Good teachers are rare, and few people, including school administrators who hire teachers, know what it takes to be one. Although some of the qualities of good teachers are subtle, many of them are identifiable. Here is a list of sixteen traits that excellent teachers have in common:
1. Knowledge of the subject matter
You can’t teach what you don’t know. All teachers need not be experts in their fields, but possessing knowledge is important. Teachers must continue building their understandings of their subjects throughout their careers.
No teacher should be expected to have much patience with individuals whose lack of discipline, immaturity, or indolence interrupts the work of other students. Patience with students who are trying to learn, however, is part and parcel of the teaching profession. Impatience with sincere students is an indication of the teacher’s own shortcomings.
3. Intellectual curiosity
All good teachers are intellectually curious and naturally driven by their interests in keeping abreast of changes in their fields.
Good teachers are confident in their abilities to sense where students are in the learning process and in their students’ abilities to learn material that is presented in a logical and graduated fashion.
Talented teachers are able to work with students with varying levels of maturity and knowledge. A college professor I know once made the following statement about his experience as a teacher: “Each year teaching is more challenging for me, because I grow a year older and the students stay the same age. The widening age gap forces me to stretch in order to reach them.”
Experienced teachers have clear thoughts on what their students should know at the end of the term, and they understand what they must do along the way in order to reach those goals.
Teachers must have plans and stick to them. This goes deeper than rigidly following a course syllabus. Effective teachers sense when students need more time to absorb the material and, within limitations, are willing to give it to them.
Teachers in elementary and secondary schools must have eyes in the backs of their heads. They need to be aware of everything that happens in their classrooms and in adjacent hallways. Teachers who are awake are able to stop nonsense before it starts and keep students on track.
Teachers often serve as mentors to their students. The desire to influence students positively is a core motivation of many teachers when they enter the teaching profession.
In no profession is maturity more important than in teaching. Students experience emotional ups and downs, and insightful teachers are able to sense the changes and respond to them appropriately. Teachers must be pillars, consistently encouraging students to grow as human beings and to develop academically.
11. Community involvement
Maintaining good community relations is part of being a teacher, and teachers’ contact with parents, administrators, and community leaders enhances their effectiveness in the classroom.
One-on-one tutoring is easy compared to leading a classroom of students in a single direction. Teachers must be able to manage students’ multiple personalities and organize their subject matters so that a maximum number of students benefits from their presentations.
Teaching encompasses far more than passing information from teachers to students. Teachers should be illuminators who provide their students not only with interesting and useful material, but also with visions of where they might end up if they learn well.
Every subject has a context, and teachers are responsible for providing it to their students. Since no one learns in a vacuum, teachers must show their students how the information they are learning might be used or might lead to the development of some other useful skill.
Perhaps the most important thing teachers communicate to students and to the community is a sense of satisfaction with their choice of teaching as their life mission. Teaching at its highest level is a calling, and good teachers feel it to their cores.
Excellent teachers never lose enthusiasm for their profession. They might become temporarily burdened by administrative hassles or isolated problems, but their underlying engagement with their work is unwavering. Students feel this energy, and teachers who project it are much more successful than those who do not.
These are the salient qualities of excellent teachers. If I’ve missed something, please feel free to add your thoughts in the comment box below.
Thank you for reading Sixteen Qualities Of A Good Teacher ©, by Douglas R. Eikermann