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How To Be A Great School Teacher

Updated on September 18, 2013
Memories from my last teaching job.
Memories from my last teaching job. | Source
My Oregon classroom
My Oregon classroom | Source
Hanging out during recess.
Hanging out during recess. | Source
A satisfied teacher, content in the classroom.
A satisfied teacher, content in the classroom. | Source

I have always been a student advocate. I became a teacher with one goal in mind, namely to find a way to better educate students and prepare them for life after school. One singular purpose that served me well over the years.

I began with a one year stint at a local junior college, followed by two years in high school and the last fifteen years were spent at the middle school level. In that time I saw a handful of excellent teachers and quite a few mediocre ones and being completely honest the mediocre ones always chafed my butt. For a variety of reasons they were unable, or at times unwilling, to do whatever was necessary to provide the best possible education to their students and that was simply unacceptable to me.

When I was younger and first starting out in my teaching career I had very little patience with the mediocre educators that I was working with but as time has marched on I have come to realize that my impatience did nothing to improve the situation. Now I find it is time for a different approach, one that may net better results than my impatience ever did.

It is my hope that this article and others to follow will serve as some sort of guiding light for young teachers who are just starting out or for those who are considering education as a career. I only speak from experience and I am fully aware that there are many more characteristics of a good teacher that may not be mentioned on this page. I will leave those for someone else to write about. These, then, are some of the characteristics that I see as crucial if one is to become a good teacher.

TEACHERS ARE HUMAN

One thing I could never be accused of was being secretive or aloof as a teacher. When I looked back at the teachers who had made a difference in my life I realized that one thing they had in common was that they were human beings in the classroom. They showed emotions, they showed feelings, they opened up their lives so that their students could see them as real and not just some cardboard-cutout of a teacher.

I have always told stories about my life in my classes and I believe it has given me a humanness that kids responded to. This is a fine line, of course, because students are not there to hear your sob stories about divorce or your inability to pay the mortgage. However, finding a way to relate your experiences to their experiences is key, I believe, to breaking the ice and forming an intangible bond with your students. I also believe it fosters respect in the classroom and respect is the key to my next point, that of having good discipline in your room.

LEARNING WITHOUT DISCIPLINE? GOOD LUCK!

For those of you who have never taught imagine if you will walking into a classroom filled with twenty-five students, middle school age, all overflowing with hormones and chomping at the bit to break free and run for the hills. Welcome to teaching! I can promise you this: if you do not have discipline in your classroom learning will suffer and suffer quickly! One of the most important jobs of a teacher is to provide a safe learning environment for your students and learning cannot exist if the inmates are running the prison.

I was schooled by nuns and Catholic priests back in the 50’s and 60’s and I can say without hesitation that those teachers demanded discipline and enforced it with corporal punishment; having said that I completely disagree with that sort of discipline. True, in that environment discipline exists but the idea of learning being enjoyable goes right out the window. I decided there had to be a better way and I discovered it early on. I can tell you in all honesty that in eighteen years of teaching I only had a handful of students who simply did not cotton to me as a teacher and it still bothers me to this day that I failed to reach that handful.

http://billybuc.hubpages.com/hub/I-Am-A-Catholic-School-Surivior

What I have found is that discipline can exist in a classroom of mutual respect. Children have always liked me. Part of it is because I do portray an actual human being in their eyes. Part of it is the fact that I have always gone the extra mile to let them know I care about them. During lunch hours I would walk through the lunch room and joke with them while they ate. During recesses when I could I would go out and play ball with them. On quite a few weekends I would go see them play in their youth leagues or at musical performances. For me teaching was never a 9-5 job; in fact, teaching never seemed to be a job at all but rather a higher calling. If that sounds trite and self-serving then so be it, but for me it is the truth as I know it.

When students see that I truly care about them most of my work in discipline has already been completed. They responded to me because they knew I cared about them. Don’t get me wrong, rarely did a day go by that someone didn’t try to test the limits but the key to good discipline is to draw a line in the sand and make sure everyone understands that the line exists for every single student and there are consequences if they cross it. Consistency is oh so important!

ARE YOU INTERESTING OR ARE YOU DULL?

There were times when I was in school that I would rather watch paint dry than listen to the teacher in front of me. When I had student-teachers training under me I would always try to impress upon them the benefits of working a little bit harder to make your subject come alive.

