I. Physical Qualities
Belief in ourselves despite setbacks. Teachers encounter situations all the time that could be considered setbacks. Kids can be cruel, to each other and to teachers. They can have attitudes, especially teenagers. I’ve had teachers to were obviously nervous when they taught. Others were shy and only half committed to their subject. But the best teachers laughed off their mistakes: chalk breaking, books dropped, TVs not working. Where some teachers were flustered, the good teachers shrugged and went on about the lesson, sometimes even joking about the mess up. These teachers knew they were human and knew mistakes happen. They didn’t take things personally and let problems get them upset. b) Patience.
Some of my best teachers could have helped students through a mental breakdown. Not that they had to, but that they were so patient, they could have gone the distance. Many a time I, or classmate, would just not be “getting” a particular concept. My best teachers were those who were willing to keep explaining, knowing that eventually it would make sense. They were willing to wait until a distraction calmed students down, or abandon a lesson entirely if it was clear material needed to be revisited. The best teachers just stuck with it, willing to do what it took, no matter how long it took. c) True compassion for their students.
I’m sure we’ve all encountered a bad teacher who didn’t care what our excuse was. Certainly, some excuses weren’t valid, but many were. The best teachers cared about their students as individuals and wanted to help them. They had a sixth sense when a student needed extra attention and gave it gladly. They didn’t expect students to leave thoughts of the outside world at the door to the classroom. They took the time to discuss subjects outside their teaching, knowing that sometimes lessons can still be taught without following the textbook. Good teachers were willing to speak up for us to other teachers, if need be. They cared about us beyond the walls of their classroom.
Good teachers had understanding – not only the sixth sense mentioned above, but true understanding of how to teach. They didn’t have a rigid technique that they insisted on using even if it didn’t help us learn. They were flexible in their teaching style, adapting daily if need be. They understood the little things that affected our ability to learn; the weather, the temperature in the classroom, the time of day. They had an understanding of human nature and the maturity (or lack thereof) of teenagers. Good teachers knew that we hated to be called “young” and therefore pre-judged. They treated us as real people, not just “students.” e) Competence.
Outstanding teachers are highly capable. They know how to do their job, and they do it very well. They are smart, well educated, and well trained. A highly competent teacher knows the importance of using best practices, and setting high expectations for learners. A great teacher fully understands the development of the age of children he or she works with. He or she knows and understands the content and curriculum of the grade taught. The outstanding teacher constantly raises their level of competence by seeking out professional development opportunities. The outstanding educator is a life-long learner, strives to raise their level of competence, and communicates this idea.
II. Intellectual Qualities
a. Capacity for Growth
Like any other profession, teaching undergoes constant change. The past 30 years have witnessed a marked increase in education research and the emergence of solid information about teaching and learning. Great teachers remain intellectually alive and open to responsible change grounded in theory, research, and practice. The much-used phrase “lifelong learner” really does apply. Although any great teacher must judiciously decide what is worth pursuing and how to maintain high...
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