Service Members and Teaching: The Characteristics Desired by Principals

By Craig Gilman
Faculty Member at American Public University

Are you are a military service member who has considered becoming a teacher after the military, but uncertain if you have the personal and professional traits for success in the classroom? Chances are you do.

“There must be, within our Army, a sense of purpose.  There must be a willingness to march a little farther, to carry a heavier load, to step out into the dark and the unknown for the safety and will-being of others.”
~ General Creighton Abrams

When you wear your uniform and look in the mirror, what do you see? What characteristics do you possess that caused you to dedicate yourself to years, if not a lifetime, of service to a cause greater than yourself? Do you believe yourself to have integrity, pride, determination, discipline, courage and selflessness? Are you willing to go the extra mile, accomplish more with less, take the lead, and share the load? Are you a disciplined, driven, well-organized self-starter with excellent communication skills? Have you grown as a result of your experiences in the military? Do you sleep well at night knowing you have served others?

If so, you can continue to do so. You can lead a different army; one of tomorrow’s leaders of business, government and the military.  The new “army” that will one day take your place, are today’s students.

The following is a summary of the personal, professional, and other traits that school principals look for when they consider hiring new teachers. While military members might take these for granted, school administrators find that veterans who have successfully served have a tested and proven ability to take responsibility, assume accountability, and demonstrate the very traits that are regularly associated with successful teachers.

[Interested in learning more about your online options in education? Learn more about the School of Education programs at APU.]

Typically, principals want teachers who have a passion for education, a strong desire to work with students and high-quality interpersonal skills that allows them to collaborate with peers, parents, and members of the community. Principals want teachers who possess a strong work ethic and good planning and organizational skills to meet the growing demands of the changing school curriculum as well as the technology needs in the modern classroom.

In regards to personal traits and skills, principals look for prospective teachers who demonstrate both a sense of responsibility and integrity and are punctual and emotionally stable. Professional traits that are important include good communication skills and a commitment to education.

In addition to the personal and professional traits mentioned above, principals look for traits that indicate success in the broader spectrum of school and classroom. Working in a school means working as a member of a team and having an innate ability to see the big picture at the institutional, community and national level. To be a successful member of such a team, teachers need to demonstrate enthusiasm, a positive attitude and professionalism. Good judgment and strong problem-solving skills are also essential. When working with students, good classroom-management skills, the ability to plan and prepare ahead, and an understanding of what is relevant in today’s society are all extremely important, but more so is a sincere respect for student diversity and all individual students.

Continue to lead by becoming a teacher. The traits that inspired you to serve in the military are the same traits you need to serve your community today. There can be no greater role model for today’s youth than those who served in uniform.

Principals understand this.

They also know that the toughness it takes to succeed and serve in the military goes a long way in today’s schools. However, it is up to you to find the conviction to take the first steps. Decide what grade level or subject areas you have a passion for. Look into university programs that will lead to teacher certification in your state. Investigate such programs as the TEACH grants, Troops to Teachers, and Teach for America. Go forth and conquer. You have only yet begun to serve!

About the Author:
Craig Gilman is currently an online, adjunct who teaches COLL100 and for the School of Education for American Public University. A veteran who served in the United States Marine Corps, he is a former, certified public school, secondary social studies teacher with an MS Education and MA International Relations from Old Dominion University.


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