The 7 Characteristics Of A Great Teacher
In a study done by Payscale, being a teacher was ranked as one of the most meaningful jobs in America. We need educators in society because without them, what would the world do?
And I want to give all of the praise in the world to our teachers because being one isn't easy at all!
You're basically in charge of showing the next generation how to be decent humans in the real world. While at the same time, still having to teach difficult subjects to a large number of students. Not to mention you have a real life to deal with outside of the classroom! That's a lot to balance.
Despite all of the adversity, the best teachers still find a way to push through to have a lasting impact on their students. A child's going to always remember you for the impact you had on their lives.
So what are some of the qualities of the "best teachers"? I bet if you ask 100 people why their favorite teacher was their favorite, most of them won't even mention teaching abilities and academics.
Of course you want kids to have good grades and succeed academically, but it has to be more to it right?
I ask myself this question, and I think about my favorite teachers from when I was in school. When I think about it, they all had similar traits that made them great instructors.
In this article, we're going to discuss characteristics that every educator should possess to succeed in their career.
These are the 7 qualities that every great teacher should have:
- Believe In Your Students: Instills Confidence
- Understanding Work Life Balance
- Knows How To Handle Hard Times
- Understands The Importance Of Humor
- Isn't Biased Towards Students
- Teaches Lifelong Lessons
1. Believe In Your Students: Instills Confidence
You have to believe in your students! Not only that, but you have to find ways to make students believe in themselves.
This is not always an easy task, but it's essential. The reason being, the sky's the limit. You can't be an instructor holding a kid's imagination back. We've all seen teachers like this, and it's truly heartbreaking. You never know the things your students are going to accomplish in their life.
Teaching is a million times bigger than just test scores, and good grades. Remember, you're preparing kids for the real world as well. Confidence is huge when it comes to children. So why not start instilling in them as early as possible?
Some students already have that confidence and swagger out the gates, but other students not so much. As an educator, you have to be able to see this, and know how to make certain kids believe they can do it.
You have to look at this from the other side of the fence also. There's definitely a balance because some kids are a bit too cocky. When children think they're better than others, this almost never ends well.
It's obvious. When you instill confidence into your students, and really want the best for them, the best comes out.
Little personal story. I remember in high school when I took my first AP class. Lord knows I had no business being in there (or at least I thought I didn't). My teacher Mr. Hardy really instilled the confidence in me to succeed in the class.
He found that belief that I didn't even see in myself at the time. And guess what? It worked out because I passed!
2. Understanding Work Life Balance
Work life balance can be defined as the amount of time you spend doing your job versus the amount of time you spend with loved ones or pursuing personal interests or hobbies.
This is a term that can be tricky though. It makes it seem like there's this perfect world out there where your job and personal life never mix. We all know this is the furthest thing from the truth. I definitely believe it's something you can work on, and get better at though.
As an educator, this can be a hard thing to juggle with because your work tries to take over your personal life. Of course you have a life outside of the classroom, but it's like your job's duties don't care.
Your friends are wanting to grab lunch to catch up, your family needs you, and you probably have hobbies that you want to have time for.
Then here comes the work.
Having to grade papers on the weekend, lesson planning, staying after school to help a student with a subject he didn't get in class.
It's like your work and personal life is playing a game of tug of war for your attention. They keep tugging until eventually, the work wins.
When your work is completely taking over your personal life, that can be dangerous. After a while, you're probably going to get burnt out. Once you reach that point, it's usually hard to be the best form of yourself for your students.
So what are some ways you can fight back, and get that time you need in your personal life?
Draw A Line
Set rules, and stick to them! Here and there, you might have to break, but overall stay firm! When work is over, it's over.
If you say you're not going to check emails after 8 pm, don't go and peek one more time before you go to bed! It might take a little time, but you can do it.
Know When To Say No
You're going to get tested over, and over, and over again. Sometimes you might fail, but as long as it's not every time.
"Mrs Jackson, can you watch the after school program this month?" If it's taking away from your time at home, or important tasks, it's absolutely okay to decline.
There's nothing wrong with declining things to prioritize spending time doing the things that's important to you. Whether that's family, hobbies, or just simply relaxing.
When you say yes to everything, you're more than likely going to end up overworking yourself.
Taking Care of Your Body And Mind
It's simple. If you don't feel good, whether it be mentally or physically, you're not going to perform your best when it comes to teaching. Take care of yourself.
Overworking is a sure way for a person's health to decline. Teacher burnout is a very real thing.
