(This post was written by Rachel Stanley, an education blogger whose unusual educational background has given her firm opinions on what makes a good teacher. She was educated at home for eight years before attending a boarding school for sixth form and then Oxford University to read Classics.)
Just as no two classrooms are the same, there is no single template for what makes a great teacher. Each school environment requires a different set of skills and traits to bring out the best in its pupils. There are, however, certain universal traits and skills that make any teacher ‘great’. Here are my top seven of the most common examples of habits which all highly effective teachers will employ.
1) Confidence is the key to every child’s development, be it social or educational. Low self-esteem can cause anxiety problems and depression in students, so every great teacher knows that building their students’ self-confidence is a priority. This may be through positive reinforcement when they try hard or succeed in class, or it may be going that extra mile to keep an eye out for confidence problems, or staying after class to provide support. Either way, an effective teacher works to keep their students confident and happy.
2) Even the most interesting of subjects can go over a student’s head if not explained in an engaging way. Every effective teacher constantly works to keep their lessons as practical, precise and understandable as possible. Each lesson should be explained in simple, deliberate language, with practical examples to reinforce the information. This way, students stay attentive and understand what they’re learning in real world terms.
3) The ability to take things at a slower pace is perhaps a less obvious habit that you’ll see in effective teachers. With the syllabus looming over every lesson, sometimes leading a class can feel like a race against time. No matter how much pressure you may feel to advance with a subject, unless the class has really taken in the lesson, there’s no point moving on. Effective teachers know how to adjust the pace of their lessons to let the information really sink in.
4) This might seem like a trivial point, but the best teachers know the names of their students. Knowing every student by name creates a familiar, comfortable atmosphere, helping to create a personal relationship with each child, and means that you can address any class issues in an instant.
5) Every teacher can take feedback, but only the most effective actually use this feedback to inform their future lesson plans. Asking classes what they enjoyed and what parts of the syllabus they had problems with, can be a great basis on which to structure future lessons. It also helps to get an idea of which children are responding to which teaching techniques.
6) Technology is everywhere and using the latest gadgets can be a great way to re-energise a lesson plan. The children will respond to cool and desirable new technology, and teachers might find that using new equipment can actually make teaching easier.
7) Arguably the most important of all: be flexible. Effective teacher knows that every year, every term and every day is different. You need to be able to adapt to new problems and change your style to fit new children, new syllabuses and new environments. The most effective teachers don’t have one set teaching style, they respond to what’s required of them and adapt their style to suit their students.
Do you have any habits you think make a great teacher? It would be great to hear your ideas in the comments below!
Image: 'Reading Aloud to Children'