There are many characteristics, techniques and other factors that make a successful and exemplary teacher. These may be varied as the teachers themselves. However, there are certain time-tested attributes, characteristics, practices and environmental actors which contribute immensely to teacher success. In this paper, we have divided these elements into three categories which will be covered in details as we try to analyze this topic. The main subtopics of this paper can be categorized as Teacher-Personality and Attitude, Teacher-Student Psychology and Teacher-Institute Relationship.
Teacher-Personality and Attitude
There are certain personality characteristics and attitude issues which will help a teacher excel at his/her work. In this section of the paper we explore some of those issues in depth by explaining each point ad then adding some of our teaching experience whether it is an event, an observation or advice. The noted points can be summarized as follows:
1.Self-Presentation and Personality: This issues has two parts to it. The first one being the outside look of the teacher and the second being the conduct of the teacher in the class. It is widely believed that if a teacher is presentable, he/she will give a good impression to the students especially in the first few days of the class. This indicates that the teacher is taking his/her job seriously and acting professionally and the students eventually will appreciate that. In addition to looking presentable, the teacher’s personality in class plays a big role in how efficiently the class will be conducted. It is essential that the teacher send the right signals to the students so they will understand the basic rules in the class. My own experience tells me that when I set the rules and show the students that I care about them, they pay attention to me and they treat me with respect.
2.Enthusiasm: It is important to show the students that the teacher loves his/her job by his conduct in the class. This can be show in many different ways. some of the ways are to give real examples, speak with a varying vice (not monotonic) and encourage students by showing interest in their work.
3.Preparation: It is important that the teacher come to class well prepared with a lesson plan, interesting examples and good time management. The lesson plan should be clear and either written on the board or on the presentation, the examples should be interesting and related to the lesson plan; the students should feel that the class time is well oriented and not boring. For example, giving a short lecture and then a good practice for the students will get them involved early in the class and keep then interested.
4.Punctuality: For a teacher to excel and be highly regarded by his/her students, it is essential for the teacher to be on time for the class and in fulfilling his promises in timely fashion. An excellent teacher would show up early to class get the teaching material ready and returns the quizzes, homework assignments and projects in due time and go over then in class so the students can learn from their mistakes. Being punctual will help the students get organized and will make them relaxed knowing what to expect throughout the semester. The teacher should encourage the students to do that as well.
5.Consistency: Another issue that makes an excellent teacher is being consistent. The teacher should not miss classes without a real excuse, should be consistent with attitude and dealings with students such as offering help to all students the same way, and is always well prepared to teach the class.
6.Politeness: To get through to the students’ minds, it is imperative that the teacher be fair, humble, has a sense of humor, relaxed and kind. These qualities will indicate that the teacher is close to the students and make them feel comfortable as they attend the class. This positive atmosphere will also make students feel assured that they will get the grade they deserve.
7.Firmness and Control: Being polite does nor mean to have the class run our of control. Teacher needs to control the class in such a way that guarantees effectiveness and harmony in the class. By being firm and in control, the teacher is indicating that he/she is serious and is not willing to waste class time.
8.No Favoritism: An excellent teacher would treat his students based on the rules set by the courses syllabus and the university policies. Favoritism towards a number of students will ruin the teacher’s credibility in the eyes of the other students in class. This may generate a dangerous and hostile atmosphere in the class which could result in clashes between the students themselves or between the teacher and the management or both. One additional point to take into account is the impression the teacher gives. Sometimes the teacher does not intend to favor a student to another, but the way the teacher talks or behaves with a student may give the wrong impression to other students. Therefore, it is essential that an excellent teacher pay attention to these details. We had a case once when a student got upset because the teacher smiled at another student while explaining something to her but did not smile at the other one when doing the same. So she thought that the teacher does not like her as much as her friend in the class.
9.High Standards: An excellent teacher will set high standards for his/her students so they achieved more. For example, one of our common practices is to raise the ceiling of the requirements from the students. From our experience, we found that many students will only study what is needed for the exams. An excellent teacher needs to convey the message that the students study to learn and not just to pass exams. So by giving incentives to the students to study harder and more than required, the students would likely achieve more and pass the exam with relative ease.
10.Following the Course Outline: The teacher should follow the course outline and try to complete with the time frame required by the university. This will keep the students focused on the subject at hand and will make the students more productive as they know what to expect. This does not means that the teacher should not give extra material. An excellent teacher would finish the requirements and then provide students with extra work in order to widen the their horizon.
11.Keep Accurate Records: An excellent would like to keep track of his/her students grades. This will allow the teacher to follow the student’s progress and identify weaknesses so he/she can follow up on. So by keeping attendance records and homework/exam grades, the teacher can monitor the student’s status in the class. This will allow the teacher to rectify the problems that a student may be facing in a certain area of the course. We both have this policy especially after he first quiz where we ask the students to come to out office so we can work out a plan to help the student overcome the weakness in their topic learning. The results of such follow-ups have been amazing. We have seen students go from getting a C grade to getting a B+ by paying close attention to the teacher’s feedback and advice.
One should note that the above practices will not alone make an excellent teacher. An excellent teacher is a person who is dedicated, hard working and very caring about his/her students. Teachers have different styles but if they adopt the ideas mentioned in this sections, they will become better teachers if they have the dedication and therefore excel at their work.
The relation between a teacher and his students is very complicated. It depends on many factors including culture, social and geopolitical. In this section of our paper, we will explore fours issues related to the Teacher-Student Psychology. The issues are the Interpersonal Relationship with students, Support and concern for the students, Motivation of students and providing a relaxed atmosphere. Although these points are general ones we will try to shed some light on the specific case we have faced in the United Arab Emirates University at UGRU.