Fit some time in your schedule to make sure you get some exercise. You want to make sure you get enough hours of sleep, as well. All of these things will have a better effect on you in the classroom.
Mentally, are you feeling well? If not, it's okay to reach out, and ask for help. Talk to a friend, seek therapy, meditate. Being a great teacher starts with YOU. Take care of yourself!
3. Knows How To Handle Hard Times
Real life never stops. I know that sounds harsh, but that's just the truth. Maybe you and your husband have not been seeing eye to eye the past couple of weeks. Or your child has been getting bullied, and it's really bothering you. Maybe you've just gotten bad news from the doctor.
If you're going to stay in this profession for the long haul, things like this are going to happen. You're human, and people go through trials and tribulations.
Show me one person in life who doesn't go through things. Exactly. We all do, and that's 1000% okay!
It can be hard having something heavy on your mind, and then have to come to class like nothing's bothering you.
As a teacher, there's multiple ways you can go about this when things like this happen in your life:
- Ask for help
- Tell your students
- embrace your students
Ask For Help
Isolation can be dangerous in hard times. I'm definitely guilty of this. I know that might feel like the best thing to do, but try to use your support system as much as possible. That's what they're here for.
Fellow coworkers, family and friends, and even your students ( I'll get to that one).
Let the ones you trust know what's going on, and the help will pour in. You can ask your fellow coworkers to help with light assignments here and there. You can reciprocate it when you're in a better space.
Having a million things to do in the classroom, and then having to deal with your personal life outside of the classroom can be a lot. Take some of that workload off your back.
Tell Your Students
Now I'm not saying just come out and say "my husband's cheating, and we're getting a divorce." If you're comfortable though, you can definitely express to your students that you have a lot going on.
You would be surprised. They have parents that go through things, so they'll definitely be able to relate. This could also be a good example for them in the real world. To a lot of students, teachers are their heroes. To learn that heroes' lives aren't perfect either could be a very powerful lesson.
Also, when you tell your students this, they could stand up to the challenge of making your life easier. They'll be able step up to the plate, and take a little bit of the weight off your back. You could give them more self led assignments, and see how they react.
Embrace Your Students
Times of hardship are when you truly have to learn gratitude. You have to be grateful for what you have.
Your students are something to really be grateful for. Allow your kids to distract you from what's going on outside of the class. When you put your focus on your students, it can really take your mind off of what's going on momentarily.
I'm not saying to forget about it, but when you can put your mind on something else, it can do wonders. Let those smiling faces uplift your mood!
4. Understands The Importance of Humor
These are kids at the end of the day. You have to sprinkle in some excitement here and there.
As an educator, you have to know the balance of when to bring the humor in your class. Keyword here is balance. If you have too much fun, then you're not going to be able to get any learning done.
The wonderful people at Classful worded it perfectly: "Students don't respond better to fun teachers but to teachers who have fun!"
Don't just turn your classroom to a comedy show, and not give the students any real work. They're here to learn at the end of the day, remember? Of course the students would label you as "the best teacher ever", but that wouldn't really benefit them in the long run.
You can sprinkle the fun into learning. Maybe your class just got done reading a book. Have a play, and let the students act out characters from the story. I promise your students will love that way more than just plainly reading the book, and talking about it.
I think we can all agree the most memorable moments in school are when the whole class is dying of laughter for whatever reason. That's needed. 36 weeks of just straight learning is nothing a student wants to be a part of.
Studies show that laughter can greatly increase your mood, and makes you feel better overall.
When a student feels they can laugh and enjoy themselves around their teacher, it creates a more comfortable environment. In return, they'll probably want to learn more.
Humor is a must as a teacher.
Preparation is essential as a teacher. Without it, this can be a sure path to failure. Not only for yourself, but also for your students. It will make everybody's life easier if you come to class prepared.
The more you put into preparing, the less stressful your school year will be. Time is very limited during the school year, so it's best you use the most of it.
Effective Use of Time
Preparation allows you to make the most out of your time. If you don't, you probably won't know how long a lesson takes. While preparing, you can "guesstimate" how long each activity will take for your class. You won't know till you actually teach it, but it can definitely help you have a better idea.
Think about it. If you're a basketball player that practices a lot, when it comes time to play in games, you're going to be confident in your abilities.
The same goes with teaching. Preparing your lesson planning and class time will make you more confident in your abilities to teach. You still might be a little nervous, but I promise you will feel way more comfortable than just going out and doing it on the fly.
