If you take a moment to look back on your school career, do you remember at least one or two teachers who truly influenced you and your future? Great teachers can do that, no matter what subjects they teach, but STEM teachers (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics ) especially have the opportunity to do this. These essential subjects often come with fear and mental blocks from the students, and breaking through these mental blocks can be life-changing. But what exactly makes for a great STEM teacher?
There are many qualities that create an excellent STEM teacher, including communication and listening skills, passion for their subjects, flexibility, evolving their teaching techniques, facilitating their individual students’ progress, allowing their students to learn from their mistakes, and many more.
For those who choose this route, being a STEM teacher is a challenging but rewarding career. Here are the things that will make you a remarkable STEM teacher – one of those memorable teachers who influences young lives for the better.
How To Become A Good STEM Teacher
As a STEM teacher, you have an essential role in influencing students’ ability to analyze and solve complex problems. STEM education is not just about theory. It is about experiential learning and allowing students to do things in the classroom actively. The challenge with STEM subjects is that they require focused attention and deep understanding from your students, which in turn will allow them to appreciate what they are learning. Your students also need to come to grips with real-world applications.
In the extensive list that follows, you will see that certain qualities are essential to all teachers. Some, however, apply more specifically to teachers of STEM programs.
Strong Communication Skills
Strong communication skills are essential to being an effective teacher of any grade or subject. You need to understand and connect with your students to help them overcome their fears and mental blocks. You also need to help learners know how what they are learning is related to the real world to engage with and enjoy the learning experience.
Great Listening Skills
Linked closely to communication is listening. Listening to what is and, sometimes more revealing, what isn’t said. When you, as a teacher, sincerely listen to your student and then meet them where they are, your student will be more apt to grasp the lesson you are teaching.
Collaboration With Colleagues
From teaching assistants to fellow teachers and leaders, being open-minded, willing to share knowledge and experiences, and open to learning from each other is vital to becoming a great teacher. Collaboration sparks creativity which elevates everyone involved to be more effective educators.
Great Engagement Skills
If you are a good teacher, you will captivate your learners with humor, creativity, and a strong presence. You can’t just lecture on your subject; you need to be engaging in your teaching. Obviously, the way you engage will differ depending on what subject and grade you are teaching.
Later in this article, we will explore methods for a STEM teacher to engage effectively.
Ability To Show Empathy
Being empathetic about what is happening in your student’s personal lives and taking time to understand their learning abilities will help you reach them. Empathy is essential for making a genuine connection and impact on your students. It builds rapport and mutual trust.
Think about it as treating the students in the way that they want and need to be treated. By doing this, you will be focusing on understanding what the students really need from you, as opposed to what you think they need.
Practice Loads Of Patience
Whether it is with students, or (more often) parents, or sometimes even colleagues, you will no doubt have your patience tested regularly. Patience is an essential skill for a great teacher. You will be dealing with the same questions repeatedly, as well as people who are unable to see all sides of an issue.
Don’t forget to be patient with yourself as well. A little bit of grace can go a long way.
Practice Good Time Management
Teaching is a balancing act – from preparing your lessons to hands-on teaching time and then assessments and grading, you may not feel like you have enough hours in the day. Use all the tricks in the book to become more organized and ensure that you don’t miss anything important, especially during class time.
As the old saying goes, the only thing constant is change. In a world that is constantly evolving, you will need to be able to adapt your teaching methods to your audience continually. You must be willing to use new resources as they become available and be open to changing practices and meeting new requirements.
Along with being adaptable, it helps to have a:
Lifelong Love Of Learning
Expanding your own knowledge in your subject, teaching methods, technology, and how your STEM subject relates to the real world is critical for being a great STEM teacher. It goes without saying that as a STEM teacher, you need to deeply understand and know how to apply your subject to real life. Teachers with a passion for their subject matter will likely be able to pass that passion on to students.
Flexibility To Teach Different Learning Styles
By their nature, STEM subjects cover material that some students might have challenges in grasping. Understanding the students’ different learning styles and taking time to adapt your teaching style accordingly will help you connect with and influence your students.
Using pop culture references and examples that your students will be familiar with will bring your teaching alive, make it relatable, and keep your entire class engaged.
Flexibility In The Lesson Plan
You may spend time working on a lesson plan, but STEM subjects tend to play havoc with this. When was the last time everything went exactly as planned?
The students’ discussions and investigations can lead you down different paths, making it challenging to cover content in a stepwise process. Be flexible and willing to deviate from your lesson plan to keep the lessons fun and exciting and keep your students engaged.
Develop Advanced Teaching Techniques
In the Information Age, we have access to incredible technology, right at or fingertips. As a STEM teacher, you need to adapt your teaching techniques and use technology to attract your students’ attention and keep them engaged.
Facilitate Your Students’ Learning Progress
As a STEM teacher, you need to move through the teaching process step-by-step, ensuring that your students understand each lesson, ultimately empowering them to become independent learners. Support the learning process of students.
In doing this, you also need to avoid spoon-feeding your learners by giving out answers and providing easy explanations. STEM is about critical thinking and discovery.
Encourage the students to ask questions, actively participate in experiments, etc. STEM learning is far more effective when done actively as opposed to passively.
