There is a huge difference between becoming a teacher, and becoming a good teacher. Good teachers have a huge impact on learners and help them engage in lifelong learning. Good teachers can make a world of difference on a child from any age. Think about your schooling, do you remember a particular teacher who believed in you, inspired you, helped you, and made you confident that you could succeed? These good teachers are vitally important. Conversely you probably remember a teacher who didn’t seem to care about the students, didn’t make an effort to help you learn, or told you you weren’t good enough. These are not the kind of teachers that children and youth need today.
WGU helps you become not just a teacher, but an excellent teacher. With our online education degrees, we make sure you have the skills and knowledge you need, but these additional qualities are extremely important to help you succeed. This guide will show the top qualities you need to become a great teacher.
Traits of a good teacher.
Teaching is such an important and noble profession, but there are some characteristics that can really help you ben an even more effective teacher. Every teacher is different, and that’s a good thing. Different teachers can reach different students in unique ways, which is valuable for their success. However, there are some fairly consistent traits among great teachers.
Patience. Every student will have their own unique struggles. Some will have a difficult time reading. For others, math will not come easily. For others, being able to sit still during school is the struggle! Patience in a teacher is key to helping students overcome their struggles. With large classrooms and many students who are all different, patience is a must for a good teacher. And, demonstrating patience as a teacher is a great way to be a role model to students. Patience is an important characteristic for effective teachers in both practice and as a model.
Empathy. Empathy is an important quality for teachers. Children and youth have big feelings and are often dealing with more than we know outside the classroom. As a teacher, it’s important to be able to empathize with what they are feeling, even if it may not seem like a big deal. Children and youth need to have their emotions validated in order to understand and process them well. This is crucial in helping them become emotionally mature. Teachers who aren’t empathetic can’t help students overcome real difficulties, trivial or severe. As a teacher it’s vital to be able to put yourself in a student’s shoes and help them feel understood. When you teach, it’s important to be sensitive and thoughtful to make sure the learners feel they’re in a safe environment.
Drive for self-improvement. A great teacher should be able to look at themselves objectively and see where they can improve. That can be in teaching methods, subject matter, or people-skills. When teachers can review themselves and know where to focus their attention, they can become even better. Teachers should also be willing to engage in lifelong learning, whether that be going back to school for a master’s degree, attending conferences to help them learn more about education, or reading books and articles about their field. Anything that teachers can do to increase their understanding is vital to their success. Educators who are willing to learn as well as teach are important to the future of learning.
Adaptable. When working with other people, students or other teachers alike, certain expectations may not always be met. Your teaching methods may not work in a certain way with a certain class, schedules may change, adjustments may need to be made with little or no notice. A great teacher can adjust their teaching methods and expectations so they can still find success. They are willing to always evaluate what is working for their students, and adjust where needed. This trait is vital for teachers who want to help each unique individual find success in their classroom. It’s an important characteristic when teaching to always move your lessons around in the way that promotes learning in the best possible way.
Skills of a good teacher.
When it comes to teaching, there are also many interpersonal skills that teachers need in order to reach the next level of success.
Suspension of bias. A teacher won’t be able to accurately assess the needs of students if they can’t see past bias. They need to be able to objectively look at each student to help them in whatever way they need. Additionally, bias could prevent teachers from presenting material correctly and accurately. So teachers need to be able to suspend their personal bias in order to do the best for their students. Learning needs to be done in a safe environment, so when you teach you need to remove anything that can make you see students in a less favorable light.
Stress management. Teachers are faced with stressful situations every day. They need to be able to keep their cool in order to be good role models for their students. Outbursts could be discouraging or even frightening for students, leading them to lose trust and interest in education. It could also lead to a loss of respect from students, which can create chaos in a classroom. Stress management is key to being a great teacher. As you teach, it’s important to be prepared for all kinds of situations that can arise. Make sure you can create a great learning environment no matter what comes.
Communication. Teachers need to be good communicators in able to meet the needs of their students. They can’t effectively assess the needs of students if they can’t communicate openly with them. Teachers also need to be able to communicate with other teachers and parents well. Communication is key for teachers to be successful in their profession. Learning and teaching are connected through good communication.
Teaching rather than instructing. A good teacher should be focused on making sure their students truly understand the material, rather than just lecturing and hoping it will compute. Great teachers are concerned with the retention of their students, making sure they really know and can do the work, not just checking off the boxes for the lesson plan. Great learning comes from teachers who are focused on that comprehension.
