I think that most of us hold a particular teacher from our childhood in cherished memory; that special person who ignited fires of inspiration and instilled within us a thirst for learning.
There are loads of good teachers out there, but in my experience the special ones are few and far between. Do you remember at school how (much to the delight of the class) some poor soul would accidentally call a teacher mum or dad? Well, that was normally them – the ones that stay vivid in the memory because we felt close to them; their creativity, their sense of fun, their compassion. The special ones.
I’m counting down my top ten most desired teacher traits that I think amass to one formidable knowledge-dispensing unit, feel free to use the comment box below to add your own suggestions.
10) A passion for students and teaching: Great teachers are passionate about their craft and understand the impact and influence they have on students’ lives every day, and this doesn’t go unnoticed. For the best teachers, teaching isn’t merely a job, it’s a vocation. Hell, it’s a lifestyle choice!
9) Create a pleasant atmosphere: Remember those drab, windowless, musty classrooms that felt like morgues? That’s no way to teach or learn – cheerful, happy classrooms are remembered best and they work to stimulate learning. A good teacher will go the extra mile and create a pleasant room where students feel comfortable and ready to learn.
8) Being organised: Setting clear objectives and planning coherent structures for lessons is half the battle. Every good teacher has to think on their feet, but the best lessons have been carefully crafted and students will recognise and appreciate this. Efficient organisation frees up more time for one-on-one teacher/student interaction – vital for strengthening that special bond.
7) Being open to new things: More than ever, an awareness of (and a willingness to try) new methods of teaching is a fantastic trait to have in your locker. Advances in EdTech mean new ways of teaching and learning are coming to the fore every day and the best teachers keep abreast of trends, establishing what works well to engage the students who themselves are changing all the time. The Facebook generation is far more likely to engage with methods that relate to their home life and culture – and keeping things fresh makes for interesting learning.
6) Being creative: Embracing a variety of teaching methods doesn’t just come down to technology, oh no, those that think outside the box, outside the ordinary, outside the classroom are remembered fondest. Teachers that show as well as tell, teachers that take students outside the school gates and enforce learning through real world application, teachers that are spontaneous, tactile, tangential and eccentric. Teachers that are fabulous.
5) Being open to learning: Teachers that don’t think having a top degree or being uber-qualified makes them any better or more knowledgeable than the rest get more respect than those that do. Students are more likely to rally against a megalomaniac than a harsh disciplinarian even – they don’t want (or deserve) to be talked down to or brow-beaten. Someone who learns from/with their students and adapts/reinvents their practice all the time gels the classroom.
4) Sets the bar high: Great teachers don’t underestimate their audience; they set high expectations in the classroom and encourage everyone push themselves to their full potential. Students feed off the belief their teachers put into them – expectations form a self-fulfilling prophecy that gives students the self confidence and desire to fulfil that expectation.
3) Knows their onions: An obvious one, maybe, but so often overlooked – a great teacher commands respect through their wide knowledge and enthusiasm for the subject. Any tricky questions are batted away with ease and rebuffed with a counter question. Some students love to test their teachers and the more you know, the harder they’ll have to work to catch you out – it’s stealth teaching!
2) A good sense of humour: A decent sense of humour and an ability to go toe-to-toe with students on their level is a mighty weapon in any teacher’s armoury. An engaging personality and teaching style relies on a good sense of humour, building a strong rapport with students and establishing trusting relationships. Humour makes learning more fun and memorable for students whilst serving to stave of the stresses and strains of the school day. It teaches them that they can make mistakes and laugh. The class will hang on your every word if they’re waiting for that nugget of humour.
1) They are human: For me, perhaps the greatest trait a teacher can have is to be comfortable enough to show that they’re human. They celebrate success with students, show compassion for those that struggle, tell stories from their own lives, share their quirks, laugh at their own mistakes and are not afraid to be imperfectly human in front of students. The most effective educators bring their entire selves to the job. It’s not just about delivering curriculum – they’re educators in every sense of the word, preparing future generations for everything life’s got to throw at them.
Behold – the recipe for creating my perfect teacher in ten traits.