Occupation Thesaurus Entry: Teacher

Jobs are as important for our characters as they are for real people. A character’s career might be their dream job or one they’ve chosen due to necessity. In your story, they might be trying to get that job or are already working in the field. Whatever the situation, as with any defining aspect for your character, you’ll need to do the proper research to be able to write that career knowledgeably.

Enter the Occupation Thesaurus. Here, you’ll find important background information on a variety of career options for your character. In addition to the basics, we’ll also be covering related info that relates to character arc and story planning, such as sources of conflict (internal and external) and how the job might impact basic human needs, thereby affecting the character’s goals. It’s our hope that this thesaurus will share some of your research burden while also giving you ideas about your character’s occupation that you might not have considered before.

Wondering what jobs your cast of characters should have? Explore our occupation thesaurus, starting with this one on the teaching career!Occupation: Teacher

Overview: There’s a wide range of jobs available to those interested in education. Teachers work at various levels, from pre-kindergarden through the collegiate level. Public schools are fairly standard, with the teacher’s requirements being dictated at the county, state, and national levels. Private schools are more varied; they may follow the traditional public school model, espouse a certain educational method (Montessori, etc.), or be affiliated with a religious organization.

Teacher’s duties and education requirements vary depending on their area of focus. Through the elementary level, most teachers are responsible for a small group of students for the entire year, instructing them in the core education areas (math, language arts, science, and social studies). Special-area teachers focus on a specialized area of instruction, such as physical education, art, music, band, computer skills, etc. This model continues into middle and high school, where teachers are certified in a certain subject area and teach that subject throughout the day to a wide range of students. Professors do the same at the college level.

Teachers’ duties include preparing lesson plans based on established curriculum standards, teaching lessons to accommodate the needs and ability levels of many different students, assessing students, attending faculty meetings, conferencing with parents, and participating in workshops and other ongoing education opportunities. Some teachers may have additional duties as well, such monitoring students at lunchtime or recess, coaching a sports team, leading a student club or organization, and other before- and after-school responsibilities.

Necessary Training: Teaching certifications depend upon a number of criteria. In the US, many pre-k programs require no formal education for their teachers. Elementary and secondary teachers need a four-year degree, though they can go on to get their masters or doctorate degrees for better pay and the opportunity to move into an administrative capacity. Unaccredited private schools may have more lenient requirements. Professors are usually required to have a masters or doctorate.

Useful Skills, Talents, or Abilities: Empathy, enhanced hearing, gaining the trust of others, good listening skills, hospitality, multitasking

Helpful Character Traits: Adaptable, affectionate, alert, calm, cooperative, decisive, diplomatic, disciplined, discreet, enthusiastic, gentle, honorable, industrious, inspirational, intelligent, nurturing, objective, observant, optimistic, organized, passionate, patient,  protective, resourceful, responsible, studious, tolerant, wise

Sources of Friction: Unreasonable administrative expectations, frequently changing curriculums and teaching methods, being unable to adequately teach the basics because of the pressures to teach to a certain test, co-teaching with a teacher whose methods or philosophies are different than one’s own, limited funding that requires one to supplement supplies, conflict with parents (who don’t support the teacher when they should, whose absentee parenting makes their child’s success difficult, who want preferential treatment, etc.), seeing a student fail despite one’s best efforts to help him or her, conflict among students, being accused of inappropriateness by a student, suspecting that a student might be a victim of abuse, being unable to connect with a student and gain their trust, suspecting that a student is being bullied but being unable to catch the offender

People They Might Interact With: Administrators, students, parents, other teachers, classroom aides, mentors,

How This Occupation Might Impact One’s Basic Needs:

  • Self-Actualization: As with so many occupations, the dream doesn’t always match the reality. Teachers spend a large portion of their time doing things other than teaching. They can easily find themselves doing very little of what they love, making them dissatisfied with their chosen profession.
  • Esteem and Recognition: While teachers are slowly gaining the respect they reserve, there are still people who would rather their loved ones choose occupations that pay higher wages or garner more prestige. A teacher with a parent, spouse, or other influential person putting pressure on them to find new employment may take a hit in the esteem department. This could also occur if the educator has to find a second job in order to support themselves and their family.
  • Physiological Needs: The rise of school violence has made this scenario a sadly believable one that could threaten a teacher’s survival, along with their need for safety and security.

Common Work-Related Settings: Boarding school, custodial supply room, dorm room, elementary school classroom, high school cafeteria, high school hallway, juvenile detention center, parking lot, performing arts theater, preschool, principal’s office, prom, public restroom, school bus, school locker room, science lab, teacher’s lounge, university lecture hall, university quad


Becca Puglisi is an international speaker, writing coach, and bestselling author of The Emotion Thesaurus and its sequels. Her books are available in five languages, are sourced by US universities, and are used by novelists, screenwriters, editors, and psychologists around the world. She is passionate about learning and sharing her knowledge with others through her Writers Helping Writers blog and via One Stop For Writers—a powerhouse online library created to help writers elevate their storytelling. You can find Becca online at both of these spots, as well as on Facebook and Twitter.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Occupation Thesaurus Entry: Teacher

  1. Ryn says:

    Do you have for Chef and Photographer?

  2. :Donna says:

    No question, teachers are some of favorite beings 😀

  3. Pingback: Writing Links…4/9/18 – Where Genres Collide

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.