How to become a better teacher.
There are a variety of things that teachers can do to become even better in their profession including:
A master’s degree that can help you learn more about the educational field and improve your skills.
Attending education conferences to help you connect with and learn from other teachers.
Reading articles and blogs about new studies in education and new teaching techniques.
Listening to podcasts to help you increase your knowledge.
Connecting with other teachers on social media to help you gain new insights.
Asking colleagues and superiors for insights.
Having these skills are vital to helping you become a great teacher. Experienced teachers and principals learn how to identify the best candidates for teaching positions quickly; that makes it essential to embody the qualities of a great teacher not just in the classroom, but throughout job applications and interviews.
WGU can help you prepare for a teaching career by giving you the credentials and skills you need to find success as an educator. And once you have those credentials and skills, you can focus on developing the other traits that will help you have great relationships with your students and become an engaging, caring teacher.
How to Become the Best Teacher: Students’ Advice
And when you are a teacher, it becomes even more difficult to become perfect for ALL your students. It’s clear, that we all are different, so your students are, and each of them has his own learning style. When your teaching style suits a learning style of your student, you will definitely become his best teacher ever. This is like to be on the same wave with someone. But it’s obvious, that all your 30 students (or 20, or even 10, it doesn’t matter actually) will never have the same opinion about your teaching methods, so, misunderstandings are impossible to avoid.
However, you always can become a better teacher for your students, the main thing is to listen to them carefully. Here we have 10 advice from students to teachers, that will help you understand their principles better. You teach them of course, but you can always let them teach you a bit as well, can’t you?
So, if you want to become the best teacher for your students, you’d better not ignore what they say.
Let Your Students Help You Be a Better Teacher for Them
A good teacher is an assertive teacher
Your students can have problems, bad days, stress, or even depressions as well. If you see that some of your students start to study worse, have no desire to do all schoolwork you give them, and just want to give up everything, do not be in a hurry to argue and tell them about how bad or lazy they become.
You can become like a parent to them. Support your student, ask about what happens to him, push him to do better. If you see that your student is depressed, maybe it would be better to meet with him after classes and find out what exactly is going on.
Be their friend, but don’t go too far
Students just don’t like when their teacher starts behaving like a student himself. Stay professional, help students with schoolwork, listen to them, talk about their lives, but remember who you are. Even if you are a young specialist, and you are almost of the same age with your students, there is no need to use all those slang words (even if you use them in your everyday life).
Your students will find it rude and unprofessional. As far as you understand, this is not the best method to get a good reputation. Your students just will not take you seriously.
Make your lesson relevant to their lives
If you want your students to remember your lessons, just try to connect the information you provide with some moments of your students’ life. You can use some of them as an example, describing this or that situation: it would be more interesting for them to visit such lessons, but not those boring ones where you try to explain them the importance of differential equations for our science.
Just try to come up with an example, how these differential equations can help THEM in the future.
Your time should be used wisely
Remember who you are and where you are. Students don’t like, when their teacher begins to tell them about his life, how better it was when he was younger, how better and more patient all students were then, blah-blah-blah. Your student visits your lesson to learn something on the subject, so, don’t give him a reason to miss this class next time.
Remember, that time is important for your students as well, so, they would not be happy to waste it for lessons which don’t give them anything except personal stories from their teacher’s life.
Even if you consider yourself a cool teacher who explains everything in a way that even the stupidest person would understand you, don’t be lazy to explain it to your students several times, and what is even more important – try to do that in different manners. Sometimes, they really don’t get it, but it’s not because they are stupid: maybe some of them just think different.
Be patient, and explain your material over and over again, making sure all students understand what you’re talking about. You know, how difficult it will be for them to learn further, if they don’t get the basis.
Teach in a variety of ways
Don’t be lazy to use as many different materials for your lessons as possible. Students believe that the best teacher is able to teach in a big variety of ways: use books, videos, music, presentations, speeches, and everything that can be interesting for your students to accept (you know them better, so, you will definitely come up with good ideas).
If you show them a video, then give some papers with facts described in that video, then tell them all this info yourself, it will be much easier for your students to understand and get the material.
It doesn’t mean you should be a dictator. But students do not like teachers who are too soft and mild. Too nice is not always nice, especially when it comes to teaching. There are always some students in a class (we think, you remember all those movies about high schools), who will try to persuade you that they do not need the material you give. Don’t make a sad face like that Okay meme on the Internet has!
