There is no one clear set of guidelines and criteria to become the ‘best teacher’, with every person having different opinions and preferences of personalities and teaching styles etc. Yet I believe there is a small set of universal qualities that make a good teacher, a foundation to build upon based on my experience of being taught. We can all (hopefully!) remember that one teacher during your school/university days where you always felt confident in gaining clear understanding, they made an effort to explain complicated areas, cared about you and their subject and had a good hold of the class? I wanted to know what made them great, and I think it comes down to a combination of personality, knowledge, confidence and classroom skills. So, here are my top 5 qualities that I think make a good teacher:
Passion is infectious. Some of my best teachers have been genuinely excited and passionate about continuing to learn and teach their subject. Love of a subject matter inspires you to work harder and their desire for you to learn and grow is motivating. If they clearly love teaching, it makes you more inclined to love learning. A teacher’s attitude towards learning hugely affects how you feel about the subject, as positivity breeds positivity. No one is willing to learn as hard in a dreary, monotonous and miserable working environment.
But enthusiasm alone isn’t enough to make someone a good teacher. Having the skills to deliver lessons, use classroom resources, mark work and provide valuable feedback is also important. Being disciplined and professional makes you as a student feel more confident in their ability to manage stress and disciplinary issues. Being highly organised not just with work but in terms of different student’s progress and extra duties is reassuring that they know what they are doing. Having a professional yet kind and sympathetic nature is important to become a good teacher.
Being patient to different people’s abilities and ways and time of understanding is so important. It’s not all about stuffy paperwork, rules, and task lists – being able to feel comfortable to talk to your teacher about concerns, misunderstanding and challenges comes down to their patience and how much they care about their students and subject. I think a teacher can be demanding and set high expectations which push you to achieve your best, without being unkind. I don’t mind being challenged and pushed, but if a teacher is harsh and arrogant my working mindset instantly changes. You can be demanding without being unkind and a lot of that comes down to patience.
Being flexible, adaptable and pro-active not only keeps me engaged in the classroom but makes learning more enjoyable, if a teacher is willing to entertain new ideas, to embrace ‘innovation’ it helps us understand, internalise and remember. What makes teachers innovative is not merely tools or technology but their creativity and minds. If it appeals to my visual, auditory and kinaesthetic ways of learning, it is infinitely more exciting than just reading from a textbook.
Last but not least, it goes without saying that a good teacher must have a good and deep understanding of their material and be able to admit to when they are uncertain. When a teacher can not only provide an answer to a question but can expand the discussion with vivid examples, anecdotes and relevant facts it helps to inspire. A mark of a good teacher is someone who not only works with their existing knowledge but strives to stay on top of the latest research in their field. Alongside good knowledge a teacher needs self-confidence. If they lack self-confidence it often leads to overcompensation by being unreasonably demanding or condescending. The best teachers are confident without being arrogant or too authoritative.