What Makes A Great Teacher?
While it's important to attend the right school when earning your education degree, the real truth is that the best teachers have certain character traits, beliefs, and attitudes that make them excel.
Nearly everyone has a story about a teacher who bored them to tears, or worse, one who made them hate a subject rather than learn it. As well, most people have wonderful memories about a teacher who changed their lives. What do those teachers—the great ones—have in common?
Passion is essential to becoming the kind of teacher who students will always remember. In fact, two types of passion are important. The first is a passion for students' futures. Great teachers truly care whether their students blossom during their time together. Great teachers are equally passionate about the subjects they teach. You might pursue an education degree with a specialty in math, for example, but your real love is music. In that case you probably won't find yourself sufficiently inspired to reach for the stars. If you're not passionate about what you've learned while pursuing your education degree, how can you inspire your students about what they are learning from you?
Compassion is as important as passion, too. Great teachers are willing to consider an issue or conflict from a student's point of view. They take the time to listen, whether to a student's complaint or to a class's excitement over a lesson. Compassion is really a form of respect, and it works both ways. Allowing a student who is unhappy at home to behave badly toward other students isn't compassion; it's pity. There's no room for pity in the classroom, and great teachers know it. Compassionate teachers comprehend the situation and work towards solutions that teach the skills needed to handle personal or school- related issues in healthy ways.
Great teachers understand that there are many types of learners and work to reach them all. They instinctively know how to adjust their approaches to reach students who have become discouraged or distracted, are bored and need greater challenges, or who are insecure and need extra support.
Great teachers are flexible. If lessons they've polished just aren't taking off, really good teachers let them go and experiment with other ways of getting the material across. Partly these skills will be something they've learned while earning their education degree, but most great teachers are also naturally creative and curious enough to explore a variety of teaching approaches on their own.
While great teachers are flexible, they are also firm where need be. Consistency is essential in the classroom. Setting clear and reasonable boundaries in terms of behavior and learning expectations, and insisting that those boundaries be respected helps students feel secure enough to let go and learn.
Great teachers motivate. An unmotivated student might memorize a grammatical rule or mathematical equation, but only a motivated student will actually learn it, absorbing and understanding the material fully enough to apply it on their own in other situations.
Finally, the greatest teachers remain students their entire lives. They enter each day with an attitude of curiosity. They notice how others approach challenges, and try out different approaches themselves when opportunities arise. They appreciate the questions and even resistance their students might offer, finding those teachable moments that allow true learning to take place. Great teachers don't assume that because they have an education degree, they know all the answers. Instead, they ask as many honest, authentic questions of their students as they answer in the course of a day, and oftentimes, they ask more.
Last Updated: 06/08/2014