What Makes a Good Teacher?

What Makes a Good Teacher?

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We all have memories of school or college; some good, some bad. What you probably remember most are great teachers and not-so-great teachers.

Teachers shape a student’s feelings about a subject, and about learning in general. Think for a moment what makes the good teacher stand out. Was it because they appeared genuinely interested in their subject and in you, as a learner? Or was it a feeling you had as a student that they went the extra mile for you?

Good teachers inspire and challenge. They are also liked. Although being a teacher is not a personality contest, there is no doubt that a personable human being in the shape of a teacher makes perfect sense.

Some people make great tutors and teachers, but what makes for a great tutor with one person, may not for another.

However, education experts agree that for a teacher to be a good educator, there are some commonalities.

A New Career?

Many people look to teaching as the challenging and ever-changing career that they want. This is why aspiring teachers look to online teaching courses as a means of becoming qualified, as well as examining what does make a great teacher and tutor…

#1 Expectations

Expectations are an odd state of affairs. Too high and when they are not reached, it feels like failure. Too low, and aspiration is lacking.

In education, expectations are fundamental to the teaching process. It mirrors your belief in a student, whether that student is a small child getting to grips with the alphabet, a secondary school student completing a practical assignment, or a student of further education, looking to make a connection between one theory and another.

Overstating expectations of students, including attainment and behaviour, can set them to fail. Not reaching these high expectations can be soul destroying, crushing ambition.

A great teacher knows where to pitch these expectations so that they motivate and challenge their students, but without over-burdening them with goals that are simply too lofty to achieve or too lowly. Teaching courses address the skill of teacher expectation for all students, including high achievers and those with additional learning needs.

#2 Approachable

Are you approachable? Can people come and talk to you? Do people feel they can approach you to either talk through something great and other things that are not-so-good?

Being a teacher places you in a powerful position, in the eyes of your students at least! They think you have all the answers. They think you know everything. They look to you to provide them with the information and the direction they need.

When there is a new concept to grasp, a new idea to develop and understand, it is daunting for a student – especially if they feel they ‘don’t get it’. They may have difficulty understanding why something is important or why they need to do something a certain way.

They could blunder on through but, as a teacher, you want them to ask for help. You want them to be able to advocate on their own behalf and approach you. Do you think you have this aura about you?

#3 Fair

Do an ad-hoc survey of friends and family about a teacher they found great and you will hear a description of them many time over: they were fair.

Teaching courses will equip you with all kinds of skills. They will teach you how to plan a lesson, to manage behaviour and they will teach you how to review your work and planning.

Being fair is a soft skill. In other words, it is an attitude and attribute that is inherent within you. As a teacher, you will need to develop this sense of fairness. Without it, students will find it difficult to trust you.

Lack of trust leads to poor respect – another attribute that is a two-way process between teacher and student – and can lead to behavioural issues in a classroom.

Classroom, Lecture Hall, College, Education, University

#4 Subject Knowledge

Do you really have a passion for your subject? We have all known teachers that delivered dry, uninspiring lessons. There was a lack of passion or any sense of depth to their subject knowledge. They may have been highly qualified in their subject area but it just didn’t show.

Now think of a great teacher, whose classes you enjoyed. Can you see the difference? The level of passion and commitment they showed is higher, more obvious, more appealing and made for more engaging lessons.

#5 Committed

For those thinking of completing online teaching courses, there is a lot that could potentially prevent you from entering the profession.

The long hours, the seemingly lack of appreciation from students and parents, the setting of impossible targets by Government departments, they all conspire to paint a picture of a profession in perpetual crisis.

As with any profession, there are great policies and not-so-great ones. There are good days and bad days but for those teachers committed, who work hard, enjoy teaching and enjoy their students, it is a rewarding career choice.

#6 Professional

Great teachers will communicate with students, teachers, parents and others in a way that is benefitting their professional status.

In other words, this doesn’t mean saying to a student ‘You are stupid! How can you not get this equation right?!’, it means saying ‘Let’s develop this answer more. Where do you think you should start with this equation? What do you already know?’

#7 Different teaching Approaches and Styles

Online teaching courses will look at a range of teaching and learning styles. We all learn in different ways, with some students preferring one learning style to another.

As a teacher, you will need to teach to all these strengths. Mixing learning and teaching styles is a way of imparting information to students that explore differing levels of a topic. It is also a chance to consolidate learning.

It may be that the class have grasped the basics of a concept you have taught them but now you want to put their learning to the test. Assessing a student is one means, but creating a lesson that uses a different teaching style can have more value.

How many ways do you think you could impart the same information, without it being boring or dull?

#8 Involve Students (and Parents!) In Learning

Learning does not happen in isolation and neither should teaching. There are many stakeholders in the learning process.

  • The Student – your students are the most valuable stakeholders in the process. It is their learning that you, as a teacher, are facilitating. A common, and accepted, style of teaching for many years was that the teacher knew everything, they imparted this knowledge and the student learnt it.

Modern teaching methods have changed. The teacher facilitates the session, the student guides his or her own learning, they ask the questions, they explore and they find the answers. The teacher – you! – guides them, encourages them, helps them when they need it most or when they ask.

  • The Parent(s) – for younger students, encouraging parents to be proactive in their child’s education is a must and for a great teacher, this means communicating with parents on a regular, consistent basis.

Social media and email makes this easier. A simple email reminder of anything that needs to be brought to school next week, or a newsletter informing parents what has been taught last week and the theme for the term etc. are great ways of keeping parents in the loop of their child’s education.

Hopefully, this makes parents evening a two-way conversation.

  • The Community – schools and colleges are important in the local community. Informing people about what is happening in your school or college is a way of progressing the standing of a school or college in the eyes of the community. As a great teacher, you will realise the vastness of the resources, including the people, of the community too.

Do You Have What It Takes to be a Great Teacher?

These eight skills and attributes mentioned here seem like a tall order. Creating strong relationships, a passion for your subject, creating new and innovative ways for students to learn are just a part of what a great teacher does every day when they go to school and college, when they teach a class, when they talk to a parent, when they plan lessons.

It will become second nature to you, with experience, but you also need a great grounding in the basic principles of teaching. In other words, you need to take time to study the theories behind effective teaching and to put these skills into practice. As a great teacher, you will constantly be reviewing your practice, finding new ways to make your teaching better.

An excellent teacher never stops learning about themselves as a practitioner in the field of education, a profession that is constantly shifting and changing. Do you have what it takes to inspire and excite a generation of students about your subject?

Nick Cooper
Nick is NCC's resident blog author and covers a range of subjects, including teaching and health & social care. NCC is an international learning provider with over 20 years’ experience offering learning solutions. To date, NCC has engaged with over 20,000 employers, and delivered quality training to over half a million learners.
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