EDUC 533—Fall 2001
The Qualities of a Good Teacher
We’ve all had teachers that were effective and we will probably always remember them. Why do we remember some and not others? It seems that some teachers possess qualities that make them stand out in our minds for years to come (possibly even for the rest of our lives). A good teacher can change a student. For example, my 7th grade English teacher, Mrs. Bean, intrigued us all with her lectures and her passionate, vehement, zealous crusade in teaching us not only to read and write, but to love books and reading. She understood the direction of technology and information (I now know) and she knew we would have to be literate and we would have to be able to digest a lot of information. She taught me how to push myself to read faster, and retain just as much of the information I read. I will never forget her for this and I’m eternally grateful to her.
There are so many ingredients that go into good teaching. I will discuss what I think are three important qualities of good teachers: enthusiasm (passion), purposefulness, and classroom management. I could easily discuss more—charisma, confidence, knowledge, sensitivity, compassion, entertaining, etc.
Enthusiasm is the key ingredient in teaching. An enthusiastic teacher is often gregarious and engaging. Enthusiastic teachers don’t have students falling asleep in class (as often) because their positive energy is contagious. Enthusiastic teachers love to share knowledge with students—and it can’t really be faked. Enthusiasm comes from the heart and it is natural for others to respond to it—it is infectious. In the area of social studies, I believe there are millions of opportunities to “hook” students on the material—because it’s inherently interesting. It always surprises me how people can say history is boring, for example. An enthusiastic teacher brings history to life, personalizes history, makes history something students can relate to, and engages students in a dialogue with history. There is no substitute for enthusiasm in teaching. If a teacher cannot generate passion for the subject being taught, they might as well do something else with their life, because without passion, a teacher cannot inspire his or her students.
Purposefulness is another important aspect of teaching. Students always ask, “Why are we doing this?” How is this useful?” “Do we have to know this for the test?” Everyone must feel there is a purpose for what they’re doing. Without this sense of purpose, one cannot effectively motivate students. The successful and effective teacher tells the student why something is being done. He or she can show the student what the goals and objectives are for studying what is being studied. If nothing else, a teacher must make a connection between the material being discussed, and what the teacher is trying to accomplish. For example, a teacher may say, “I’m posing this question because I think it is important for you to be able to think critically and make decisions for yourself. Not just echo the opinions of your parents.” Teachers must also act purposefully and businesslike in the classroom. Classrooms are places in which students are expected to learn—learning often requires hard work. Teachers should not feel that their job is to entertain students, they’re job is to help students learn and grow. Running a class “bell to bell” is the best way in which to keep students engaged and keep misbehavior from occurring. Students should be too involved with the subject matter to be causing trouble. My plan is to have a posted activity on the board (as often as possible) to start each class period. When the students enter the class, they will be expected to start working on it quickly and quietly—not chat with their friends. This also gives the teacher a chance to take roll without student involvement. It seems to me that a purposeful teacher tends to get purposeful students who accomplish their goals.
Research has shown that classroom management is the most important element in effective teaching. Purposefulness is related to good classroom management technique. Classroom management is at its best when students are involved in setting rules, norms and procedures for the classroom. By involving students in the process of setting up procedures and rules, students have a stake in the running of the class. Good classroom management then involves sticking to the rules and associated consequences. If a procedure is not followed properly, the student should be required to repeat the procedure. Good classroom management entails that the teacher will be prepared for class with proper materials and a plan for the day. It also includes information posted in the room, seating charts, and other ways of making the class a smooth running, distraction-free zone in which students can learn. Students don’t want distractions from learning and they do want to know what is expected of them.
In conclusion, I have touched upon only a very small part of what makes a good teacher. There are many facets to good teaching. Above all, teachers must care about their students, they must enjoy what they are doing and have enthusiasm for what they teach, they must practice good classroom management skills and be purposeful and objective-driven. For me, the best teachers were those that knew their stuff, loved what they knew, and wanted to give their knowledge to me for my own sake. These were not necessarily teachers from whom I got an A grade, they were teachers who gave knowledge to me freely, but demanded something in return—my very best effort. There is something in the above equation that made me feel valued, loved, respected and challenged by my favorite teachers. It is not something I could have received from anyone else—not my parents, friends, brothers, sisters or grandparents. This same something is what I want to give to my future students.