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What Makes a Great Teacher?
Some teachers consistently improve student test scores, while others leave their students with below-average results year after year. It can happen right next to each other; same level, same building. The results of dozens of studies point to the same most important factor: a good teacher is the biggest influence on a student’s chances of success.
Among the factors that do not predict a teacher’s ability? “A college degree, high SAT score, outgoing personality, politeness, confidence, warmth, enthusiasm, and passing the teacher certification exam on the first try,” says Elizabeth Green, writer for The New York Times.
“Parents have always worried about where to send their children to school, but school, statistically speaking, doesn’t matter as much as the adult in front of their children,” said Amanda Ripley , reporting statistical findings from Teach for America. .
Data from Teach for America suggests two major traits that connect all good teachers: setting big goals for their students and continually looking for ways to improve their teaching. “Great teachers constantly re-evaluate what they’re doing,” Ripley said.
A teacher must constantly re-evaluate and pay attention to what works for their students, as every class is different. It takes patience and dedication, as well as a love for teaching, to do it right. Teacher Marie F. Hassett asserts, “Good teachers reflect and reflect regularly on their lessons, their students, their methods, and their materials.”
“Another trait seemed even more important,” Ripley says. Teachers who scored high in “life satisfaction” based on assessment tests were 43% more likely to perform well in the classroom. No surprise here, a happier person is usually the better teacher.
Doug Lemov, teacher, principal, founder and consultant of the Uncommon Schools network of charter schools in New York City, has a different approach when it comes to thinking about good teaching. Lemov, who has conducted his own research and published a “Taxonomy of Effective Teaching Practices,” believes that what often looks like “born genius” is actually “deliberate technique in disguise.” He suggests that good teaching is not purely instinctive, but that good teachers can be trained by gaining knowledge about teaching techniques.
“Lemov’s view is that getting students to pay attention is not only crucial, but as specialized, complex, and learnable a skill as playing the guitar,” says Green.
In a study by German researchers in 2010, Baumert and colleagues tested 194 high school math teachers and found that although content knowledge was essential, teachers who had strong pedagogical knowledge as well as math knowledge were the most effective.
What about passion and talent?
Author, educator and activist Parker Palmer argues that good teaching is not about technique. After numerous conversations with students about what makes a good teacher, Palmer says, “All of them describe people who have had some kind of ability to connect, who connect to their students, their students to each other, and everyone to the subject studied.
“Good teaching often has less to do with our knowledge and skills than with our attitude toward our students, our subject matter, and our work,” says teacher Marie F. Hassett.
To add to the debate, I asked my colleagues for their opinions on what makes a good teacher, and here are the traits we found here at 360 Education Solutions:
Make fun. Using different teaching styles, a hands-on approach, and adaptability are all marks of a good teacher. Good teachers must stay tuned and up to date on educational standards, while keeping their students engaged by making them fun and including activities in their lessons. If a teacher can keep their students engaged and constantly make things a discussion, they do well. A good teacher should challenge their students to think creatively and influence them by being creative in the way they teach.
Be invested. A good teacher is invested in the subject and his students. It is important to know the material well, but also to understand how students might understand it or misunderstand it, and to be aware of it and know what they need. Getting to know your students on a personal level, like what’s going on in their lives, is important not just for connection, but for understanding what they need as a student. Elementary school teachers and even secondary school teachers are often called upon to play both the role of teacher and parent.
Preparing students for “combat”. A colleague gave me a very descriptive example of how he sees a great teacher. Their job is to give their students “sword and shield”, he explained, “so they can go into battle”. Because when they take on their challenges, it empowers them, he says, and when they’ve done it themselves, they can claim ownership. “Good teachers are the ones who don’t give you the answer…they open the door for you but let you walk through it,” he says. “And the reason I say that is because the important things in my life have happened because of teachers and mentors like this.”
To be tough. No one likes a teacher who is mean, nasty, or overly punishing. But a colleague likes a tough teacher because they challenge him. “It seems like the teachers everyone hates because they give the most work and don’t let you go easily end up being the ones you learn the most from,” he said.
Other qualities that we recalled about our favorite teachers:
• Relationship skills
• Have respect for their students
• Have enthusiasm
• Present new perspectives
• Care about their students and what they teach
• Are willing to go the extra mile
More importantly, good teachers are those who have the patience to give their students the attention they deserve and who are dedicated to helping them go further than anyone ever thought possible.
“Good teaching is not a static state, but a constant process,” concludes Hassett. “Every day we have new opportunities to become better teachers; good teachers are those who seize more opportunities than they miss.”
Remember: good teaching means student success, but that success cannot be judged solely on the basis of test scores. Moreover, the success of a student does not only depend on a good teacher, but also on his own motivation. A good teacher can only “show them the door”, the student must pass.
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