What Great Teachers (and all Leaders) Have in Common
For two months I assisted two teachers (Marie and Colin) who teach different grade levels, in different languages, with very different teaching styles. But while details differ, they both possess a few important qualities that distinguish them as great teachers. What are they?
Are assertive yet approachable. When in the presence of a great teacher this may seem obvious but the second you are in the presence of a teacher that talks over the voices of his/her students or the second you yourself are in front of a class of students, you’ll realize it’s a skill that takes practice.
Explain why instead of just saying “because”. As we get older, certain things start to become so ingrained that we no longer feel the need to explain the basics (or sometimes we even forget the basics ourselves). The act of explaining “why” is important not just for the student, but also the teacher. What we know is never certain and by asking why we become more reflective people.
Think about their students after class is over. Teachers have a lot of influence over their students and I personally believe that the relationship they maintain is just as important as the material they teach. Of course this also goes the other way: a student will get so much more from a class if they are aware that their teacher is a person who has feelings and personal passions.
Keep up with the times and utilize available resources. School is a place that helps us understand and navigate the world, but how can learning take place if the teacher and the student are navigating entirely different worlds? The best teachers are ones that are consistently adapting and updating their lessons. That’s not to say that a teacher needs Kindles instead of hardcover books, but just that it’s helpful for the teacher to know that Kindles exist.
Think about how education plays a role in society. This one applies to all of the above and really drives home the fact that all of the qualities listed are true not only about teachers, but all leaders. It’s not an easy job, but as Marie and Colin have showed me, it certainly is a rewarding one.