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 standards, only a Luddite would ignore the potential of new methods for using technology, research on the most effective strategies for reading instruction, or current cooperative learning approaches. Great teachers are always learning more about math for elementary students, science for disabled students, or Shakespeare for Advanced Placement students. In addition, outstanding teachers continually grow by taking college and inservice courses, reading professional literature, and engaging others in serious conversation about school issues. Often, the finest teachers serve on education committees or become teacher experts who lead study groups or professional development courses. b. The ability to look at life in a different way and to explain a topic in a different way. There are many different learning styles. Not everyone gets a subject as taught by every teacher. I’ve taken subjects (chemistry for instance) many times, at many different levels, by many different teachers. I took College Organic Chemistry three times from three different teachers. I can tell you from experience that it was more the skill of the third teacher than the third time taking the class that allowed me to pass. Bad teachers only look a subject matter one way. They teach based on how they learn. This works for some people, but fails for others. The good teachers are ones that are able to teach to different learning styles. If students don’t understand a subject, they teach it a different way. Instead of looking at abstract formulas, they explain with images what the formulas represent. This requires a through understand of their subject, as well as the ability to consider that subject in different ways, which not all teachers are able to do. This principle applies whether a teacher or professor teaches Organic Chemistry it comes down to their ability to be flexible. III. Professional Qualities 1. Steadiness of Purpose and Teaching Personality
Some people, particularly people outside the profession, expect teachers to “perform” in classrooms and to maintain a high energy level. Great teachers, however, are not necessarily performers. Instead, they hold students' attention through subject mastery, skillful lesson design, actions that demonstrate caring, and an honesty that reveals their individual personality. Teachers conduct formal teaching for about 25 hours each week, 40 weeks each year—plus individual conferences, hall duty, informal meetings, and other contacts with students. No one can sustain a performance for that length of time. The great teacher is steady, intelligent, concerned, interesting, and interested. The performers do not last long. 2. Expert Use of Instructional Methods
Great teachers use a variety of instructional methods that they feel comfortable with; within the same school, you'll find different teachers getting excellent results using such methods as mini-lectures and interactive lectures, problem-based learning, cooperative groups, and multiple intelligences approaches. No single teaching method or approach works best for every teacher with every student. However, research and experience strongly support some instructional approaches over others. The best teachers select from the methods that are well researched and widely practiced at their grade or level or within their subject area, and become expert in several that fit their style and the needs of their students at that time. 3. Dedication to excellence.
Good teachers want the best from their students and themselves. They don’t settle for poor results, knowing it reflects upon their ability to teach just as much upon a student’s ability to excel. The best teachers encourage the sharing of ideas and offer incentives (like not having to do homework for a day) to get students to think outside the box. They don’t tolerate students’ badmouthing other teachers, doing their best to point out that other teachers are human too. They encourage students to be good people, not just good memorizers of text. They want students to learn and be able to apply what they learned, not just be able to pass tests. 4. Willingness to Put in the Necessary Time
You cannot achieve greatness by working from 8:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Teaching, like every other serious profession, requires time. Dennis Littky, an award-winning principal, said, “You can't be a great teacher or principal and not work long, long hours” (personal communication, November 11, 1988). By investing time—to prepare for class, to go over student work, to meet students outside of class, to talk to parents, to attend school meetings, and to serve on school committees—a great teacher indicates to students that she or he sincerely cares about their learning.
Most teachers belong to a teachers' association, union, or other organization that represents their interests. Typically, some formal document or agreement specifies how many minutes per day or hours per week they must teach; how much unstructured time they are entitled to; how many meetings they must attend; and the compensation they must receive for additional work beyond the usual load. Great teachers respect this agreement and acknowledge that it protects their rights, ensures academic freedom, and spells out good professional working conditions. But they don't hesitate to go beyond the contract voluntarily and often—for example, by meeting with a student study group during the teacher's preparation period or after school—in order to meet the needs of their students.
IV. Moral Qualities A. Willingness to help student achieve.
The best teachers are those that don’t stop teaching when the bell rings. They hold extra sessions for SAT prep, they reach out to students after class. They know that some need extra attention or assistance, and they don’t act like it’s not their job. They take that job seriously and know they aren’t just employed to get students to be able to do higher math, but do well in life. They realize that achievement isn’t just a good grade on a test, but a feeling of accomplishment with mastering a subject; they are willing to work with a student for that feeling. B. Unwavering support.
The best teachers know that everyone is able to do well if they have the right teacher. They don’t accept that a student is a lost cause. They encourage if you are frustrated and provide true belief that you can get the material. They stand up for individuals against other students, not allowing for in class taunting. Sometimes, they even extend this outside the classroom, although taunts in the hallways are very hard for teachers to combat. The best teachers are there if you need extra help and even encourage it. C. Positive Relationships with Other Adults
Too often, we underestimate the amount of time that teachers spend with other adults in a school—other teachers, administrators, and parents. Great teachers work well with each of these groups. They depend on other teachers as a constant source of information, enrichment, and sometimes solace. From study groups to faculty meetings to such rare moments as receiving an award or attending the funeral of a student, teachers need to support one another. Outstanding teachers quickly become identified as school leaders, whom other teachers admire and turn to for advice or collegial sharing.
The best teachers also find ways to work harmoniously with administrators and to show administrators how they can support teachers. For example, the teacher may point out areas of the curriculum that need attention and coordinate or offer to serve on a committee to explore solutions to a problem. Great teachers also place a priority on keeping parents informed about their children's progress, and they sensitively help parents understand their children's problems. These teachers understand that the lack of a strong partnership between teachers and families may undo many of their best efforts. D. Passion for life.
The best teachers aren’t just interested in their subject, they are passionate about it. They are also passionate about many other things. They praise good weather and smile when they take a few minutes to discuss last night’s episode of a popular TV show. They have an energy that almost makes them glow and that you want to emulate as much as possible. They approach tasks with a sense of challenge rather than routine. They take the universe’s curve balls and turn them into fun (if possible). They are human, certainly, but they make you feel that there is always a reason to keep going. Things will get better no matter how much they appear to suck at that moment. E. In-Depth Content Knowledge
Both progressive and conservative educators speak about the importance of content. From Deborah Meier, the MacArthur award-winning advocate of small schools of choice, to William Bennett, the former education secretary and critic of public schools, educators emphasize the importance of knowing the subject you teach. Everyone agrees that great teachers possess a solid command of content, whether their expertise lies in knowledge of reading in the early elementary grades or a serious command of biology or mathematics at the high school level.
Because of the close connection between preparation time and content, the best teachers often spend as much time preparing for a class as they do teaching it. Setting up a lab experiment for 5th graders, reading a short story three times in order to formulate good questions for discussion, or working through 15 math problems and anticipating questions and obstacles takes time and deepens the great teacher's mastery of content.