Just stay consistent!
A good teacher always has objectives
When you start a lesson, make your students understand clearly what they will learn today. You should have clear objectives, as such a plan will help students concentrate and know what they are supposed to do during this class.
You can write something like “do nows” on the board, or just tell them your plan step by step.
Be a good example for your students
One student has told us a story about his teacher, who always brought tasty organic food and shared it with those students who didn’t bring lunch with them. He looked younger and very energetic, and some students changed their mind about what they age, because they just wanted to look like a teacher.
This is an example of a teacher who influenced his students positively. If you follow this advice, your students will thank you.
Believe in them!
Don’t ignore your student, if you see he is not interested in your subject, or he doesn’t understand anything. Just try to believe in everyone, and don’t leave any of your students behind.
Ask each of them to explain what exactly they don’t like or understand, explain this once again, make sure they’ve got it this time. It is very important for a student to feel the support of his teacher and know, that he will always help when it is needed.
Being a ‘popular’ teacher isn’t just about relaxing the rules – confidence plays a part, says Lauran Hampshire-Dell
“Popular” is a difficult word in school, and it isn’t just the students who struggle with it.
In every school, there are one or two teachers who, for whatever reason, gain celebrity status among students (even ones they’ve never taught).
But how did they get this revered position, and is it more difficult than it looks?
Being a ‘popular’ teacher
Ask students and teachers what makes a teacher popular, and the answers will likely fall into two distinct camps.
One will be centred around a laidback teacher, the kind who is definitely more fun than you in lessons, has Instagram-worthy displays and is often whispered about for being a little more relaxed with discipline than some of their colleagues.
The other will centre around that aspirational Venn diagram mixture of being knowledgeable, being fair, and getting great results, all of which come together to become that most unattainable of attributes: cool.
The behaviour question
A misconception of popularity is that it stems from students having an easy time in lessons… it makes sense that students will like a teacher when the lessons are fun, behaviour management is non-existent and detentions become a myth for three hours a week, right?
Well, research suggests that, actually, students are much more critical in their views than staff may think.
A 2018 study found that while features such as behaviour management and experiencing cognitive difficulties are important, students view teacher motivation and self-confidence to be the two most important factors in what makes a teacher popular.
A little confidence
This combination both impacts and improves motivation and feelings of respect both to and from students, leading to a better classroom experience, with students feeling the desire to achieve and succeed with their teacher.
The study even argues that “knowing the popularity of a teacher gives us relevant information… mean[ing] that teacher popularity is a useful indicator of teacher quality”.
The idea that a teacher can be effective and popular often doesn’t sit well in staffrooms, though, and being a popular teacher can be difficult.
The downside of popularity
The judgements of everything from outfits and personality types to results and performance management can be exhausting on top of the demands of a normal day in the classroom.
Often ignored, too, is the stress that comes with being popular. Students are more likely to want to be around them and parents more likely to reach out (even about unrelated issues because “you’re their favourite teacher”).
With demands eating into precious breaktimes and the feeling of being unable to say no, being popular can be a very pressurised role.
Simultaneously, popular teachers may lack allies in the staffroom because it looks as if they’re giving up yet another lunchtime for a revision session that you just couldn’t find time or energy to host.
Of course, every teacher is popular with a certain batch of students, and we’ve all experienced the emotive highs and exhausting lows that come with it, but it may be worth taking some time to check in with that teacher who is always surrounded by students.
The chances are, they’re in as much need of a strong coffee and a chat as their less popular colleagues.
Lauran Hampshire-Dell is a teacher and tutor
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It’s important to know what’s required to become a teacher in Canada before you arrive. And, when you know what’s required, you’ll be in a better position to secure a teaching job. So, here are four things to know about how to become a teacher in Canada:
1. An overview of the Canadian school system
2. The teacher certification process
3. The job outlook for teaching jobs
4. Labour market statistics for teachers in Canada
Register to receive up to date information about how to apply for teaching jobs in Canada.
1. An overview of the Canadian school system
In Canada, teaching is a regulated profession. So, to become a teacher in Canada you must be certified by the province or territory where you plan to teach. Each province and territory develop school curriculum and policy. As a result, curriculum and policy may be slightly different across Canada.