I have dressed up in Civil War uniforms and I have flown paper airplanes in class. I have walked in with a sword and a whip and I have acted the clown; in other words, I would do anything to make my time with the kids special. Do you have those times when you feel everything you are doing is dull and lifeless? Then find a new way! Each summer I would go to workshops to find new approaches and new ways to present the material I was teaching. Make no mistake about it: this takes work and commitment. I have seen students absolutely dread going to someone’s class and I could only shake my head. Learning should be fun! Learning should be interesting! Learning should be exciting! If it isn’t you are missing the mark as a teacher and I can’t say that any more emphatically. Your job is to instill a love for learning in your students and you are not doing that if they are taking catnaps in your class.

http://billybuc.hubpages.com/hub/Education-Is-A-Three-Way-Street

TEACHING IS ALL ABOUT ADJUSTMENTS

I still remember the day I walked into the teacher’s lounge and saw a teacher copying their plan book from the previous year instead of filling out new plans. I asked her what she was doing and she said that nothing much is different from one year to the next so why bother filling out new plans for the new year.

Can you say OH MY GOD? Everything is different from one year to the next! Hell, things are different from one week to the next but certainly from year to year. For one thing it is a new class filled with students with varied learning styles. How can you possibly know that lessons that may have been effective twelve months ago are effective now? I have taken a full week of plans and tossed them out the window on a Tuesday because they just were not working. When the ship is sinking you can either plug the hole or sink with the ship. Plugging the hole takes work; sinking simply takes a willingness to get very wet.

RUNNING OUT OF SPACE AND TIME

I could go on and probably will at a later date. If I had to summarize all of this what would I say? I would say life should be lived with passion, whether it be at play or at work. If teaching is nothing more than a paycheck to any of you then you are missing out on the wondrous nature of teaching. Teachers affect a great many lives and there are few occupations where that is true. Teaching should be a higher calling, one born of passion and sustained by passion. There are days when it seems that nobody appreciates the job you do and that is when you need passion to sustain you.

I still have students from twenty years ago who remain in contact with me. That, my friends, is the true reward of teaching, knowing that you have made an impact in the lives of your students and that they walked out of your classroom better people.

I wish that for all of you teachers out there. The world is filled with people who make excuses for why they cannot succeed in their endeavors. Excuses are just the tools of those who are not willing to go the extra mile to succeed.

Find a way!

2012 Bill Holland (aka billybuc)

http://teaches12345.hubpages.com/hub/How-To-Have-A-Successful-Teachers-Meeting

http://cclitgirl.hubpages.com/hub/which-or-that-grammar-erros

Have you or your child had a teacher who made a difference in your life?

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    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Chris, I would have loved to have worked alongside of Sandy! We shared a philosophy so many young teachers do not understand, and that is mutual respect. I was a strong disciplinarian in the classroom, but I was also fun to be with and fair to all. Kids understand that; they can grasp rules and they can respect them as long as they are consistent and fair to all. Eighteen years and I never had to send a kid to the office for discipline. If I couldn't handle my class then I shouldn't be a teacher. :)

      Thank you my friend!

    • cam8510 profile image

      Chris Mills 4 years ago from Maple City, Michigan

      Bill, As I read your article, I couldn't help but think that you and Sandy would have gotten along wonderfully as teachers. You mentioned maintaining contact with students after they moved on. Sandy was that way as well. I guess the ultimate evidence was that at her funeral the church, which held 700, was packed and people were actually standing outside. Former students traveled home from college to attend. I'll never forget the FaceBook site the students set up to share their memories of her.

      Discipline was one of her strong points and I think mutual respect was the reason she had very few problems in her classroom. I appreciated this hub very much. Nice job.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Keith, teaching was the greatest challenge of my life, and I loved every single minute of the eighteen years. It's not for everyone but man oh man, the rewards are huge! Thank you buddy!

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      KDuBarry03 5 years ago

      Everyday in class always calls for a different adjustment because you never know who did the homework, who's not paying attention, who's causing trouble, etc. Teachers are only human and can only do so much :) Thank sof ra great hub, as always, Bill!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Beautiful comment my friend and thank you for the compliment. I am honored. I think so many young teachers are afraid to show who they are and I think that's a mistake. Students need to relate to a teacher in order for respect to happen, and respect is half the ballgame.

