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Ask anyone about their educational experiences, and there’s a good chance you’ll hear about a particular teacher who made a marked difference. Maybe it’s the teacher who took the extra time to explain a challenging concept. Or maybe it’s the teacher that pushed students beyond what they thought they were capable of to help them attain goals they thought were out of reach.
Teachers today have an incredible responsibility. It’s not enough to stand in front of the classroom and drill students on the basics of reading, writing and arithmetic. Teachers need to teach students how to think, how to ask questions and find the answers — and just as important, help their students value themselves and become effective, contributing members of society.
What are the qualities that make a good teacher great? You may be surprised to learn that there are traits that all great teachers share. And surprisingly, these traits have nothing to do with intellect or academic credentials. Do you have what it takes to be great teacher?
Earning any teaching degree, whether a special education degree or any other specialized area, will provide a teacher with the basic knowledge necessary to manage a classroom, develop lesson plans and explain the basic concepts of the subject. However, a truly great teacher looks beyond the basics, employing creative thinking to reach students in new and exciting ways. Take, for example, the teacher who uploads YouTube videos of himself rapping the day’s lessons. Students can engage with the subject matter in a refreshing way and get extra help at home when they are stuck.
The boring history teacher played by Ben Stein in the classic movie “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” has become a pop culture icon representing everyone’s worst teacher. Teachers who teach in the same monotone, passionless style turn out passionless students. Great teaching is an art, and those who are considered the best in their field use the classroom as an extension of their passion for the subject. They exude a contagious excitement for the subject and are enthusiastic about sharing it with others.
Not only can passion for a subject engage students, it can also inspire them to achieve more in every aspect of their life. Great teachers inspire students to want to learn and engage in the world around them. One New York teacher who was plagued by low attendance and engagement inspired students to come to school and get engaged by developing a special currency; students earned “money” that they could trade in for supplies or other special treats.
All teacher education programs, including online teacher certification programs, help prospective teachers develop the necessary skills to be a good teacher. But being a great teacher requires an a high level of compassion toward others. That’s not to say that a great teacher doesn’t demand excellence or provide constructive criticism and correction when warranted. But a great teacher looks beyond students’ classroom performance to learn more about the students’ lives and what makes them tick. They make a personal connection with their students and help them feel welcome and valued in the class, even when they are struggling with the subject matter or with other issues in the classroom.
These are just a few of the qualities that separate good teachers from great teachers. In an environment where student achievement is evaluated largely by test scores and grades, teachers face significant challenges to go beyond the traditional teaching models and ignite their students’ minds. However, great teachers find a way to balance the demands of educational standards and of helping students truly learn, doing whatever it takes to inspire, motivate and educate.
About the Author: After nearly a decade working in communications, Abigail Field earned her teaching degree and now teaches at the elementary level. She blogs about her experiences as a first-year teacher on a regular basis.