Allow Your Students To Learn From Their Mistakes
Closely linked to the point above – you need to allow the students to make mistakes. More than that, it’s important that students understand that mistakes and failures are expected in STEM lessons. It’s part of the learning process. (We’re not talking about failing grades or flunking out here, we’re talking more about getting results and using that feedback to improve.)
Related Post: Is it Okay to Fail?
Yes, giving the students enough slack to make mistakes is a key characteristic of a good STEM teacher. It will help the students understand the lessons you are teaching and, ultimately, become independent learners.
Use Hands-On Teaching Strategies
Most students learn exceptionally well when they face problems and search for resolutions for themselves. The challenge is good for them. And they will be motivated by their success when they find the solutions for themselves.
STEM programs often focus on hands-on learning, and project based learning, where the focus is to complete a task that may involve concepts from several STEM disciplines. Effective STEM teachers should be well versed in guiding students through the process.
You will need to practice asking open-ended questions that have many possible answers, then stand back and allow the students to search for solutions. Find ways to intrigue them and draw them into the problem to maintain engagement.
Become A Guide And Mentor
Ensure that your classroom is a warm and friendly space where your learners are comfortable to participate and ask questions. But you will still need to have rules and deadlines and provide enough structure and boundaries.
Have High Expectations Of Your Students
Setting high expectations provides your students with a challenge and encourages them to succeed. This means believing that your students should always strive to achieve their best.
You do not need to be strict or micro-manage the learners. Rather, by raising your expectations, your students will work hard, giving more attention and effort to their work (even when you’re not watching them.) Strive to create a classroom culture around hard work and self-belief.
Related Post – Are STEM Students Smarter? Read our article to find out.
Remain Open To Learning
You might be accustomed to the idea of being the expert in your chosen STEM subject, and you absolutely should have some level of mastery over your subject. Still, in this age of information, you should be open to learning new facts and ideas, even from your students. Teaching is a two-way process where you share your expertise, and you learn from your students.
No matter how advanced we become, we should always see ourselves as students ready to learn.
Develop The Ability To Help Learners Focus
Lack of attention is a common issue in all classrooms, and in a STEM class, it can severely hamper the development of the students. Generally, the problem is less about the lack of discipline or motivation than simply not knowing how to pay attention. Understanding this and learning how to teach the children this particular skill is critical.
Pacing The Class
In STEM labs and classes, you will likely see students actively involved in their work and engaging with their teachers. Some may work faster, and others may be slower. As a great STEM teacher, you will moderate your speed and provide a personalized learning experience for each learner, no matter their personal ability.
Staying Abreast Of The STEM Industry
We mentioned earlier that a good teacher has a passion for their subject and life long learning. Staying up to date with the STEM industry goes hand-in-hand with this, especially in Technology fields.
Keep up with technologies and applications by following influential people in the STEM industry and listening to their talks and debates. Read articles and papers about new products and technologies. And then find ways to include the news and learnings in your classroom.
Are STEM Teachers In Demand?
Without a doubt, STEM teachers are in very high demand. Math and science education is essential to keeping the field of technology expanding and evolving as it currently is.
There is an abundance of funding in the United States education system for STEM teaching, though there are not enough teachers to keep up. This leaves potential STEM students shut out.
According to The National Math and Science Initiative, more than half of high school graduates are not ready to learn college-level math. This is a staggering statistic. Even more frightening, only 36% of students can take basic science classes in college. Additionally, approximately one in three math and science teachers in middle school don’t have the correct qualifications to teach STEM subjects.
So, about that STEM teacher shortage:
How To Become A STEM Teacher
Generally speaking, secondary and post-secondary school STEM teachers specialize in a specific subject. However, primary school teachers will teach general STEM lessons to inspire and motivate their students to be interested and excited about science, math, or technology.
To become a STEM teacher, you will need a bachelor’s degree in a science, mathematics, engineering, or technology field. To become a primary or high school teacher, you will need student teaching experience and education training. Various programs exist in the United States which will allow you to earn these qualifications. Alternatively, you can obtain a master’s degree in teaching or education.
To teach STEM subjects at a college or university level, you will need a master’s degree, and many professors hold a doctorate in their field.
Great STEM Teacher Qualities Checklist
- Strong Communication Skills
- Great Listening Skills
- Collaboration With Colleagues
- Great Engagement Skills
- Ability To Show Empathy
- Practice Loads Of Patience
- Practice Good Time Management
- Being Adaptable
- Lifelong Love Of Learning
- Flexibility To Teach Different Learning Styles
- Flexibility In The Lesson Plan
- Develop Advanced Teaching Techniques
- Facilitate Your Students’ Learning Progress
- Allow Your Students To Learn From Their Mistakes
- Use Hands-On Teaching Strategies
- Foster Curiosity
- Become A Guide And Mentor
- Have High Expectations Of Your Students
- Remain Open To Learning
- Develop The Ability To Help Learners Focus
- Pacing The Class
- Staying Abreast Of The STEM Industry
Wrap Up – What Makes a Great STEM Teacher
Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan said, “True teachers are those who help us think for ourselves.” These words could not be more applicable to the essential STEM teachers, where the main goal is to teach students to become analytical and independent thinkers.
Getting the required education and landing a teaching job is one thing. Becoming a great teacher is quite different and takes time. With a genuine passion for your subject and a desire to grow and inspire your students, you can become the kind of memorable teacher that all educators wish to be.
Take inspiration from the most memorable teachers that made an impact on your life, or be the teacher you always wished you had.
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