    • FreezeFrame34 profile image

      FreezeFrame34 5 years ago from Charleston SC

      Great hub! The greatest compliment I could ever give to a fellow teacher is this- I wish I was one of your students!

      When I had a great teacher, I always thought, "I can't wait to become a teacher like them."

      When I had a teacher who humiliated, ridiculed, and yelled, I would say, " I can't wait until I can become a teacher and take their job!"

      I love my job, and as a special education teacher, you have to love it, or you'll get burnt out.

      I, too, incorporate as many life lessons and personal stories (when applicable). Numerous students in my resource class on the first day will ask when I will talk with them and not at them; they know my stories will be meaningful and quite possibly, life-changing!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Mary....LOL...I taught middle school for fifteen years and loved it....and everyone called me nuts too. Thank you my friend.

    • mary615 profile image

      Mary Hyatt 5 years ago from Florida

      I'll bet you were a wonderful, caring teachers. I had the good fortune of having great teachers. My daughter who got all the college scholarships (I wrote a Hub about that), has her teaching certificate and is waiting to be hired. She want to teach middle school students: I think she is nuts!

      Great Hub, I voted this UP and will share in all the right places.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Thomas! We need all the new, inspired teachers we can get. Greatly appreciate you sharing.

    • ThoughtSandwiches profile image

      ThoughtSandwiches 5 years ago from Reno, Nevada

      Bill,

      Excellent advice for the newbie (and mediocre-ie) teachers out there! I taught high school history for seven years and agree entirely with your methods. Respect and interaction go a long way towards making the process far more positive and then the learning seems almost effortless!

      Great job that I will be sharing with several folks hereabouts that will be starting their first teaching day today (in Reno).

      Thomas

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Trinity, we would have had great fun in class! I loved every day that I taught school and I made sure the kids loved it too.

      Thank you dear friend!

    • Trinity M profile image

      Trinity M 5 years ago

      I never had a great experience in school (probably why I’m homeschooling). I wish you’d been my teacher Bill, I might have come out of the school system a lot less bitter and twisted (lol). Great hub and wonderful advice my dear friend, even for me who is only teaching one child, I think he might appreciate it if I dress up in an army uniform and wield a sword, or maybe he’ll just laugh himself senseless…

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Hey Bill. I would have loved to have known your mother. Teachers with passion are a valued treasure; hopefully there are many more about to graduate and carry on the tradition.

      Thank you for the kind words and share!

    • bdegiulio profile image

      Bill De Giulio 5 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Bill. This was such a good read I wished it had gone on. Even though I am not a school teacher I know exactly where you are coming from as I am the son of a school teacher. My mother taught for 30 plus years and I know from first hand knowledge that you speak the absolute truth here. When teaching becomes just a job you are in the wrong profession. If you do not have that passion then you are doing your students a great disservice. I have no doubt that you were a great teacher. VU and sharing. Excellent writing.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Janine, the good teachers understand this hub all too well. It's like preaching to the choir. The bad teachers, however, may never change, because to them it is just a job. Teaching was never a job to me; it was a higher calling and if I didn't do my best then the kids suffered. I know you understand that and I thank you for the share and for being you.

    • Janine Huldie profile image

      Janine Huldie 5 years ago from New York, New York

      Wow, Bill I have to say not only to agree with you on most if not all points here, but can without a doubt say I too would get so turned off and frustrated with teachers who pretty much phoned it in over and over from one year to the next. It does take time and dedication to be a teacher, but why would anyone try to do it differently just baffles and puzzles me so. Even the best of lessons can be tweaked from year to year, so I would have been annoyed to say the least if I was to see a teacher pretty much copying last years lessons in the next year's lesson book. What can I say another well thought out and excellent article and was yet again left wanting even more. Voted and shared too!!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Linda! I loved my years as a teacher. I was very blessed!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Michelle, hooray to you as well. I don't feel so bad about retiring, knowing there are teachers like you to carry on and go the extra mile for the kids.

