What Makes a Great Teacher?

Great teachers do not simply enter the education realm; rather, they are called into it. When looking back on your own education history, there are always those few teachers that leave lasting impressions on you—the ones that inspire and impress lasting values. Fortunately, it is never too late to become a teacher and if you possess leadership abilities, you can become a teacher leader. If you plan on becoming a teacher or are currently teaching, the following are seven characteristics that will help you be an effective classroom leader.

You need to show that you are comfortable in your own shoes and have faith in your teaching abilities.TeachThought explains that this can “range from having confidence in your knowledge of the material being learned to having confidence that your teaching acumen is second to none.” A good pedagogical background will help you develop this but you also need to be flexible and ready for anything. After all, teaching can be pretty unpredictable.

This is 2014. We need to prepare our students to be college and career ready. As more schools adopt digital textbooks and obtain electronic devices for learning, effective teachers are using technology to their advantage. If you are not so comfortable with new technology, attend some in-service trainings and seek support from technologically inclined colleagues.

Positive Attitude
Students respond best to positive feedback and want school to be a fun and stimulating place. USCA states that the best teachers “’catch students doing things right’ rather than ‘catching them doing something wrong.’” If you are not happy, your students certainly are not. Really good teachers are organized with detailed lesson plans, content knowledge and the ability to use research-based practices. Every instructional minute is utilized and with less down time comes less disruptive behaviors.

If you do not love working with students then you are in the wrong profession. A great teacher believes in the power of education and truly enjoys being around students. ASCDstresses that most teachers “find joy in teaching because of their talent for relating to students in a particular age group…An important part of greatness is the match between the teacher’s skills and interests and the age of his or her students.” Just because you have difficulty teaching fourth grade does not mean that you will not be an amazing kindergarten teacher. Sometimes, it takes awhile to find your niche.

Faculty Focus emphasizes the need for teachers to respect students so that children can “feel safe to express their feelings and learn to respect and listen to others.” Teachers need to model good prosocial behaviors and establish an environment where everyone is valued. This also applies to a teacher’s relationships with other teachers. When students start to feel comfortable taking risks, significant learning happens.

Of all the teacher skills, this is one of the most important and one that great leaders possess. Effective teachers must be good direct communicators with students, faculty, parents and community members. Many problems occur as a result of ineffective communication. Keeping others in the loop when something positive or negative is occurring in the classroom can make profound differences in the relationships that teachers build with others.

Cara Clarke is a teacher, writer, wife and mother of four. She lives on the island of Kauai where she teaches middle school English and special education.