Anyone who can still recall the time they spent in school can certainly tell you that there’s a difference between effective teachers and those who are forgettable. Oftentimes, there are certain character traits and personality aspects that contribute to how educators are defined.  . It’s no secret that the ‘bad’ teachers are often the ones who lack the necessary compassion, empathy, and overall knowledge required to succeed. What can be harder to define is what qualities make a teacher great.  Sure, having a passion for education and enjoying the act of shaping young minds are great places to start, but it takes more than just desire to be an effective educator. Teaching is something that comes from the inside out, so here are just a few of the qualities that help make a teacher great.

  • State the Purpose
    • Make sure students know the Purpose of whatever they are expected to do.  Think about it, if someone tells you to do something and you are not clear about why, you might resist, get grumpy, feel belittled or patronized, or feel bored.  But when you know WHY, and you connect meaning to the request, a little more adrenaline pumps because anticipation is created, engagement is stimulated.  Great teachers help students make connections to whatever they are doing.
  • Fair, universal reprimanding and punishments.
    • All teachers know that the act of educating requires much more than simply teaching children facts for regurgitation. Teachers are often left in the position of disciplinarian and rule-enforcer, which means they need to be very cognizant of enacting a fair and consistent disciplinary program. Teachers must be a fair and impartial leaders who treat each student with the same respect and temperament, no matter who is on the receiving end of discipline.  If a teacher wants effective classroom management, strive for 95% positive rewards, and only 5% negative.  Watch how much you praise and reward as versus correct and punish.  Nobody, no matter how old they are, ends up doing better by hearing how disappointing they are to you all the time.  Reflect back to students their greatness, their highlights, their successes… help them see their own potential. And celebrate success!  Do not leave your dancing shoes at home.
  • A passion for their subject.
    • Passion is one thing that can’t be faked, so even if a teacher has a passion for education, it’s still important to have a passion for the subject being taught as well. There’s nothing more engaging than someone discussing something they love, so teachers may be more successful in the classroom where they are teaching a subject of their heart.  Students can tell if you are “all in” or just lukewarm, and their behavior will reflect that.  And if you are one of the unfortunate teachers whose boss assigns you a grade level or subject you can’t stand, do everything you can to find meaning in it, seek out resources and network with other teachers, have the students help you make meaning as a learning team. Passion makes for a great teacher.
  • Patience
    • In any position that requires teaching someone else of any age anything at all, being patient is a must, and this is truly a quality that can make or break your rapport with your students. Even though you’re well-versed in the subject you’re teaching them, your students aren’t, and if you treat them with exasperation every time they don’t quickly grasp a concept, you’re going to turn them off to the subject and perhaps the process of education entirely.  Breathe.  It’s not about test scores, it’s about creating a trusting relationship with another person so that they believe that working with you is to their benefit, and they are safe following your lead.
  • Clearly stated objectives.
    • If you want your students to do something, either with a lesson or in the classroom in general, you need to give them clearly defined instructions and objectives for each task at hand. Again, your students don’t walk into the classroom already experts in the standard or objective they’re going to learn that day, so you need to instruct them accordingly.
  • Differentiate
    • Great teachers provide differing levels of accessibility to the learning objectives.  This includes not only lexiled work, but also quantity of work, and opportunities for small group attention to details in the learning that may be missed whole group.  Differentiate reading materials according to student interests.  Differentiate for learning styles.  This may sound like a lot of planning, but once a teacher gets in the rhythm of providing multiple ways for students to access their learning, it will become just another Great Teaching Habit.
  • Be Organized
    • Great teachers are clear in their heads!  Disorganization fuels stress, stress fuels impatience and poor teaching.  Great teachers take the time to establish organizational systems, whether pencil and paper or online, and provide students clear classroom systems and responsibilities so that the Team keeps the learning environment vibrant, clean, and dynamic in resources and supports.
  • Have a Life
    • Great Teachers figure out how to Have A Life outside of school.  Find something, even One Thing, that you Love, and do it.  Even if it is only for an hour a week.  You will find it is astounding how taking the time to do one thing you really really love each week will change your teaching spirit.  The students will feel it in you, your Joy, and the greatest thing a teacher can give a student is Joy in Learning, because that will be something they will seek out with you or without you, and then it can be said:  Mission Accomplished.