    • Sunshine625 profile image

      Linda Bilyeu 5 years ago from Orlando, FL

      I was lucky to have had all good teachers. I also remember some drama among the teachers in High School, that was interesting!:) Both my daughters, my stepson and stepdaughter are all teachers and they enjoy their professions. They have an abundance of patience. Which I'm sure you had also which is why your students continue to reach out to you. Great hub Bill.

    • midget38 profile image

      Michelle Liew 5 years ago from Singapore

      Creative teaching always wins the war, this being from one teacher to another and I say WTG on all the points you've offered here. So important to go the extra mile when you're teaching....for those considering the profession, this is a little heads up! Hooray, Mr. Holland!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Rebecca, if you love teaching and love the kids then you will make a good impression. It all starts with love.

      Thank you and best of luck to you.

    • Rebecca2904 profile image

      Rebecca 5 years ago

      Really great, informative hub! It looks like you haven't lost your touch for teaching - you're still teaching all of us! And I, for one, couldn't be more grateful - I'll be starting work as a foreign language assistant in a primary school in September, and I'm a little bit worried about making a good impression and being able to get through to the kids. These are fantastic tips that I'm sure will help me a great deal! Thank you.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Sparrow....your words mean a great deal to me. I guess once a teacher always a teacher.

    • rdsparrowriter profile image

      rdsparrowriter 5 years ago

      Still you are a good teacher :) Thank you for sharing your experiences. Take care and stay blessed!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Jhudah, I hope you become a teacher; we need all the good teachers we can find in the world. Best of luck to you and thank you for reading my hub.

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      Jhudah 5 years ago

      great hub. There is this feeling inside of me that i want to be a teacher specially to the kids. Teachers are powerful and they shape minds and influence students.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Flow, if you have the passion then you will be a damn fine teacher. Never lose that passion or the kids will lose because of it. If I can ever be of any help please let me know. My best to you as you continue your dream quest.

    • FlowOfThought profile image

      FlowOfThought 5 years ago from Tacoma, Washington

      Voted up, useful, awesome, beautiful, interesting. This is the kind of teacher I want to be, and to know that I am not the only one with the same passion, just gives me more drive to achieve my dreams.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Paul that was a very nice thing to say. I was very fortunate to have had such a long career with such great kids. Thank you and best of luck to you on HubPages.

    • Paul Kuehn profile image

      Paul Richard Kuehn 5 years ago from Udorn City, Thailand

      This was an awesome hub, Billy! I agree with everything you say and wish I could have had you as a teacher when I was in high school.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Christy, I try not to dwell on the negatives I saw over the years, but sometimes they are so outrageous I can't help myself. Thank you for dropping by once again.

    • ChristyWrites profile image

      Christy Birmingham 5 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      You sound like you will be providing more good feedback for teachers to come! I can't believe that teacher was copying out the plan from the previous year, wow.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you teaches and you are very welcome! Peace to you as well!

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

      I am so honored Billybuc! Although, like you, I just love the work and want to help other's achieve goals in learning. I guess we will always be teachers at heart, and that's not a bad thing. Again, thank you for your kindness and wonderful support. Be blessed today as you journey forward.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Pannonica, thank you! I think we can all relate to this subject. Unfortunately we all remember two or three excellent teachers rather than twenty. I'd like that number to be a little higher. I appreciate your comment.

    • Pannonica profile image

      Pannonica 5 years ago

      Billybuc you have done it again, great hub. You always manage to write so effectively on a subject that can relate to all of us. This one sent me back to the classroom, yes we had good teachers and some not so. However, how come my personal examination results were always higher from the studies, where I was taught by the teachers who I felt actually cared for their students.

      Thanks for another excellent hub.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Dina, thank you! I gave it my best for eighteen years; now I hope to pass on the torch to a few more that care about the kids.

    • Dina Blaszczak profile image

      Dina Blaszczak 5 years ago from Poland

      Excellent hub, I wish there was more teachers like you with such big devotion and enthusiasm! Voted up and interesting.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      With your personality I have no doubt that the kids love you and if you leave the school will be losing a good one that will be very hard to replace. I, for one, thank you Cyndi for the sacrifice it takes to teach and teach well.

