Want to do more than just snag a job? Want to make a real impact on the lives of youth and the educational and societal systems that shape them? Read on for our unofficial guide on how to teach like you mean it, and become a leader in the process.

1.    Know Yourself

Content is king, but self-knowledge might well be queen. You won’t know everything on your first day of class, but you should be clear on why you have chosen the teaching profession. Remain focused on this passion, and it will drive you through even the most challenging lessons.

2.    Take a Stand

In interview after interview, we have heard that educators cannot afford to sit back when students are not being given the opportunities they deserve. As you acclimate to your new school and new position, take time to join committees and/or professional organizations devoted to highlighting issues of inequity at the local, state or even national level.

3.    Respect the Path

The teachers and administrators who have come before you have much wisdom to impart. Find a mentor you can relate to and respect, and learn from that person. Struggling to identify a leader in your building? Cast a wider net and start following the careers of educator leaders whose work and philosophy you admire.

4.    Sweat the Small Stuff…

Powerful leaders in education almost always begin their journey in the classroom. Stay focused on creating a positive classroom culture where real learning happens every day — and don’t forget to celebrate the success of your students along the way.

5.    …but Keep Your Eye on the Big Picture

Some teachers are truly cut out to spend their entire careers in front of a class. Others will make more impact in administration or policy. You won’t know which kind of teacher you are right away, but stay open to the direction your career in education may take you as you figure out the best way to make a powerful impact on the students who need it the most.


Caitlin Corrigan holds a BA in English from Goucher College and earned her MFA in Fiction from Rutgers-Newark. Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming in several web and print outlets, including BUST Magazine, The New York Times’ education blog, Word Riot, Monkeybicycle, Necessary Fiction, The Review Review, NANO Fiction, The Nervous Breakdown, the Tin House Open Bar blog, and elsewhere. She lives in southern Maine, where she works as a case manager and is at work on her first novel.