But, when it comes to hiring teachers, all provinces and territories require:
- A Bachelor’s degree in Education
- A teaching certificate from the province or territory where you intend to teach
- Proficiency in English and/or French, Canada’s official languages.
School boards are responsible for hiring teachers in Canada.
For helpful resources & additional information about teaching in Canada, download our free ebook here!
2. How to get certified to become a teacher in Canada
The process to become a teacher in Canada can be lengthy. So, find out what documents you require to be certified before you arrive in Canada. And that way, you can begin the process while still in your country of origin. When you gather these documents before you land in Canada you’ll save time and money. It will also be much easier to gather documents in your home country, than trying to collect them from Canada.
You will have to provide a number of documents to be certified to become a teacher in Canada. For example, you will need to submit:
- Official documents that show your teaching credentials. The school that you attended must send documents directly to the certifying body in Canada. Official documents must be sent in a sealed envelope and include the seal of the institution, date, and signature of a signing authority.
- Statement of Professional Standing from a licensing body or an education ministry. This verifies that your right to teach has never been suspended, revoked, or cancelled.
- Language translation of your documents
- Language proficiency tests for teaching jobs. This is different than the minimum language proficiency you require to immigrate to Canada.
You can teach in the province or territory that certifies you to become a teacher in Canada. But, if you want to teach in another province, you will have to be certified in that province.
3. The job outlook for teaching jobs in Canada
Teaching is an important and necessary profession. And, many Canadian schools accept applications from teachers outside of Canada. However, the outlook for teaching jobs in Canada varies depending on the province or territory.
For example, jobs for secondary school teachers range from limited to good in each province and territory. So, it’s important to learn about the provincial and local labour market to ensure there is a demand for teachers. And, do your research to find out where jobs exist, or where there may be a surplus of teachers. Often, there is a greater demand for teaching jobs outside of large cities.
Research trends in the teaching profession and what they will mean for you. For example, do you need to upgrade your skills, gain more teaching experience, or obtain additional qualifications? Is your teaching level in demand? Are your teaching subjects in demand?
4. Labour market statistics for school teachers in Canada
The Canadian Occupational Projection System (COPS) develops national labour projections for 2017 – 2026 for different occupations. And, based on their research COPS predicts if the labour market will experience a shortage, surplus, or balance.
Definition of labour market conditions:
Shortage: number of job seekers is insufficient to fill job openings
Surplus: number of job seekers exceeds job openings
Balance: number of job seekers and job openings are fairly even
The outlook for teaching jobs in Canada varies depending on the province or territory. However, labour market information projects that there will a balanced job market for teachers until 2026. So, that means the number of job seekers will closely match the available job openings. But, this is a national projection, and you will need to research the local labour market conditions.
Summary of national findings for teaching jobs: 2017 – 2026
Among the findings, the COPS research revealed:
- The balance between job openings and job seekers is likely to remain balanced for teachers
- Job openings are expected to rise due to teachers retiring
- Good working conditions will attract recent graduating teachers
- Retiring teachers will create about two-thirds of job openings for secondary school teachers
- Retiring teachers will account for almost 50% of job openings for elementary and kindergarten teachers
1. When you know how to become a teacher in Canada, you’ll be in a better position to secure a teaching job when you arrive.
2. To be able to teach in Canada you have to be certified by the provincial or territorial government where you intend to teach.
3. It’s important to understand provincial and local labour market conditions so that you know where teaching jobs are in demand in Canada.
4. To learn more about certification, it’s best to contact the province directly. You can find links directly to the certification information below.
For more information about how to get certified to teach in Canada:
To become a teacher in Canada, you must apply to the provincial or territorial regulatory body. A certificate is necessary to teach Kindergarten to Grade 12.
To find out more about the requirements to become a teacher in Canada, visit the website of the regulatory body where you intend to reside.
For more information, tools, resources, and free webinars visit finding a job in Canada. Get the help you need to achieve your career goals in Canada!
What makes a great teacher? Teaching is one of the most complicated jobs today. It demands broad knowledge of subject matter, curriculum, and standards; enthusiasm, a caring attitude, and a love of learning; knowledge of discipline and classroom management techniques; and a desire to make a difference in the lives of young people. With all these qualities required, it’s no wonder that it’s hard to find great teachers.
Here are some characteristics of great teachers
- Great teachers set high expectations for all students. They expect that all students can and will achieve in their classroom, and they don’t give up on underachievers.
- Great teachers have clear, written-out 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 teacher is consistent in grading and returns work in a timely manner.