    • cclitgirl profile image

      Cynthia Sageleaf 5 years ago from Western NC

      I bet you were phenomenal. :) I got "teacher of the year" last year. *sigh* Something happened between then and now. I recently read an article about the difference between "burnout" and "demoralized." I remarked to someone today that I think I'm in the latter camp. I feel like so many things about teaching are out of my control. When I am no longer in the profession, I will write about my experiences. That's a whole 'nother book's worth of hubs. :) In any case, in my six years, I have never minded being zany, planting gardens in the housing projects, and making the kids laugh. Great hub as always. ;)

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Eliza; I appreciate you dropping by and your support.

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      Lisa McKnight 5 years ago from London

      Great hub Billy I think that teachers do an awesome job and deserve credit for the job they do!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Teaches, I wrote this partially with you in mind and that's my highest compliment. You understand this hub and few do and for the kids in the country I thank you for your dedication and passion.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

      Teaching is never a nine to five job for those who are passionate about their job. Teaching is about reaching out to share knowledge and challenge thought, and the ability to care about what is learned. I believe that you demonstrated that as a teacher, and it still shows through in your writing. Thanks for the reminder on what it takes to be a teacher.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Audra, I don't know what to say; I just write...people say I have a unique voice and honestly, I just write. I'm so happy you like my work; I respect your opinion greatly. As for those movies....seen both of them and I concur, they are excellent.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Savanah, you are a joy in my writing life. Thank you kind lady for once again bringing sunshine into my writing studio. I greatly appreciate you! I am passionate about teaching and I think many kids are getting cheated. That is unacceptable!

    • profile image

      iamaudraleigh 5 years ago

      Bill, your words just flow off the page into the readers hearts! This is amazing hub! Voted it up for it's greatness!

      I had a few good teachers along the way :) However, I wished I had teachers like in the following movies I recommend to you...

      One of my favorite movies is "To Sir With Love", starring Sidney Poirtier. It was released in the 1960s and cannot compare with movies made about teachers in the last generation except for "Stand And Deliver"!

      I hope you have seen them. If you haven't, put them on your must-see list.

    • savanahl profile image

      savanahl 5 years ago

      Hi billybuc. With your knowledge and passion for goodness, I can tell you were an amazing teacher. The way you speak to people through your words is so unique and you have the ability to touch and change the lives of many. Voted up and awesome, as always. Your friend, Savanah.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Jackie, I can tell you and I had some of the same teachers. :) I have no patience with any teachers who are just doing a job; if there is no passion there is no real teaching. Thanks as always for your support.

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 5 years ago from The Beautiful South

      I can tell by reading you that you were a wonderful teacher and I would bet all your students remember you that way. Just a hand full of teachers stand out in my mind and those were caring or interesting people, the rest were just doing their job and students better not get in the way.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Summerberrie, what a great hub name! Thank you for visiting and I hope you drop by again in the near future.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Eddy, I just finished another marvelous poem by you and of course I was enthralled as I normally am. Thank you dear one and I will indeed enjoy my day as I hope you do yours.

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      summerberrie 5 years ago

      BillyBuc, I enjoyed reading your characteristics of a good teacher. I can see you are a student advocate. I agree the foundation to successful classroom management is building trust and mutual respect.

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 5 years ago from Wales

      Your lessons are still amazing my friend;you have a natural style of writing that is easy to follow.

      The teachers that gain most respect are the ones with authority but also teach and not expect everyone to repeat parrot fashion!!

      I am sure you were of the first kind and still are.

      Carry on with these great hubs billy my friend and another 'up up and away !!!'.

      Take care and enjoy your day.

      Eddy.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Raziya22, I will indeed keep writing and thank you so much for dropping by.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Awww, Dana, that was so very nice. Thank you for that compliment! I guess once a teacher always a teacher, and I completely agree about knowledge rather than rote learning of facts. Thank you for visiting faithfully.

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      Dana Strang 5 years ago from Ohio

      Great Hub! I have had some great teachers, and they have all had the traits that you discuss. I even had a math teacher that used real life examples to explain why on earth we needed to learn that stuff. One other thing that I am a frim believer in is the differentce between learning facts and learning knowledge. The teachers I hated most were the ones that had you simply memorize and spit back out facts, without giving you a good reason for learning them or teaching you something useful. I might not remember all of the facts I learned from my favorite teachers, but to this day I use the skills they taught me... Bill, you might not be standing in front of a literal classroom here on hubpages, but you are definitely becoming one of my favorite teachers. Thanks!