Friday, December 3, 2021

Some thoughts on what makes a great teacher.

By Dean Graziano

In my 28+ years as an educator, I’ve seen so much change in education--shifts in pedagogy, the rise of technology, and the ongoing evolution of education laws, standards, and structures. There are constants in education, though, and over the years I’ve noticed certain unchanging qualities and characteristics that are hallmarks of a great teacher regardless of the latest educational trends. These are the characteristics that I personally strive for as an educator.

1) Showing passion for teaching. This can manifest itself in so many ways. I'm the "jump around the room" kind of teacher, one who always walks and gets the class involved! It’s a great way to share your enthusiasm. Try shaking it up. Move around and let students come up front to become more involved with the lesson. Learning results by utilizing as many of the senses as possible.

2) Making students’ success their priority. You may laugh, but it's true! I've heard teachers talk about how much they love teaching and how much they know about a subject but they never mention their students. We should always remember why we got into this profession - the students!

3) Loving their subject. This is so important. Great teachers not only love their subject, but they love to share this joy with students. Keep learning--both personally and professionally--and continue trying new ideas. Be sure to share with each other!


4) Knowing that the role and mission of educators extends beyond the classroom. The best teachers influence their students both in and out of class. Lend an ear and get to know your students. Take note of their behavior. Do they seem sad or happier than usual? Take time to find out. They’ll appreciate their school experience much more. One of the tactics I use to do this is standing at the doorway to greet incoming students. If you know your students, you’ll have a finger on the pulse of how they are feeling.

5) Being willing to change and learn from students. This one gets overlooked sometimes. We talk about how teachers should be transformative for their students, but I think students can be just as transformative for teachers. If you expect your students to be changed by their interactions with you, you need to be willing to change and learn from your interactions with them. It should be a two-way street.

6) Having a work ethic that doesn't quit. Teaching is a hard, draining job that will demand all you can give. But, you've got to be able to have some balance in your life too, so work hard and plan ahead. Set aside specific time blocks to prepare for your classes so you are as ready as you can be for your day. It is hard to be effective when you try cramming everything you need to do into 5-10 minutes prep before or during class.

7) Sharing and accepting feedback and successes. Share your experiences and learnings with your colleagues and fellow educators, and be willing to listen to and accept their feedback to you--the good, the bad, and the ugly! Listening, sharing and learning with others is a great way to continue to improve your skills.


8) Understanding that being a "great teacher" is a constant struggle to always improve. I'm pretty proud of what I've accomplished in my many years of teaching. I even think I've had moments of great teaching in my career, but I know I can still improve upon my teaching skills. Keep learning through professional development and trying new ideas.

9) Remembering that it's all about the students. Lead with humility, not your ego. Avoid the trap of creating a "me versus them" scenario in your classroom. Remember learners each have their own unique learning styles and experiences. Put your own preferences aside and get to know your students so you can be a positive influence in their lives.

What did I miss? What other characteristics make a great teacher? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Email me at [email protected]

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