Almost anyone can become a teacher, but it takes a special person to be a great teacher. To inspire not just a great student, but a great person, a teacher must rise above the crowd and make a lasting impression. So what does a student remember for years to come? Which characteristics make a great teacher?
A great teacher is sensitive to their students’ needs. On a child’s first day of kindergarten, when they are crying for their parents and refusing to participate in class, a great teacher sits with them until they calm down. In middle school, when a child enters adolescence, overwhelmed by learning not just academics, but learning about themselves a great teacher is patient, understanding and available to talk. And in high school and college, when faced with the task of planning their future, a student looks for a teacher to provide insight and wisdom.
Why should a student be excited about learning when their teacher is not excited about teaching? No teacher can be great without loving what they do. To excite and inspire a student requires excitement and a passion for the material itself. Enthusiasm is contagious. All it takes for a student to get excited about going to class is a teacher who is excited and whose positive energy fills the classroom.
Creativity is key to captivating a student. So often when someone reflects on their education, they remember a particular moment in the classroom that stayed with them. They remember when a teacher turned the table of elements into a rap or used an episode of The Real World to illustrate an invaluable life lesson. They remember the group projects that involved more painting than writing, the role-plays and the fun games to test their knowledge. Showing a student something they haven’t seen before even showing them something familiar but in a new way is the surest way to leave an impression that lasts for years.
A great teacher must be dedicated to their students, with an unwavering commitment to their education and well being. It’s easy to be enthusiastic about teaching when things are going well but teaching isn’t always easy. Like with any job, teachers occasionally have their bad days, but a dedicated teacher realizes the rewards of teaching are far more important. In the face of frustration, a dedicated teacher continues trying to reach each of their students, and they exercise the patience needed to ensure that a disinterested student still learns. This requires being flexible and adapting to each student. A great teacher never gives up.
When it comes to teaching, many people associate strictness with unpopularity. On the other hand, some adults look back on their education and remember their strictest teachers as some of their best. How can this be? The truth is there are ways to enforce rules without being too strict. While it’s important to establish trust and communication with students, it’s also important to bring structure and organization to the classroom. Having fair expectations of students ensures they learn how to prioritize, manage their time and listen attentively. A great teacher imposes rules and makes demands of their students, but in a way that is not intimidating. Having structure in the classroom does not have to include being overly strict, and over time students appreciate the value of discipline.
One of the truest marks of a great teacher is the ability to bring out the best in students. A great teacher recognizes their students’ potential to become great people, and they inspire them to be just that.
What other personality traits does a great teacher need? Let us know what you think a teacher needs to have as part of their personality to be great. Send a message to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject "personality" -- we want to hear what you think! And request more information about becoming a teacher through USC Rossier Online's MAT program here.