Over the last two weeks we’ve looked at universal characteristics of great teachers. Here are four more universal characteristics that many excellent teachers have in common.
#11. Great teachers know how to live with ambiguity. One of the greatest challenges of teaching is the lack of immediate, accurate feedback. There is no way to predict what the long-term results of your work will be. But if you have a sense of purpose and try to cultivate expectations of success for all students, you will be less likely to dwell on that unpredictability, and focus on how you can impact them today.
#12. Great teachers enjoy their work and their students. This may seem obvious, but it’s easy to lose sight of its importance. Teachers who enjoy their work and their students are motivated, energized, and creative. The opposite of enjoyment is burnout-the state where no one and nothing can spark any interest. Notice, too, that enjoying your work and enjoying your students may be two different things. Focusing too much on content may make students feel misunderstood or left out. Focusing exclusively on students, without an eye to content, may make students feel understood and appreciated, but may not help them to achieve their educational goals as quickly as they’d like. Achieving a balance between the two extremes takes time and attention; it demands that you observe closely, evaluate carefully, and act on your findings.
#13. Great teachers are reflective. Outside of a teacher having the desire to make a difference in the lives of their students, this may be the only infallible, absolute characteristic of all great teachers, because without it, none of the other traits can fully mature. Good teachers routinely think about and reflect on their classes, their students, their methods, and their materials. They compare and contrast, draw parallels and distinctions, review, remove and restore. Failing to observe your class on a regular basis disconnects you from the teaching and learning process and it’s impossible to create connectivity if you’re disconnected.
#14. Great teachers have the ability to connect with students. Cornelius-White conducted a meta-analysis of research on teacher-student relationships and found that teachers’ warmth, empathy, and “non-directivity??? strongly correlated to higher levels of student participation, motivation, and achievement. Great teachers understand that teaching is not a static state, but a constant process. Great teachers are imaginative and expect their students to be, too. They meet students where they are, but ask them to reach higher. They love their subject, and find ways to draw their students in.
No one can comprise all of the above attributes but every teacher has a new opportunity each day to become a better teacher. Great teachers are the ones who seize more opportunities than they miss!