What makes a great teacher?
All educators need to adjust their style to the needs and preferences of their students. Learners vary in age, education level, attitude, and a great number of other factors, so it’s important to recognize these differences and act accordingly.
There are, however, a few tried-and-true qualities that teachers can cultivate in order to be the best they can be.
Teachers today are faced with new challenges as technology advances and culture changes. Fortunately, teachers can easily learn how to navigate technology and adjust their style to the needs of their students. The real challenge is learning how to effectively communicate and relay information to any student.
Another challenge is to develop good relationships with each student. You’d better learn to break out of your shell and start engaging with your pupils.
So, what are those special qualities that make an exceptional teacher? Good teachers run an enjoyable, educational classroom. And students learn the material and then go on to the next tier of their education. Great teachers, however, leave a lasting impression on the lives of their students.
Essentially, being a good teacher is fine, but you should want to be great.
Teach for the Right Reasons
If you’re in it for the paycheck, you need not read another word. Of course, everybody needs money to sustain their lives and support their families. The thing is, you could support your family in a number of different ways. You chose to be a teacher.
You became a teacher because you have a passion for education. On top of that, you should have a passion for the subject matter and age level of your class.
Maybe you had an impactful teacher in elementary school or one of your teachers has kept in touch throughout your life and motivated you through hard times. Whatever your reason for teaching is, you need to keep your motivations in the forefront of your mind.
Subject matter aside, you should give your best effort to understand the individuals in your classroom. Get to know each of your students on a personal level and don’t pick favorites. Analyze the way your students interact and engage with one another and try to be keenly aware of your classroom’s social atmosphere.
Having a finger on the pulse of your class will allow you to be comfortable in your role as a leader, which will help you focus on something much more important—the students.
Building personal relationships and caring for your students will put you in the best position to benefit their lives, not only as learners but as individuals.
Know Your Subject
You may think you could do a good job teaching nearly any subject at a fourth-grade level. That is entirely possible, and that’s why substitute teachers are needed every day across the nation. However, that doesn’t mean you’re likely to make an impact on your students’ lives.
How many junior high school teachers do you remember? Do you remember the subject they taught? Better yet, do you remember anything specific that you learned in that class?
If you answered “yes” to any of those questions, that teacher was most likely really passionate about their subject matter. We enjoy passionate teachers because we remember information when it’s presented in an organized, enthusiastic manner. Helping students make a personal connection with the content and you, as the presenter, will increase retention. In reflection, many of us have a “favorite” teacher. What made them your favorite?
Having a deep grasp of your subject will give you the knowledge base to express complicated concepts in simple ways. Not only will you be able to relay complex information effectively, you’ll also be able to express your love of the subject.
You could go as far as to say that your love of the subject is embedded in the knowledge that your students gain. You remember those teachers because they excited you with their love of the subject.
The Importance of Empathy
This is a big one. Empathy is a game changer for great educators.
You can know the ins and outs of mathematics, but who’s going to listen to you if you express your knowledge to students who think you’re cold and impersonal? Learning to use empathy more effectively is an extremely powerful tool for teachers.
If your students can confide in you emotionally, you’ll be able to confide in them intellectually. Empathy builds trust and comfortability. This will help your pupils feel safe asking questions, being themselves, and communicating with classmates in an educational manner.
Students are easily frightened or threatened by their teachers. When the student-teacher relationship is one of fear, your classroom will not engage with you or the material. Build a relationship of trust and you’ll have an enjoyable class.
A Leadership Role – Selflessness
Your classroom isn’t really your classroom, is it? Think about the purpose of education and keep it in the front of your mind. It’s about the students, not you!
We’ve all had teachers that exploded on a classroom because they felt threatened or insulted by a group of heckling students. Those teachers are thinking of themselves and ignoring the fact that students act out for distinct reasons.
Students are unlikely to personally attack you for no reason. Don’t take things personally. Instead, work to identify why the student feels as though the classroom doesn’t deserve to be taken seriously. Problems at home, anxiety, frustration, or disinterestedness are all reasons that a student may act out.
Put your ego aside in situations where a student is acting out. Be more empathetic and contemplate ways to help your students get through their difficulties.
Remember, it’s about them, not you!
Be Self-Aware and Identify Your Weaknesses
Developing the qualities listed above is a great way to improve your abilities as a teacher. But if you want to be an exceptional educator, you will need to know yourself and your individual faults as an instructor.
Everyone has weaknesses.
Be aware of what you could improve on and do your best to implement effective practices. Let’s be honest, you’re going to be a teacher for a long time. You’ll need to keep changing with the times if you want to maintain your role as an exceptional educator.
So as long as you keep your priorities in mind and stay self-aware, you’ll be on your way to becoming a great teacher!
Author: Dr. Chandra Williams is the expert at turning around low performing districts and schools to close achievement gaps for students in school districts across the country resulting in double digit growth in reading and math. Learn more about her at www.CSAS.co.