Students Will Stay Engaged
Utilizing all of your class time will keep your students interested and engaged. If you just teach things on the fly, you might run out of time, or have too much time.
If a kid isn't learning in the classroom, they're probably bored. I think we can all agree a bored student is never good.
When a child is engaged in their learning, this leads to less trouble. Their mind doesn't have time to wander off. They're focused on the lesson.
6. Isn't Biased Towards Students
Bias can be a real issue in the classroom, and sometimes we're not even aware we caused it. As an educator, the goal is to give all your students equal opportunity and equal attention.
Sometimes that's kind of a difficult thing to do because there's this thing called implicit bias. This type of bias happens automatically, and sadly can change how we view people. These biases are applied to certain groups of students based on socioeconomic status, gender, race, or even age.
As said in the beginning, most of the time you're not even aware of this. I saw one time where a teacher only called on students strictly on the right side of the classroom. There was a student on the left side that felt completely left out, and this caused problems.
Other times, this can be a lot more obvious. A teacher selecting on boys more than girls, or a teacher leaning more towards a particular race.
So Why Is This Such An Issue?
It goes back to my first point: confidence. If a child sees you're paying attention to another student way more than you're paying attention to them, that can cause their confidence to hinder.
Look at the other end of the spectrum. The child with all the attention may feel special, and feel above the other students. This can lead to a toxic learning environment.
This may also lead to behavioral issues in the classroom. The kids that feel they're treated unfairly, or think their teacher has favorites may act out. School might become less important to them, in their mind.
I definitely get it. Little Harley is sweet as sugar, and you're really good friends with her parents, but you have to do your best not to give her advantages that your other students don't have.
Or maybe the boys in your class love to act out, and give you a hard time. Once again, you have to be strong, and not treat the girls any better. I know, I know. It can be hard, but who said greatness was easy?
Ways to Reduce Implicit Bias
One way you can tackle implicit bias is by looking at yourself in the mirror.
It starts within us at a young age. As young children, we believe what our family believes. Or we were influenced by certain things we saw on television and social media.
You have to be aware of your own biases, and replace them with better thinking.
Another way is to work on empathy: getting a better understanding of perspective and emotions. Take time to learn your students, and the lives they live outside of the classroom.
You'll be surprised by how interesting and diverse your children are. This will also help you view all your students in a more positive light.
7. Teach Lifelong Lessons
As I said at the beginning, a teacher is responsible for preparing the next generation for the real world. You have to instill lessons in your students that will last until they're old.
I believe some of the biggest life lessons you can pass on to your students are as follows:
- Hard work pays off
- Be respectful and have manners
- You can be anything you want
Hard Work Pays Off
One of my favorite sayings: "Hard work beats talent when talent fails to work hard."
You're going to come across students where school comes natural to them. They never study, they half pay attention, and they still pass with flying colors.
On the other hand, you're also going to have those kids where no matter how hard they try, it's still difficult for them to keep good grades. There's a lesson here for both types.
Work hard regardless of the results. Study, do the extra assignments, study even more. You have to instill this into children, especially if they're younger because trust me. The half working student probably won't be able to get by in high school or college doing that.
While on the other end, the grades will eventually come for the other child. It's just taking them a little longer to get it, and that's completely fine. All students move at a different pace.
This is a no brainer. Respect can take a person so far in life. You have to make sure you hammer that into your kids. Make sure they're respectful to not only you, but their peers also. Rude people are not likable, and nobody wants to associate with them.
You Can Be Anything You Want
The sky's the limit! As a teacher, you're going to have a lot of students that go on to do great things in life. Maybe you had a kid go to the NFL, or maybe one of your former students is a firefighter.
Whatever it is, it starts with you. This goes back to the other point of believing in them. You have to. Because when their beliefs are limited by somebody they look up to, it can really do damage to their confidence. You don't want to be the reason a child doesn't believe in themselves.
Education is a career path not designed for the weak. I don't think most people realize everything that goes into it. You're having to teach dozens, sometimes hundreds of students, support them emotionally, and still balance your personal life outside of class.
That's why I truly believe teachers are some of the most important people in our world. Where would we be without them? Lessons that we carry throughout our whole lives started in the classrooms with our teachers.
If I had to talk about every great quality a teacher needed, I would've had to write a 1000 page book. So I just stuck with seven that I think every teacher can apply in their classroom. I truly hope this helps someone, and thank you for reading today.
What qualities do you think are most important when it comes to being a great teacher to your students? Leave a comment below, and let us know. We would love to hear all opinions!