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ABCs for Teachers

Ask any teacher. He or she will be sure to tell you that -- despite long summers spent basking on the beaches of the Riviera, despite winter breaks spent sliding down the slippery slopes of Aspen, despite hours that would make a banker green with envy, despite full-time salaries spent on filling the leisure hours left by what are really only part-time jobs -- teaching is a tough profession.

Hah! The truth is, a teacher's job really is as easy as ABC!

As you get ready to head back to school, don't worry about demanding parents or troubled students, over-filled classrooms or under-stocked supply closets, assessment tools that conflict with curriculum goals, or discipline procedures that conflict with common sense. Just get in there and have some fun!

A teacher's job, after all, is easy -- as easy as ABC. Look at the facts! Teachers need only to be

Accessible --
Available to meet with students, parents, guardians, non-custodial parents, foster parents, social workers, administrators, and other teachers; for early morning and evening conferences, family crisis counseling, academic crisis intervention, emotional trauma triage, homework questions, report card complaints, duty fill-ins, emergency classroom coverage, PPT meetings, PTA meetings

Bouncy --
Exhibit excitement, energy, and drama; engage students in even the most un-engaging topics.

Creative --
Conceive and execute innovative lessons that hold student interest while facilitating learning.

Demanding --
Hold each student to the highest standards without expecting more than each student is capable of producing.

Even-tempered --
Respond to praise, criticism, chaos, and crisis with equal aplomb.

Flexible --
Adjust instantly to lesson failure, power failure, Internet failure, unexpected interruptions, and student "decompression" without losing a minute of instructional time.

Goal-oriented --
Align curriculum with standards and with assessment tools, but never "teach to the test."

Linda Starr, a former teacher and the mother of four children, has been an education writer for nearly two decades. Starr is the curriculum and technology editor for Education World.

More StarrPoints

H umorous --
Maintain a sense of humor in the face of parental complaints, administrative demands, community pressure, and derogatory student Web sites.

Interested --
Demonstrate -- or feign -- interest in every aspect of every student's life -- from pet antics to parental shortcomings.

Judicious --
Understand the difference between a five year old and a 16 year old, between disrespect and a smart remark, between a squirt gun and a lethal weapon, between thoughtlessness and threat -- and react accordingly.

Knowledgeable --
Thoroughly know the subject matter being taught; never need to say "I just said that to trick you!"

Loyal --
Respect the privacy of students and their families and the reputations of colleagues.

Moral --
Demonstrate good character at all times, especially when dealing with students.

Non-acquisitive --
Just love to teach; expensive toys or cushy vacations don't make you feel complete.

Organized --
Be able to locate a lesson plan, an activity template, a sample of student work, a field trip permission slip, a reference book, or just the right story at a moment's notice.

Passionate --
Believe that anything worth doing is worth doing well -- and live accordingly.

Questioning --
Demonstrate curiosity about everything, and share that curiosity with students.

Respectful --
Recognize that students are real people with their own interests and problems, beliefs and cultures, personalities and issues -- and respect those differences.

Strong --
Be able to stand for hours at a time, bend to hear a small child's whisper, stretch to catch a tossed ball, run toward an injured student, crawl beneath a desk to retrieve a wayward gerbil, and withstand the cold winds of winter recess or the withering heat of a late spring field trip -- without lunch or a bathroom break.

Tactful --
Deal with students, parents, colleagues, and administrators without exhibiting sarcasm, defensiveness, anger, impatience, or dismissal; exhibit a professional demeanor at all times.

Understanding --
Be constantly aware of student moods and behavior; understand the difference between a bad day and a bad attitude; notice a student's slide from sadness to hopelessness -- and respond accordingly.

Verbally proficient --
Speak grammatically, demonstrating an extensive vocabulary; explain concepts and directions clearly; speak with confidence and authority.

Well-rounded --
Develop skills and interests outside the classroom; attend movies, plays, concerts, and lectures; read, travel, exercise; enroll in personal development classes. When appropriate, share those experiences with students.

Xpert --
Demonstrate knowledge of various stages of child development and of various schools of educational theory, and stay current with educational research and practices by reading professional journals and attending conferences and workshops.

Youthful --
Exhibit curiosity and enthusiasm and keep up with the culture and concerns of students -- without participating in them.

Z --
ZZZZZZZZZ -- Get a lot of sleep. You need it!