Monday, September 1, 2014

7 Qualities of a Great Teacher

I am a teacher, and as such I reflect often on my teaching. I'm always asking myself, "Am I doing what is right for my students? How can I make more of an impact on their learning?"

Often, we, as educators, look at the teachers around us, or maybe following the "teacher greats" (on Twitter, Pinterest or their blogs) all in the hopes of emulating their pedagogy in our own classrooms. That is not a bad thing to do, and is quite edifying in many ways. However, it's also important to look back on the teachers who made an impact on our own lives as students, and examine what they did that was so different from the rest.

So, I would like to highlight seven qualities that I believe from my own personal experience as a student, made up a great teacher.

1. They believed in me. That is the key to student achievement.
If I knew that my teacher believed in me, I brought my absolute best, studied hard, and always went that extra mile. If that connection wasn't there, I floundered. That is not utopian teacher optimism, that is the truth.

2. They loved what they did. Loving what you do creates energy. It's just there, and you can't fake it. That energy feeds into the classroom, and the students respond from the drive it creates.

3. They held high expectations. I've had fun enthusiastic teachers who could light up the world with their smiles, and I've had hard nosed teachers who never hardly cracked a smile. However, if their heart was in the game of learning, and I knew that they had my best interest at heart, then I brought the goods. I strived for excellence, knowing that they brought the same for me every day.

4. They were innovative: From my high band director to my high school debate coach, they all found ways to experiment with their instruction, and develop different ways of approaching the learning. They didn't settle in offering the same instruction year after year. They challenged themselves in order to challenge the students.

5. They always were improving their craft: The best teachers I ever had were always working toward advanced degrees, certifications, or held distinguished honors for their content area. Their desire to be better every day spilled out into the classroom, and brought momentum, which always led to student academic/performance excellence.

6. They beat to their own drum: They did not worry about fitting in, and they would never lower their own personal expectations just to make friends. They had a mission, and they were going to fulfill that mission to the absolute best of their abilities in order for their students to soar to greater academic heights.

7. They never wavered: Any of the greats I had as a student remained great. These teachers continued to win awards, develop students of excellence, and stayed energetic/innovative well passed their retirement date. All my great teachers have now retired, but many are still teaching in private schools! They just love what they do!

So, I would say that if you believe yourself to be a teacher of excellence, or maybe you just aspire to be one, than I would hold fast to your heart these qualities. Be great--your students need you!