How to be a Good Teacher
tips for teachers - teaching resources
Teachers and their individual teaching styles cover the spectrum. Some are strict, some are lenient, some are funny, and some don’t hang around long enough to develop a style at all…you get the picture. The “burnout rate” for new teachers is shocking. Many simply cannot handle the demands of the job, so after the first year or two, they find another profession. The ones who are still teaching after four or five years are most likely doing something right. They’ve found a way to manage their classes, and they’ve been able to keep the administrators happy enough to decide to renew their yearly contracts.
Every teacher goes about teaching a little differently. There is not, nor should there be, a “cookie cutter mold” for effective educators. Students benefit greatly from experiencing a variety of teaching styles. That said, there are some salient characteristics that most good teachers share:
Knowledge and love of the subject: If a teacher doesn’t know her material well, how can she hope to teach it to others? The best teachers truly love the subject they teach and are constantly trying to learn more about it. Students pick up quickly on this! When they see a teacher who’s excited about a subject, the sentiment can spread to them.
Management: Good teachers have to be excellent managers. It’s not easy to keep a room full of students focused, keep up with grades and assignments, follow all the school’s rules, keep parents happy, and jump through all the state-mandated hoops and red tape.
Motivation: Teachers also have to serve as motivators. In order to be a quality teacher, one has to be able to motivate students – to get and keep them actively participating in the learning process. This is often a daunting task. Good teachers have numerous motivational strategies in their “bag of tricks.”
Patience: For her own sake as well as for the benefit of the students, a teacher needs to have an extreme amount of patience. If you’ve never had the experience of being a classroom teacher, you can’t imagine the things we have to handle. Mischief, clowning, bullying, tears, fights, skipping class, challenged learners, broken hearts, and downright meanness are day-to-day occurrences in most classes. Excellent teachers usually have the patience of Job.
Accessibility: A good teacher makes herself accessible to students and to parents. This might include individual after or before-school help, group study sessions, and staying in touch with parents.
Interest: A good teacher is interesting, and unfortunately, this is something that cannot be taught in any amount of years spent in education classes at a teacher’s college, although teaching resources can often help. Students are almost always much more interested in Wii games, MTV, and the opposite sex than they are in school. How do you make British Literature fascinating to a group of teenagers? I used a wide range of interesting lectures with interesting tidbits that weren’t in the textbook, along with videos, student-focused activities, and innovative methods of all kinds to pique the interest of my students. In addition, I always managed to inject a good dose of humor, which the students loved!
Approachability: A good teacher is viewed as approachable by her students. They should not be so intimidated that they are afraid to ask questions or to request extra help. Accomplish this by smiling and maintaining a friendly attitude. Be careful, however – be friendly but don’t become a pal.
Empathy and understanding: Good teachers learn that few things are black or white – there’s always a gray area. Educators have to take this into account and be flexible. If an assignment is due on Friday, for example, but John didn’t turn his in, which is very unusual behavior for him, find out what the problem is. He might have a good excuse. At least be willing to listen. I’m not saying that rules and deadlines should not be enforced – they should. But nothing should be “set in stone.”
Transference: This is probably the most critical element and the hardest to achieve or explain. I’m referring to the ability to somehow take what you know and be able to transfer that knowledge into the minds of your students. No matter how brilliant or knowledgeable an educator might be, if she can’t transfer that knowledge, she’s useless as a teacher. A few highly motivated, intelligent students will learn regardless of whether or not the teacher has transference skills. Most, however, will not.
Respect: Most teachers expect or demand respect, yet all do not use respect when dealing with their students. Respect is a two-way street. I always treated my students with respect, never “talking down” to them, embarrassing them, or berating them. In turn, I rarely had a student treat me with disrespect.
Concern: Good teachers display genuine concern for their students. Kids are smart, and they’re usually pretty hard to fool. They know which educators really care about them and which ones are there just to collect a paycheck and be off on major holidays. Let your students know that you care about them as individuals and not as just another name or number on your rosters.
Fairness: This is a very important element for effective teaching and classroom management. Your grading and discipline guidelines should be as objective as possible. Students can easily understand which ones are your favorites. It’s natural to like some students more than others, but this should never influence grades, rules, or classroom policies.
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