- 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.
- 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.
- Great teachers form strong relationships with their students and show that they care about them as people. Great teachers are warm, accessible, enthusiastic and caring. Teachers with these qualities are known to stay after school and make themselves available to students and parents who need them. They are involved in school-wide committees and activities, and they demonstrate a commitment to the school.
- Great teachers are masters of their subject matter. They exhibit expertise in the subjects they are teaching and spend time continuing to gain new knowledge in their field. They present material in an enthusiastic manner and instill a hunger in their students to learn more on their own.
- Great teachers communicate frequently with parents. They reach parents through conferences and frequent written reports home. They don’t hesitate to pick up the telephone to call a parent if they are concerned about a student.
What No Child Left Behind means for teacher quality
The role of the teacher became an even more significant factor in education with the passage of The No Child Left Behind law in 2002.
Under the law, elementary school teachers must have a bachelor’s degree and pass a rigorous test in core curriculum areas. Middle and high school teachers must demonstrate competency in the subject area they teach by passing a test or by completing an academic major, graduate degree or comparable course work. These requirements already apply to all new hires.
Schools are required to tell parents about the qualifications of all teachers, and they must notify parents if their child is taught for more than four weeks by a teacher who is not highly qualified. Schools that do not comply risk losing federal funding.
Although the law required states to have highly qualified teachers in every core academic classroom by the end of the 2005-2006 school year, not a single state met that deadline.
The U.S. Department of Education then required states to show how they intended to fulfill the requirement. Most states satisfied the government that they were making serious efforts, but a few were told to come up with new plans.
Next page: How parents can advocate for qualified teachers
How parents can advocate for qualified teachers
Over the next decade, schools in the United States will be faced with the daunting task of hiring 2 million teachers. We know that high-quality teachers make all the difference in the classroom. We also know that it is becoming increasingly difficult to find them and keep them. Twenty percent of new teachers leave the classroom after four years, and many teachers will be retiring in the next 15 to 20 years.
Recommendations from the National Commission on Teaching & America’s Future
In 1996 the National Commission on Teaching & America’s Future, a private bipartisan panel, made several recommendations for ensuring that every classroom has a qualified teacher. Among the recommendations were the following key points:
- Raise professional standards for teachers.
- Improve salaries and working conditions.
- Reinvent teacher preparation and professional development.
- Encourage and reward teacher knowledge and skills.
Implementing these recommendations, however, is a slow process, dependent upon legislation as well as increased funding from both the federal and state governments, and a will to implement changes at the school district level. Parents can work together to keep the superintendent, their school board members and their state legislators focused on the goal of having a high-quality teacher in every classroom.
Give Kids Good Schools
This Internet-based campaign, a project of the Public Education Network, makes it easy for parents and community members to lobby government officials to take action to improve the quality of teachers.
Resolving Conflict With Your Child’s Teacher
A concise resource from Scholastic on effective ways to deal with differences in opinion between yourself and your child’s teacher.
National Board for Professional Teaching Standards
This organization provides information on voluntary advanced national certification for teachers. Learn more about the program and how you can encourage teachers in your school to obtain National Board Certification.
The following books have information on teacher quality:
McEwan, Elaine K., 10 Traits of Highly Successful Schools, Waterbrook Press, 1999
This book provides concrete tools and an abundance of resources on how to evaluate teachers and schools.
Cooperman, Saul, How Schools Really Work, Catfeet Press, 1996
Written by a former superintendent, this helpful book provides easy-to-follow steps for evaluating and improving schools.
Bennett, William J., The Educated Child, Simon & Schuster, 1999
What is a good education? In this guide, in addition to learning the signs of a good school and warning signs of a bad teacher, you’ll learn what good schools teach and what you can do to improve your school.
Intrator, Sam M., Stories of the Courage to Teach, Jossey-Bass, 2002
This book is a collection of short, eloquent essays written by teachers from the heart. Full of passionate stories, the essays reveal why teachers teach and the challenges they face.
Commonly asked interview questions you can anticipate—plus tips and links to resources you can tap as you polish your answers.
Congratulations! You’ve landed an interview appointment for a teaching position at a new school, or for a different position at your current school. This is an important first step, but there will likely be a number of qualified candidates vying for the same spot—how can you distinguish yourself from the pack and land the job?
