What makes a great teacher?
September and the return to class for students across North America. I started thinking about how important the men and women who are just entering a career that I spent 44 years doing. So here is some advice from someone who loves the profession and hopes that all students get great teachers as they move through their schooling.
What makes a great teacher, is it the rapport with the students, the ability to get the best from them, or is it the ability to want students to achieve on standardized tests? Is it the ability to interact with parents, administrators, colleagues, senior management? Or is it the ability to manage classroom aides, as well as manage classroom control?
Do you want to be noticed for your drive, your integrity, honesty, your caring and your values? No matter how tough or easy you are if the students recognize that you care, it makes a big difference running the class.
Being and acting in a professional manner is something that is different for each individual teacher, but acting as a professional allows your student, your colleagues and your administration and your parents to relax, as they know you will do the right thing.
When I started teaching there were rules about what teachers could and could not wear. Over time these rules either vanished or are no longer enforced. One way to demonstrate you are serious about your craft is to dress in a manner that says to everyone, you are proud of yourself and that you are ready to teach. I don't mean wear a suit and tie or a formal dress, I mean make sure what you are wearing is clean, and not too trendy.
The advice that follows here worked for me. Every one of us is different, so the way I did things may not fit with the way you do things, and that is what makes life so wonderful. We all plan, both short-term and long-term planning is needed by teachers. When a teacher is being trained at University, the trainers focus on the day's lesson or the week's lesson plan. I found that when I had my own class, I sat down and looked first at the year. I created the outcomes and goals that I wanted my students to have at the end of their year with me, using the curriculum guides and outcomes to help in this long-term planning. Once I had the long-term goals for the year set, I broke down the steps I would take to get my students to the end goals and objectives. I created goals that would be achieved by Christmas break, by Easter Break and by June 1st. Once I had the goals and subgoals set, I then created long and short-term lessons. I would, for example, have a team project that focused in on a particular area that would last a month. While the class was working on that project, I would create lesson plans that build towards the goals I was trying to get my students to reach. I would also set up tests and other evaluations that allowed me to see where my students were in their understanding of the goals we were trying to understand. I was always prepared, so when the inevitable problem or change was thrown my way, I and my class could adjust easily.
Students are not passive learners, they watch everything we do and say in the classroom and they can quickly see the difference between someone who knows what they are doing and someone who is floundering. They perceive your fear.
Strong and consistent classroom management allows students to feel safe and to be secure in the idea that you are fair, and will keep your classroom safe from bullying and other situations that detract from learning. There will always be interruptions and even disturbances that may be frightening to your students. The students look to you for guidance in these situations and you must stay calm and in control. It takes time to develop a history and to get to a point where you really do know what to do in each circumstance. Interruptions and disturbances should not upset you, because you are prepared in every other way, and once the problem is addressed you can slide back to your lesson smoothly.
If you are prepared, you remain calm, you have the confidence that allows you up to be relaxed and even funny with your students. Your students want to know that you know what you are doing and they also take joy when they see you smile because they are on track. Your sense of confidence will allow students to take a risk and open up to you. Being confident, relaxed your students will be at ease so they will feel confident to ask difficult questions and to interact with you and each other. Because you are a professional you are making a difference in the lives of students which is why you came into this profession in the first place.
What qualities do you remember in the great teachers you had when you were in school (High School, University, or College?)
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