Most of us have had the privilege of having a great teacher. Great teachers go above and beyond to ensure that each child is successful. Many of us have had that one teacher that inspired us more than any other. Great teachers are able to bring the best out of every student. They are often energetic, fun, and seemingly always at the top of their game. Their students look forward to coming to their class each day. When they are promoted to the next grade, they are sad that they are leaving, but armed with the skills necessary to be successful.
Great teachers are rare. Many teachers are capable, but there are a select few who are more than just capable. They are innovators, communicators, and educators. They are compassionate, endearing, charming, and funny. They are creative, smart, and ambitious. They are passionate, personable, and proactive. They are dedicated, continuous learners who are gifted in their craft. They are in a sense the total package.
So what makes someone a great teacher? There is not a single answer. Instead, there are several things that great teachers do. Many teachers do a few of these things, but the great teachers consistently do them all.
A great teacher is prepared. Preparation takes a lot of time. Great teachers spend a lot of time outside of the school day preparing for each day. This often includes weekends. They also spend countless hours during the summer working to improve their craft. They prepare detailed lessons, activities, and centers each designed to maximize student learning opportunities. They create detailed lesson plans and often plan for more in a day than they typically can complete.
A great teacher is organized. Being organized leads to efficiency. This allows great teachers minimal distractions and maximizes instructional time. Increasing instructional time will lead to an increase in academic success for students. Organization is about creating an efficient system to find resources and other materials quickly which a teacher needs. There are many different organizational styles. A great teacher finds the system that works for them and makes it better.
A great teacher is a continuous learner. They continuously read and apply the newest research in their classroom. They are never satisfied whether they have taught for one year or twenty. They seek out professional development opportunities, research ideas online and subscribe to multiple teaching related newsletters. Great teachers are not afraid to ask other teachers what they are doing in their classrooms. They often take these ideas and experiment with them in their classroom.
A great teacher adapts. They recognize that each school day and each school year is different. What works for one student or one class may not work for the next. They continuously change things up to take advantage of individual strengths and weaknesses within a classroom. Great teachers are not afraid to scrap entire lessons and start back over with a new approach. They recognize when something is working and stick to it. When an approach is ineffective, they make the necessary changes.
A great teacher evolves. They are constantly changing and never become stale. As trends change, they change with them. They grow each year they teach always improving across multiple areas. They are not the same teacher from year to year. Great teachers learn from their mistakes. They look to improve upon what has been successful and find something new to replace what has been not worked. They are not afraid to learn new strategies, technologies, or implement new curricula.
A great teacher is proactive. Being proactive can stave off a lot of potential problems including academic, discipline, or any other issue. It can prevent a small concern from turning into an enormous problem. Great teachers recognize potential problems immediately and work to fix them quickly. They understand that the time put into correcting a small problem is considerably less than it would be if it ballooned into something bigger. Once it becomes a large issue, it will almost always take away from valuable class time.
A great teacher communicates. Communication is a critical component of a successful teacher. They must be adept at communicating with several subgroups including students, parents, administrators, support personnel, and other teachers. Each of these subgroups must be communicated with differently and great teachers are terrific at communicating with everyone. They are able to communicate so that every person understands the message they are trying to convey. Great teachers keep people informed. They explain concepts well and make people feel comfortable around them.
A great teacher networks. Networking has become a critical component of being a great teacher. It has also become easier. Social networks such as Google+, Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest allow teachers from all over the world to share ideas and provide best practices quickly. They also allow teachers to seek input and advice from other teachers. Networking provides a natural support system with those who share a similar passion. It provides great teachers with another means of learning and honing their craft.
A great teacher inspires. They are able to pull the best out of every student they teach. They inspire them to become better students, to maximize their time in the classroom, and to look towards the future. A great teacher takes an interest a student has and helps turn it into a passion making educational connections that will potentially last a life time. They understand that each student is different, and they embrace those differences. They teach their students that it is those differences that often make them exceptional.
A great teacher is compassionate. They hurt when their students hurt and rejoice when their students rejoice. They understand that life happens and that the kids they teach do not control their home lives. Great teachers believe in second chances, but use mistakes to teach life lessons. They offer advice, counseling, and mentoring when necessary. Great teachers understand that school is sometimes the safest place a kid can be.
A great teacher is respected. Respect is earned over time. It does not come easy. Respected teachers are able to maximize learning because they do not typically have classroom management issues. When they have an issue, they are dealt with quickly and in a respectable manner. They do not embarrass or berate the student. Great teachers understand you have to give respect before you earn respect. They are considerable and thoughtful to everyone, but understand that there are occasions where they must stand their ground.
A great teacher makes learning fun. They are unpredictable. They jump into character when reading a story, teach lessons with enthusiasm, take advantage of teachable moments, and provide dynamic hands on activities that students will remember. They tell stories to make real life connections. Great teachers incorporate student interests into their lessons. They are not afraid to do crazy things that motivate their students to learn.
A great teacher goes above and beyond. They volunteer their own time to tutor a struggling student after school or on weekends. They help out in other areas around school when they are needed. A great teacher is the first to help a family of a student in need in any way they can. They advocate for the students when necessary. They look out for each student’s best interest. They do what it takes to ensure that each student is safe, healthy, clothed, and fed.
A great teacher loves what they do. They are passionate about their job. They enjoy getting up each morning and going to their classroom. They are excited about the opportunities they have. They like the challenges that each day presents. Great teachers always have a smile on their face. They rarely let their students know when something is bothering them because they worry it will affect them negatively. They are natural educators because they were born to be a teacher.
A great teacher educates. They not only teach students the required curriculum, but they also teach them life skills. They are in a constant state of teaching, taking advantage of impromptu opportunities that may captivate and inspire a particular student. They do not rely on a main stream or boxed in approach to educate. They are able to take a variety of styles and mold them into their own unique style to meet the needs of the students that they have at any given time.