Your résumé, references, and professional portfolio will help, of course, but it’ll always be the impression you make during your face-to-face interview that’ll get you hired. Luckily, there are only a few types of questions a teacher can be asked, so it’s completely possible to enter a teaching interview confident and prepared.
In addition to questions related to your content area, anticipate that you’ll be asked questions based on your knowledge of and experience with meeting the needs of the whole child. Be ready to explain how you honor and attend to the social, emotional, and academic growth of your students—both individually and as a group. And be prepared for questions concerning classroom management, teacher-student relationships, student engagement, and learning outcomes.
Here are the types of questions you’ll be asked, along with suggestions and links to resources to guide you in preparing your answers and in practicing citing specific strategies and relevant classroom anecdotes.
11 Questions You Should Prepare For
1. Why did you decide to become a teacher? Prepare a brief professional mission statement that explains not merely how you want to change students’ lives but also how your own life is enriched by being a teacher. Also, look up the school’s vision statement and reference how your teaching will reflect those goals.
2. How would you handle a student who is constantly disruptive or defiant? Instead of focusing on how you would react, explain the ways you approach classroom management proactively so that small misbehaviors rarely become chronic or severe. Here are eight ways to maintain student cooperation and courtesy. If the interviewers press you on the original question, this advice on students with oppositional defiant disorder may help.
3. How do you cultivate positive relationships with your students and create a sense of class community? Recount a time you bonded with a student who needed some extra attention and understanding. Show your concern for the emotional well-being of the most vulnerable students and describe your plan for developing students’ social and emotional learning skills. Also explain how you create a sense of empathy and inclusion among your students so classmates support each other on both a personal and academic level.
4. How do you use data to differentiate instruction and support students identified with specific learning disabilities so all students can learn? First, be ready with the names of a couple of data-rich student assessments you’re familiar with. Your interviewers won’t demand that they be the same ones they use, but the fact that you’re aware of testing practices is important. Then, here are 20 differentiated instruction strategies you can use to prepare your answer on how you respond to data. Also, show your knowledge of these 11 learning disabilities and describe a few ways you work with parents and school resource personnel to meet the individual needs of each child.
5. How do you support literacy for all students, including English language learners? No matter their content area, every teacher is a literacy teacher. Explain how you help develop your students’ reading, writing, speaking, and listening skills. Here are 12 ways to support English language learners in a mainstream classroom.
6. Do you incorporate collaborative and project-based learning? Discuss the difference between cooperative and collaborative learning, and if you have implemented PBL, describe a specific assignment your students worked on.
7. How do you keep your students engaged and motivated, and how do you promote student voice and choice to help them become self-directed learners? Here are 10 engagement techniques that drive student motivation and enthusiasm. Also describe how you create a student-centered classroom that inspires creativity, passion, and purpose.
8. How do you teach 21st-century learners, integrate technology, and guide students to be global citizens? Be prepared to talk about how you teach global citizenship and encourage critical thinking, creativity, and good communication skills. Here are ways to integrate technology into content learning.
9. How do you include parents and guardians in their child’s education? Recount several ways you inform, engage with, and collaborate with parents and guardians—through face-to-face meetings, notes, phone calls, or digital channels.
10. How do you maintain your own professional development, and what areas would you select for your personal growth? You might read books and blogs, watch videos online, subscribe to journals, attend conferences and workshops, or be a member of an educators society in your field. Be ready to talk about the specific resources you use to keep up with the latest trends in education, such as growth and benefit mindsets, flexible seating, flipped and blended learning, STEAM, trauma-informed teaching, restorative practices, mindfulness, makerspaces, and gamification of learning.
In discussing your personal growth, explain ways you want to further expand your teaching efficacy—don’t refer to teaching “weaknesses.”
11. What questions do you have for us? Try this: “Please tell me the most important thing you know now as an educator that you wish you knew before you began your teaching career.” The answers you receive will reveal what your interviewers most value about education, and this insight will allow you to tailor your closing conversation to their interests.
Steven Covey wrote a book, The 8th Habit: From Effectiveness to Greatness, to help organizations and individuals find their own voices. Covey describes voice as the internal drive to face challenges and rise to overcome them. He explains that each of us has a voice that lies at the central confluence of talent, need, passion, and conscience. The premise of the book was that if you didn’t find your own unique significance (voice), neither you nor your organization would be able to achieve greatness. After I read this book, I considered the word “greatness” for a long time. Of course, being an incessant analyzer, I asked myself this question, “What does greatness mean in education?” Then I began thinking about my own career.
