How to Become an Excellent Teacher

Secondary EducationThere is something incredibly satisfying about working with a true professional in any line of work.  When you have a professional on the job in any area of specialization watching that person in action is like watching a work of art, or what some experts describe as to be ‘in the zone’. The ‘in the zone’ level of ‘unconscious competence’ is what most people want to attain. According to experts and student surveys, an excellent teacher should possess the following qualities:

1. Enthusiasm/Passion/Confidence – top teachers love what they do and they know this in their heart. Students almost immediately see when you love your job as it is catchy and rubs of positively on their learning. You should also possess the confidence and belief in yourselves in times of difficulty and do not take things personally or get upset so your performance is affected.

2. Compassion/Empathy – the best teachers genuinely care about their students as individuals and want to help them. If necessary, take the time to discuss subjects outside your teaching, care about students beyond the walls of your classroom.

3. Patience/Sensory Acuity/Flexibility – you must possess a great deal of patience and be comfortable working with learners with diverse capacities and needs. Sensory acuity means seeing, hearing, feeling (physically and emotionally) what is going on around you. This skill is important in the classroom so that you are aware of feedback/information that indicates the extent to which you are on or off target in achieving your teaching outcomes, awareness of your students’ actions and reactions to certain situations/stimuli and enough flexibility to change or adopt your teaching style is vital.

4. Understanding Learning Styles – learn the different learning styles of your students, some learn visually (V), auditorily (A), or kinesthetically (K), and take that into consideration when lesson planning for your class. Here is a link to a questionnaire to discover learning styles of your students.  Also understand that other things affect our ability to learn, such as: the weather; the temperature in the classroom; the time of day; attention spans of learners and maturity.

5. Good Rapport – it is important you have a great rapport with your students as it vital to achieve your objectives. Good rapport can help you better express your ideas and understand the thought processes of your students. It can also assist in avoiding conflicts, misunderstandings and arguments. Basic rapport skills  are based on ‘mirroring and matching’ techniques. For more information refer to any N.L.P. material.

6. Knowledge/Preparation – Students can tell the difference between someone who knows what they are doing and someone who does not, as your body language gives clues.  Your knowledge and preparation gives your students the confidence and a sense of security.  A professional should always knows what to do both long and short range, so dedicating an hour or two to your preparation not only makes you a better teacher, but it lets the students know that you are serious and committed about your teaching. A prepared teacher is able to respond to interruptions and disturbances calmly, address them rapidly and be back on the task.

7. Safe & Challenge Environment – as a teacher you must provide a safe, non-threatening, and welcoming environment that nurtures each student. This helps in building healthy relationships with your students and your student’s parents. Your classes should also be challenging enough for students to maintain curiosity and interest and really see that whatever they are learning that can apply in real life situations.

8. Dedication to excellence – good teachers want the best from their students and themselves. They encourage and motivate students through various techniques to think for themselves and to be good people. They want students to learn and be able to apply what they learned, not just be able to pass tests. The best teachers are life-long learners and committed to the profession.

9. Willingness – great teachers have a never ending willingness to ensure that all students reach their maximum potential. They don’t settle for poor grades if they believe you can do better. A great slogan ‘teach to reach’ is worth adopting, which means that you don’t stop teaching when the bell rings. You might need to hold extra sessions, to reach out to students after class. Extra help and assistance can make a big difference.  Great teachers realize that achievement isn’t just a good grade on a test, but a feeling of accomplishment with mastering a subject.

10. Pride in student’s accomplishments. The best teachers let you know they are glad you got a good grade and tell you that you did a good job. They celebrate the accomplishments of students with the knowledge that everyone is capable to doing well. They are positive and encouraging focusing on how a student does rather than how well they taught. They may know that it was the strength of their teaching that helped a student to achieve, but they act as if the student is completely responsible. The pride that a teacher shows towards the students can to some degree spark the innate genius within students to do even better.

These are some of the characteristics of an excellent teacher, become conscious of them, study them until you are so good at teaching that you do not have to consciously think about them, that is to say be ‘unconsciously competent’ at the teaching profession.

A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops. – Henry Brooks Adams

This article appears in Miscellany of Topics 1 e-book.

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