What makes a good teacher?

What makes a good teacher?

What makes a good teacher? Is it some genetic trait, that cannot be taught? Is it from experience or passion? Why are some teachers loved by some students and hated by others? On the other hand, why are some teachers considered “great” and others not so much? What characterisitcs do the “good” teachers have that are not present with OK teachers or the “bad” teachers?

If you go on Google and type in “What makes a good teacher?” millions of entries pop up. Everybody has a say in this. We all had good and bad teachers in school, and consciously or not, we rated them or ranked them according to which we liked, which teacher was really good, which teacher really taught us something, etc.

Here is my take on what I think makes a good teacher, from my experience of being a teacher.

  1. A good teacher is a SMILEY teacher. Once someone told me that a smile really makes all the difference. If you smile to your students, just from that simple act, the students will be able to connect with you, will not be afraid to ask questions. But it has to be a real smile – the mouth, the eyes, the body kind of smile. A smile not only will make your students happy, but it will make you (the teacher) more relaxed and more open to the kids. (This has been very hard in the past two years, where I had to wear a mask and hide my smile due to the pandemic.)
  2. A good teacher cares about their students and their learning. Someone said recently that parenting is only easy if you don’t care. Same goes for teaching: If you don’t care about the students, whether they learned the topic, whether they liked to learn the topic, whether they can take your lesson to then next level and apply what they supposedly learned, then teaching is easy. It is extremely easy to talk all period long, or have students read the “textbook” or do a repetitive activity. However, it is hard to teach in a way to have all students understand everything – to get into the mind of theirs and really figure out how to transmit the information in such a way that everyone will understand – not just some, not the majority, but all students! A good teacher cares whether all of the students are learning.
  3. A good teacher can read their students’ thoughts. A teacher that can read students’ “thoughts” by being an excellent body language interpreter can be an excellent teacher. When a teacher sees students not paying attention, she/he can act and respond accordingly. When a teacher sees students tired, because it is the last day of classes before winter break, she/he can act on it, and switch the lesson up, and react. When the teacher realizes that what they’re teaching is not being understood by a student, the teacher can react by approaching the problem from a different perspective. Without that initial assessment of the student, the teacher would not be able to teach well. This is why I hated online teaching during the pandemic – I wasn’t able to read my students inner thoughts. I wasn’t able to read the “group”. I wasn’t able to know when students didn’t understand something.
  4. A good teacher can pivot quickly and be an expert at what they are teaching. A teacher that can read thoughts of students also needs to be able to adjust instantly. A lesson that isn’t working is not worth pursuing and wasting time on. A teacher needs to have many ways of teaching the same content, as some students are able to learn one way, but not another. Even if one year, one method is not necessary, maybe next year, that trick will be extremely useful for that group of students, or even that one student. Having that “bad of tricks” is extremely important for a teacher to have. Also, understanding the content really well is a must for a teacher. If a teacher knows only the one way of doing things, and doesn’t understand the “behind the scenes” of the content, she/he cannot switch the way they are teaching the content, as they are bound by the fact that they don’t know how to approach it another way. The best way to become an expert teacher is to really dive deep into the content, go to as many professional development workshops, be open to many ideas, collect those tricks and various ways of approaching the problem, talk to experts, etc.

For more reading:

What great teachers do differently?

What makes a Good Teacher?