No one can deny the importance of the teacher in society. Our Faculty Lounge Video: The Power of Teaching, references numerous studies proving that the influence of a teacher in a student’s life has more impact than almost any other factor. Educator Harry K. Wong echoes that finding in his report on the next generation of teachers, saying, “The single greatest effect on student achievement is the effectiveness of the teacher.”
The federal law known as No Child Left Behind provides the official designation of a “highly-qualified teacher” as one who holds a bachelor's degree and a teaching license from their state, and who demonstrates competence in the subjects they teach. Individual states may provide more specific regulations.
Degrees and licenses aside, what qualities are truly most crucial, given the magnitude of the responsibility on teachers’ shoulders? Much is written on this topic and there are many admirable qualities to list. Here’s the Envision top eight:
Inspirational – Great teachers make students want to learn. With their own passion for education and for their subject matter, they capture the students’ imaginations and evoke a sense of excitement – inspiring students to question, discover and anticipate the future with an exhilarating sense of potential. A great teacher uncovers students’ hidden talents and passions, and helps them believe they are capable of anything.
Engaging – The best teachers know how to make their lessons intriguing and relevant, using facts as a starting point, not an end point. They relate their subject matter to the students’ current and future lives, getting the students personally involved, through hands-on, experiential activities. Effective teachers ask “why” questions, encouraging students to look at issues from multiple angles and apply critical-thinking to predict what will happen next. Great teachers try to engage the whole class, leaving no one behind, and they keep students motivated with variety, humor, multimedia and fresh approaches.
Challenging – Once we lead students to the fountain of knowledge, we must challenge them to drink. Great teachers bring out the best in their students by challenging them to think for themselves, be creative and live up to a high set of expectations. They place value on effort and deliver praise accordingly, providing appropriate challenges for students of varying skill levels, and never giving up on underachievers.
Empowering – Empowerment goes hand-in-hand with Challenge. Great teachers empower their students to find personal value in their education, and pursue their own interests and styles of expression. Great teachers help their students find their voices and their passions.
Informed – In addition to achieving (and maintaining) mastery of their own subject matter, great teachers stay informed on the latest educational and technological trends. Students can relate to them, because they understand the things students care about. The informed teacher is also more adaptable, and quick to respond to the changing needs of their students. This teacher has no fear of learning new teaching strategies or incorporating new technologies.
Positive – Great teachers make their classroom a positive environment, where students feel welcome and comfortable, with a sense of belonging. A great teacher is like a great leader, staying strong in the face of adversity, focusing on the positive, and never letting students lose hope. A teacher’s positivity is infectious and by demonstrating positivity, teachers are great role models, and more likely to inspire and engage.
Organized – Great teachers are prepared and can present their lessons in a clear and structured way, with definitive objectives. Their students understand what they will be learning, what deliverables are expected of them and what it will take to succeed. Clear objectives help set the students up for success.
Compassionate and Empathetic – Teaching is a humanistic profession, requiring compassion and genuine caring, which will shine through all that you do. Great teachers are warm and accessible. They respect and understand students, and can relate to the way they feel. By valuing all students’ ideas and opinions, teachers help students learn to respect and listen to others. Ultimately, class is more about them – the students – than it is about the educators. If you form strong relationships with your students and show that you care about them as people, they will be more likely to come to you with questions, problems – or even just to chat.
Let’s face it: being a teacher is a tall order. But the rewards are immeasurable.
In researching this article, we enjoyed reading similar blogs on other education sites. One such article, on Faculty Focus, generated a great deal of commentary and discussion from readers, and those comments contained some of the best content we’d found. Here are a couple additional thoughts from the Faculty Focus readers (our thanks to those who spoke up!):
“What makes a teacher great is reaching to present difficult content, ideas, debates, and issues in a lucid, compelling way, time after time.”
“Great teachers create learning experiences rather than instructional episodes… great teachers can see their own work through their students' eyes – they have not lost their personal connection to what it's like to be a student.”
“DON'T BE AFRAID TO MAKE MISTAKES (OR ADMIT THEM)!”
“A great teacher … never gives up.”
Thank you to everyone who has been sharing their comments and opinions in our Comments section. In our special promotion we asked you to tell us how you or an educator you know embodies one or more of the qualities described in this article. or share which quality you feel is most critical in teaching. Everyone who responded was automatically entered to win a $25 donation through Adopt-A-Classroom.org, to use toward classroom supplies and teaching tools.
Our three winners are:
- Stefanie Smith
- Barbara Ward
- Bernadette McQuaige-Johnson