Shared qualities of teachers who achieve great results and make a difference in their students' lives
What makes a great teacher? You might think the answer is simple. A great teacher must be able to teach… but do they? What about charisma, nurturing, and inspiration? This list of seven qualities that the best teachers share will help you find out what it really takes to be a great educator.
Seven qualities that the best teachers share
Every teacher has strengths and weaknesses. However, if you want to be an outstanding teacher, you need to be willing to work on your weaknesses as well as your strengths. The best teachers are the ones who are constantly trying to improve themselves.
What makes a great teacher? What characteristics separate the teachers who get outstanding results from those who do not?
When you think about what makes a great teacher, the answer seems pretty obvious: a great teacher must be able to teach. But it is not that simple. Teaching is an art form, and there are many roles a teacher can play in a student's life. In this article, we list seven qualities that make a great teacher and cover how they apply in the classroom.
1 | Knowledge
Knowledge is power, and teachers with a lot of knowledge have an edge over those who don't. You should know the subject matter you're teaching inside and out. If you don't, then you need to find people who do and learn from them.
The best teachers have a solid understanding of the subject matter they're teaching, and they know how to express that knowledge in terms of what's meaningful to students. They know where their students are coming from, their learning styles, and their needs, and they know how to present the material in ways that will engage them and help them understand the concepts.
These teachers also have high expectations for their students. They believe that all students can learn, and they take steps to ensure that all students will succeed in their classes. Even if a student has had difficulty in other classes or has not shown much potential in the past, great teachers don't give up on them — they work hard to find ways to engage and motivate them in class. Teachers with high expectations inspire excellence in their students.
Whether you're a new teacher or an experienced one, you can still incorporate these characteristics into your practice. The key is to keep challenging yourself — by seeking new ideas through professional development, courses and conferences, reading about effective practices, and talking with other teachers about their experiences,
2 | Awareness
Teachers who achieve significant results and make a difference in their students' lives have awareness. They are aware of the factors that influence how well their students learn, how to use those factors to help their students learn more, and how to improve the factors that might be hurting their students' learning.
Awareness is a product of experience and reflection. Experience comes from years of being in the classroom. Reflection comes from asking what's working and what isn't, and then making adjustments. Teachers who are aware are constantly asking themselves questions like:
- What am I doing right?
- What am I doing wrong?
- How can I improve?
- How do my students learn best?
- What specifically is helping my students learn?
- What specifically is hurting my students' learning?
3 | Curiosity
Curiosity is a critical characteristic of the best teachers. It's what drives them to look for new and better ways to engage their students and motivate them to learn. A high-value teacher is curious about his subject, and his students. He wonders how his students are doing and wants to know more about them as people.
He observes classes closely and looks for innovative — and sometimes unconventional — ways to make his instruction more effective for each of his students. And he's just plain curious about everything — the world around him, his students' lives outside of school, the latest trends in education, new teaching methods... you name it.
Because of this curiosity, outstanding teachers constantly seek opportunities to learn from others with experience and expertise. If they feel they could use some improvement or a change of perspective on things, they read books on pedagogy (the art or science of teaching), attend seminars, and take classes specifically related to their field.
4 | Communication Skills
Sometimes knowing a lot isn't enough. You need to be able to express that knowledge in ways that your students understand and appreciate. The more effective your communication with students is, the more likely they will be to listen, pay attention, and learn.
In order for students to achieve the goals set forth by the teacher's vision, they must first understand the teacher's expectations. Great teachers communicate these expectations clearly so there are no misunderstandings among themselves or between themselves and their students.
They are able communicate needs and wants effectively as well as make requests of their students in a manner that allows freedom of expression while still maintaining order in the classroom.
Great teachers know how to present material in many different ways. They know how to use visual aids, real-world examples and analogies, and they know how to involve their students in the learning process.
Great teachers are also great communicators who effectively convey information through different methods of communication, like gestures, body language, and facial expressions. They can explain complicated ideas simply and clearly. In short, they have mastered the art of communicating.
5 | Receptivity to feedback –
One of the most important qualities that a teacher should possess is receptivity to feedback. The best teachers constantly seek constructive feedback from their students and superiors, so they can improve their teaching methods and provide their students with the best possible learning environment.
These teachers are always looking for ways to improve their teaching methods and enhance their students' learning experience. They don't rest on their laurels and assume that their teaching methods are perfect — they are constantly looking for new ways to improve themselves and their classroom.
They understand that they can't possibly be expected to remember all the different ways in which people learn and process information. They know that there is no single right way to teach a particular subject, but rather many different methods that will appeal to different types of learners.
The best teachers welcome constructive criticism from their students because it enables them to identify problem areas in the classroom, such as student confusion or difficulty in understanding particular concepts. They use this information to tweak their teaching techniques, ensuring that everyone in the class understands each idea thoroughly before proceeding on to the next concept.
6 | Understands the difference between discipline and punishment –
There is a big difference between discipline and punishment, and it is the best teachers who understand this difference. Teachers who achieve great results and make a difference in their students' lives are able to effectively discipline their students without resorting to forms of punishment that only serve to frustrate students, break their spirit and damage the relationship between student and teacher.
To be clear, discipline is necessary; without it, there would be chaos in the classroom. But punishment is unnecessary — and in fact, it often impedes the learning process.
Here's why: Punishment doesn't teach anything.
The purpose of punishment is to punish — to make someone suffer for doing something wrong. It doesn't force students to learn a lesson or change their behavior. In fact, some students may get off on how much trouble they're in or even enjoy getting attention from a punishment — which just means that punishment could backfire.
The best teachers know that the best lessons are taught through positive reinforcement. Creating an environment where students know what's expected of them and are rewarded when they meet those expectations encourages them to continue making good choices. And when it comes time for discipline, positive reinforcement can help a student learn from his mistakes and avoid repeating them in the future.
7 | Dependable leadership qualities –
Teaching is a job that requires teachers to be role models for their students. Therefore, teachers must be good examples of responsible citizens and competent leaders in the classroom and in the school's hallways.
The best teachers have a powerful vision to motivate students and help them achieve their goals – and they use this vision as a guiding force in daily life. They possess dependable leadership qualities that enable them to manage classes or even entire schools effectively.
They are responsible, organized and enjoy helping people reach their full potential. In short, they are driven by their desire to be successful, and thus make a difference in the lives of others.
They have strong organizational and leadership skills, as well as the ability to handle stress effectively. These qualities are important because effective teaching goes beyond subject knowledge. It also involves inspiring students through both words and actions, inspiring them to become leaders in their own right.
Know what it takes to be an outstanding teacher and realize your full potential
The qualities of great teachers can't be easily reduced to a simple checklist. Although all great teachers possess certain traits or characteristics in common, their greatness is a product of the way these qualities come together in individual ways.
Great teachers aren’t born — they’re made through the right combination of passion, knowledge, commitment, a positive attitude, and practice. When you think about the best teachers you had as a student, what qualities do you remember?
Do you remember their dynamic personalities, or their wide range of knowledge and experience? Do you remember how empathic they were towards others, or how organized and well-prepared they always were?
Take some time today and consider not only what effective teaching practices look like in action, but what characteristics have led you to remember your favorite teachers with utmost fondness.
Clearly, there are a lot of qualities that make up a great teacher, most of them intangible.
The question, then, is how do you transform yourself into a truly great educator? There is no simple checklist for that. It takes self-reflection, experience and a willingness to always be learning and growing as a person.