|Posted by Granted Education on October 4, 2016 at 7:35 AM|
Are you a great teacher? It's a question that we often ask ourselves, some more than others I guess, and it's nearly always the reason why we chose this profession. For some, it was the amazing teacher you had in school, for others, it was the distinct lack of a good teacher and recognising the qualities that teachers SHOULD have. For me, it was kind of a combination of both - there just weren't enough good teachers to go around.
What makes a great teacher could easily be a list of characteristics that look similar to what makes a good person - a sense of humour, the ability to feel like you're actually being listened to, flexibility, and consistency of personality and approach. With this in mind, this is a question that has driven educational researchers and the concepts lie at the core of the teaching professional development push of late. We want to know how to improve our teaching pedagogy in order to be making more of a difference on the educational outcome of our students. When you want to know how to be better, going straight to the source is the best option!
Here is a link to a research article where 1800 Australian school boys were interviewed and gave some frank feedback on the characteristics of good and bad teachers.
It's definitely an interesting read and should prompt self reflection. It's not surprising that the boys express that when they have 'good' teachers, they are more likely to work and less likely to be disruptive. That in itself should make you want to do everything in your power to be a 'good' teacher!
After much research, personal experience and discussions with students, here's my list of what makes a great teacher:
Most miscommunication occurs when people stop listening and are getting ready to defend their position. I should know, it's a constant struggle for me in my personal life! When you take the time to process and actually listen, a couple of things happen: 1. You give the other person the opportunity to put forward their point of view. Sometimes, it's just this process of being able to say what's on their mind that is important for them. 2. You get an understanding of their perspective so you don't waste your time and emotions talking about completely different things! Listen from their perspective and take your time to process it.
2. Have a sense of humour
The benefits of laughter are well documented. It lowers stress, increases endorphins which make you feel good, it helps minimise awkward situations (like when you accidentally run into a pole!), gives you a sense of commonality and helps lower your blood pressure. You would be crazy not to use it in your classroom! Even though the kids will rarely admit it, they actually like bad 'dad jokes'. One of my Yr 8 girls told me that my jokes were so lame and I needed to research to get better ones. Everyday she would check-in to see if I'd made any progress and would lecture me if I hadn't found any good jokes (actually this part was quite funny!). Through my 'lack of humour' (although I thought I was funny as hell), we built a strong bond.
Everyone can have a bad day but it's what you do as a teacher to recognise this, use empathy and show flexibility to get around it. I had a yr 7 kid in my class this year who was clearly having a bad day. He was moody, uncooperative and falling asleep instead of doing his work. My initial instinct was to get on his case to get the work done but I took the time to realise that this behaviour was out of character for him. I then crouched down to his level, acknowledged his unusual behaviour, asked if he was having a bad day and if I could do anything to help. He immediately opened up to say that he was up late because there was some family stuff going on that he was stressed about and he was really tired. I asked him if I let him have a lie down and a little sleep, could he catch up on the work later. He was so relieved and thankful, he actually guaranteed the work would get done and he could identify people who could help him do it. He kept his word and our relationship was strengthened by being flexible around when the work could be completed.
4. Use respectful language
Noone wants to be spoken down to or made a fool of. Great teachers use inclusive language in the classroom and never use sarcasm. If you want to build a safe place where your students feel valued and ok to fail, you need to be respectful with your language. Find the positives even in incorrect answers, encourage your students to be their very best. Educator Rita Piersen demonstrates the power of this and you can see the benefits to relationships.
You could be the coolest teacher on the block, but if you're not consistent with your actions, you lose standing as a teacher. Students appreciate when teachers are consistent because they know what they are going to get each time they are in your class. They know that regardless of who you are, if you step across the line, the consequences will be the same for all and followed through with. Although they hate it when they get into trouble, they respect you because you are clear and consistent (unless you are consistently mean or flakey!).
6. Know their stuff
Kids respect it when you are clearly knowledgeable about the topic. Despite the age of technology and the persistent access to knowledge, students want to feel like you know what's up. In a student centred context, you would be the one asking the provoking questions and encouraging them to seek further information but having an idea of the topic is still very important.
7. Activate curiosity
Back in the day, before we had caller ID, why did we answer the phone (stay with me on this ...)? We were curious who was on the other end and what they wanted. If your lessons have a sense of unpredictability, that anything is possible and things could get a little crazy, kids are intrigued about what could happen next. If you engage their creativity and aproach a topic from a unique perspective, students appreciate the effort you go to pull them in. I always use the litmis test of "would I be interested in doing this if I were them". If the answer is no, find another way to do it! Would you prefer to sit in a dead boring lesson where the teacher drones on in a monotomous voice, or in a lesson with engaging language and activities that you can relate to so that you can more easily retain the information?
8. Get to know their students
When people make an effort to know who you are and what makes you tick, you can't help but like them. Actually, it's biological! We have a primative drive that is part of our subconscious survival strategy to build communities because there's safety in numbers. When we take the time to find out about people, they see that we are actually interested and in that, you build a commonality and show likeness to eachother. In this exchange, we feel like we are being heard and when the teacher uses this information to tailor the learning experiences for that student, it's hard not to appreciate their efforts. If you are ever having a hard time getting a tough kid to come around and do the right thing in your class, find out what sport they play (because invariably these kids do) and get out to watch one of their games on the weekend. You don't even need to talk to them on the day but they'll see you there and appreciate that you took time out of your busy weekend to make them feel important. I did this with one of my more challenging yr 9 boys and the respect that was forged through that single act continued on through the rest of his schooling.
9. Effectively manage classroom behaviour
As was revealed in the initial article, when you have the respect of students, you use less behaviour management techniques in the classroom. However, students appreciate having teachers who are able to contol the class and focus learning effectively. This gives them the space to do their best and not be distracted by poor behaviour of other students.
10. Go above and beyond
Students really appreciate when teachers put in time outside of their normal lessons, to help them succeed. Tutorials, effort in building exciting lessons, watching their weekend sporting games, coaching etc are all examples of this. If you ask a student who puts the effort in at school, they often cite the teachers who are going the extra mile to help the kids out. I distinctly remember my HPE teacher, who coached me on the weekends and always made time to explain concepts. He is one of the main models I use for my teaching philosophy and although I probably didn't tell him, I appreciated it more than he knows. That's the power of teaching I guess, the unseen impact of our actions.
I doubt this is a definitive list of qualities but if you are unsure .. actually ask your kids! It's really insightful when you ask for their opinion and in particular how to be a better teacher.
Click here for a free Student Feedback Form to use in your class!
You'll be surprised about their candidness and when you incorporate their suggestions, they feel like their opinion matters and it also gives you an insight into how to get them to connect with the content - winning!
Is building rapport with your students an important part of your teaching philosophy?
Here's a link to one of my online video courses.
It's free if you are a member of Class Cover, otherwise it's $20! Bargain!
This course is hosted on the Open Learning platform and is a great way to drive your own PD. At the conclusion of the course, you'll earn a professional development certificate that credits you for the time in the course and you learn how to solidify relationships in the classroom.
Thanks so much for hanging out with us and we look forward to seeing you again soon! Have a great week!
Categories: Effective Teacher Practices