Who said great teachers are hard to come by?
In September, K-12 Online discussed how leadership factored into the success of a school. Although essential for quality education, research revealed that leadership was second only to teaching among all school-related factors that contribute to student performance.
Essentially, the single most important factor in determining the quality of education a child receives is the quality of his or her teacher. A good teacher improves a child’s test scores in the classroom, enhances his or her chances to attend college, increases his or her potential to earn more money and decreases the likelihood of teen pregnancy, according to a 2011 study, conducted by economists Raj Chetty and John N. Friedman of Harvard and Jonah E. Rockoff of Columbia.
Teaching is one of the most complicated jobs today! So what makes for a quality teacher? Think about your best teachers. Their techniques may have been different, but more than likely, they all had some sort of connective capacity. They were able to connect themselves to their students, their students to each other, and everyone to the subject being studied.
Characteristics of Great Teachers
Over the next few weeks, we will take a look at some of the most important characteristics of great teachers. It is not meant to be an all encompassing or definitive list. Many excellent teachers may possess only some of these traits, and consider others not mentioned to be just as valuable. The characteristics detailed below are just a guideline to help teachers create and sustain connectivity in their classrooms – a universal characteristic of great teachers.
#1. Great teachers set expectations of success for all students.
Since the famous Rosenthal experiment in the late 1960s, the Pygmalion effect—the observation that teachers’ expectations for their students affect how well students learn—has been well documented. Great teachers expect that all students can and will achieve in their classroom, and they don’t give up on underachievers. There are so many factors in a students’ life, that it’s impossible for a teacher to guarantee success to all, however, if you give up on your students, adopting a fatalistic, “it’s out of my hands??? attitude, students will sense your lack of commitment and tune out. The main objective for a teacher is to create a climate for success in your classroom to meet the needs of all students.
#2. Great teachers have clear, written objectives.
Effective teachers have lesson plans that give students a clear idea of what they will be learning, what the assignments are and what the grading policy is. Assignments have learning goals and give students ample opportunity to practice new skills. The lesson plan serves as a road map and may be altered depending on classroom needs.
#3. Great teachers have a sense of purpose.
A RAND study conducted more than 30 years ago found links between student achievement and teachers’ sense of value—their belief in their students’ ability to succeed, as well as their own ability as teachers to help those students succeed. You can’t be good in a generic sense; you have to be good for something. As a teacher, this means that you know what your students expect, and you make plans to meet those expectations. You, too, have expectations about what happens in your classroom, based on the goals you’re trying to achieve. If you want to prepare your students for employment, you expect punctuality and good attendance. If you want your students to become better readers, you allow time for reading and provide access to books.
#4. Great teachers are prepared and organized. They are in their classrooms early and ready to teach. They present lessons in a clear and structured way. Their classrooms are organized in such a way as to minimize distractions.
#5. Great teachers engage students and get them to look at issues in a variety of ways. Effective teachers use facts as a starting point, not an end point; they ask “why??? questions, look at all sides and encourage students to predict what will happen next. They ask questions frequently to make sure students are following along. They try to engage the whole class, and they don’t allow a few students to dominate the class. They keep students motivated with varied, lively approaches.
Watch for our next post where we highlight more characteristics of a great teacher. Join our discussion. What characteristics do you think embody great teachers?