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20 Characteristics of a Good Teacher part 1

teacher apple

This is in response to several Education: Reform or Remodel subscribers who requested more of my thoughts on teaching. I am very happy to oblige because my belief has always been that, especially from the vantage point of the student, who the teacher is has far more of an effect on the quality of the experience than any other factor—educational philosophy, structure, location, etc.

One subscriber in particular asked for a list of the characteristics of a good teacher, and what comes to mind is that all good teachers:

1.    genuinely like children and enjoy being around them. Just like parents with their own kids, they take pleasure and pride in their students’ growth and development.
2.    genuinely enjoy teaching, too. This is a critical factor because teaching is essentially a modeling process and students learn much more readily when their teachers exhibit joy in what they’re doing. And as a result, good teachers feel energized at the end of the day, not drained.
3.    are openhearted. They care about their students’ lives, present and future, and they address their students’ shortcomings and transgressions compassionately, not judgmentally.
4.    recognize that teaching isn’t something they do to or for children; rather it’s a reciprocal exchange of energy within a relationship. Good teachers also realize they are continually learning from their students too.
5.    trust in the innate wisdom of the learning process and in their students’ intrinsic desire to learn. They don’t try to force learning to happen by resorting to extrinsic motivators like rewards and punishments.
6.    are authoritative, not authoritarian. Authoritarian teachers are highly controlling,consider their authority non-negotiable, and maintain their control with punitive discipline. They feel threatened by a child’s expressions of independence and individuality. Authoritative adults set firm, consistent limits on out-of-bounds behavior, but don’t hem students in with restrictions. They maintain their natural adult authority while at the same time respecting the child’s point of view and encouraging verbal give and take. As their students grow more responsible, they extend them increasing levels of independence.
7.    understand the fundamental role that emotions play in a child’s complete development. They are emotionally self-aware and make sure the environment is welcoming and safe so that their students feel comfortable being themselves and don’t feel they have to hide their vulnerabilities.
8.    continue to work on their own personal and professional development, because as Joseph Chilton Pearce once said, “Teachers teach who they are.” Good teachers realize they can’t guide their students to places they haven’t already been themselves.
9.    are facilitators of learning, not taskmasters. “Facilitate” literally means “to make easier,” and the most fundamental purpose of teaching is to help the student learn how to learn with ease and efficiency.
10.    acknowledge the individuality of their students and don’t expect them all to be interested in the same things at the same time, or to learn in the same way.

4 Comments Post a comment
  1. m.i.l. Bunty Ketcham #

    I would only add: “…Question often, listen continuously, talk sparingly…”

    April 12, 2014
    • Chris Mercogliano #

      Those are excellent additions, Bunty. I bet you have more.

      April 13, 2014
  2. Alberto Alegre #

    I agree with all 11 points, included Bunty’s.

    April 29, 2014
    • Chris Mercogliano #

      I’m glad you included Bunty, Alberto. Having attended a Deweyan school as a child and then gone on to becoming a master teacher in Washington, DC, she knows the territory far better than you or me.

      April 30, 2014

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