program that allows parents to see student grades in real time. A professional teacher must support technology teachers and parents in teaching the benefits and dangers of using computers.

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