1.Interpersonal Relationship with students: When dealing with students, an excellent teacher will be friendly but keeping a distance from the students. Getting too close to the students will make it easier for the students to ask for favors and that what an excellent teacher wants to see. For example, in our environment at UGRU we treat students with respect and we try to be friendly but to a certain limit where it does not damage the trust between the teacher and the students. Another issue at UGRU is the difference between teaching male or female students. For example, if you to comfort or help a male student, the male teacher may hold his hand or give him a pad on the back or even hug him in some cases. Bus this type of behavior between a male teacher and a female student is absolutely unacceptable. So a teacher needs to be careful on how he/she sends her friendliness signals to the students.
2.Support and Concern for Students: When a teacher takes on a class, he/she is likely to face a variety of students. Some students will be brilliant and highly motivated, some will be motivated but need assistance in achieving their goals and some will be weak and not motivated. An excellent teacher will find a way keep all the different groups interested in his/her class. This can be achieved by showing that he/she cares about each one of them by constantly offering help to the students who need it, encouraging brilliant students and showing how proud of them the teacher is and by asking the students to help and support each other. When the students see that the teacher is supporting them in class and outside class (Office hours, extra lectures/homework, etc.), the students will become more willing to help each other in order to please themselves and to make their teacher proud of them.
3.Motivate Students: As mentioned in the subsection above, some students are not motivated. This presents a real problem for the teacher and for the students in class. An excellent teacher will try to work with this group of students to get the best out of them and eventually get them motivated in order to excel in their studies. An excellent teacher would have a talk with this group to try and explain the importance of the subject being studied, would have them work with other students, would give them bonus points for doing certain assignments inside or outside the class. We had cases where we had students getting motivated by giving them examples related to their hobbies or majors at the university. Motivating students is very challenging because it is different from one student to another.
4.Provide Relaxed Atmosphere: An excellent teacher would try to provide a relaxed atmosphere in many ways. First, the teacher needs to be relaxed himself but in control of the class. Second, the students need to respect their teacher and each other so they can work with in harmony. One of the common practices we do is to allow the students to talk to each other and move around the classroom so they can help each other by discussing the issues at hand. This will make the students very relaxed because if they are shy to ask the teacher, they can ask each other and they can compare their answers. This technique is specially fruitful in the first few weeks because the students still not used to the teacher’s style and therefore less inclined to ask him/her questions.
Another dimension to being an excellent teacher is the type of relationship which exists between the teacher and institute he works for. This is particularly important when one is looking at the type of relationship with the management in charge of every day operations. There are things that the teacher should do and things the management should do. We have four points related to this issue at hand. Two are about teacher to management obligations and two about management to teacher obligations. The first two are adherence to the institute’s goals, regulations and procedures (As long as they are descent) and the distinction between the students and management when teaching. The last two are teacher’s appreciation and providing a good environment by management.
1.Teacher’s Adherence to Institute’s Policies: When a teacher is working for a descent institute with descents policies, he/she is expected to adhere to these policies. This would generate harmony with management and allow the teacher to concentrate on excelling in teaching instead of bickering with the management all the time. If a teacher has a real issue with the main goals or policies the institute he/she is working for, then it is time for him to leave the place. If a teacher is not convinced of the goals, he/she would not do a good job and therefore cannot excel at his job because this will jeopardize the chances of his/her students learning.
2.Distinguish between Management and Student Issues: When a teacher is having a problem or problems with the management, it is unprofessional to allow this problem to spill into the classroom. It is not the students’ fault that the teacher has issues with the management in charge. An excellent teacher would also do his/her best for the students no matter how strained the relationship is with the management. This applies to personal problems too. An excellent teacher would leave his personal problems outside the class. For instance, when my mother passed way, I went to class the next day. I was not sure I could teach but I told myself that I wanted to try. It was not easy in the first ten minutes but it became easier later on when the students realized that I just lost my mother and I was there for them. They were very supportive and they truly appreciated the fact that I was there for them despite the tough situation I was in.
3.Teacher Appreciation: Excellent teachers work very hard for their students and for the institute they work for. It is only logical to have an appreciative management. This appreciation can be shown in many different ways including salary increases based on merit, rewards such as certificate, providing opportunities to improve their skills such as attending conferences, workshops and training sessions. If a teacher feels appreciated, he/she would excel even further. It would provide the teacher with moral support he/she needs to boost their confidence and to be more productive.
4.Good Environment: For the management to have excellent teachers, the management needs to provide a very good environment. Teachers need good equipment, classrooms, offices, bathrooms, cafeteria, library, research center, transparency when dealing them, trust and allowing flexibility when delivering the curriculum to students . A teacher cannot excel if he/she does have the needed equipment or if the management is not being transparent in its dealing with teachers. A teacher would be very production once he/she is free of distractions!
Although this topic a touchy one, we felt it was necessary to explore in depth. It is rarely talked about but we think equally as important as the other issues in this paper. If the management wants teachers to excel and ask much of them, it should provide the teachers with all they need. It is like sending soldiers to fight giving them the necessary equipment. Imagine the consequences of sending the soldiers to fight without any equipment!
We have covered what we think are very vital issues in making an excellent teacher. We have mainly explored three areas of interest. However, it should be noted that a teacher’s job is very important in society. Teachers have a huge influence on society whether in elementary school, intermediate school, high school or college. Teachers are mainly dealing with young people. The influence teachers have on the young generations is impeccable. Students need support, direction and a lot of caring from the teachers. It is vital the government be aware if preparing well trained and well dedicated teachers. We believe that teachers in the UAE would have a greater chance at becoming excellent if given the proper training, support and appreciation. There is also the personal factors that come from the teacher himself such as dedication, caring and motivation. We believe that these factors are widely existent among many of our teachers.
1.Our own experience and observation
3.Discussions with students
4.UGRU IT Management Insight