I know I was a good teacher, but I never thought of myself as a great teacher. I certainly had passion, enthusiasm, and creativity, but I never thought I had the stuff for greatness (though I did the best I knew how with the resources that were available). As a teacher, I found myself naturally drawn to thinking about what I could do to improve my lessons, to overcome negative student behaviors, or to encourage individual students. I went to conferences, saw other teachers with more experience, verbal acuity, and style, and I wanted to be like them. While I was well aware of my own shortcomings, I never quit trying to improve, grow, and learn to be a better teacher.
I achieved tremendous success in getting my students to take and pass the AP Spanish language tests and to actually speak Spanish, but my strategies and skills were not unique. Aside from a little bit of personal flair (my daughter Mercedes would say fifth-grade humor), these strategies were the compilation of wisdom and experience gained mostly from other teachers.
Although I was not a world-renowned educator, I would like to believe that I eventually found my voice (or unique significance) and achieved a moderate level of greatness. During this whole process of becoming great, the varied experiences in my career as a teacher deepened my knowledge and skills, strengthening my resolve to improve my craft. In that process, I went through the typical three-stage teacher-attitude cycle (this parallels research done by Frances Fuller and John L. Watzke):
The 3-Stage Teacher-Attitude Cycle
- Shock: “Whoa! This is too much, and I want out.”
- Cynicism: “The students don’t care. The administration doesn’t support us.”
- Self-Actualization: “I can do this. This is fun. If I help just one student, it’s worth it!”
In each of these steps, I was lucky to have other caring individuals helping me. As a new teacher, I benefited greatly from the patient ministrations of several seasoned teachers who showed me the ropes of grading, discipline, effective lessons, and ways to manage the volume of work. Without their help, I would not have made it past the first year.
I was overwhelmed my first year, and I looked for anything to help me. As teachers are required to do, I attended workshops and teacher meetings in which I was inspired to be great. I saw Stand and Deliver, which depicts how a high school math teacher, Jaime Escalante, challenged the mental and social limitations that his students had placed on themselves, thereby bringing them to greatness. I felt that if I could be that passionate about teaching students, I could do anything. Then I went back into the classroom and faced the reality that I had only a certain amount of time, strength, and energy. I seriously doubted my own capacity to teach and my decision to become a teacher. I struggled through another year in which things improved to a moderate degree.
When Negativity Set In
In my third year, when I visited the teacher lounge or attended department meetings, I came to believe that all of the problems I faced were not my fault. I noticed that some of the other teachers thrived on loudly complaining about their situations and bemoaning their deplorable students. It wasn’t long until I became cynical like them. I learned that the parents weren’t participating in their own children’s education. I learned to criticize the administration for not providing me with the best tools. I learned to blame middle school and elementary teachers for not doing their jobs in preparing my students. My attitude became extremely negative.
I was finally able to escape that trap of negativity in the second stage and move into the third stage of self-actualization only because of wonderful mentor teachers who helped me understand that complaining and blaming resolved nothing and just inhibited my growth. Mr. Devereaux, the Spanish department head, helped me most of all. He taught me that I first had to be the solution rather than add all my complaining to the problem. He helped me enjoy the excitement and challenges of the journey, and not concentrate on the pebbles in my shoes. He helped my find my voice. Reflecting on my teaching career, I don’t think I was an effective teacher until I became self-actualized.
The Great Shift
When I decided to become an administrator, that spark of desire for greatness was rekindled and refocused: I wanted to inspire other teachers to be great and thus pass that on to their students. I’ve seen that spark of greatness in teachers when observing classrooms and watching teachers interact with students. I saw this greatness through students’ eyes as I shadowed one student each from first grade, second grade, eighth grade, and ninth grade, attending all of their classes with them. In each, I marveled at the relationships forged by teachers, as well as their excitement and enthusiasm. I’ve witnessed similar elements of greatness firsthand, while spending hours at campuses and in teacher classrooms in all grades levels and in nearly every type of school.
Covey’s eight habits are designed to help individuals become highly effective people. Perhaps he needed to write The 8th Habit first because, without the “voice” or passion, few of us are motivated to improve or least of all pursue greatness. As I approach a new school year, enthusiastically anticipating a crop of new students, I have to ask, “What am I going to do differently in order to achieve greatness this year? How am I going to inspire the passion for learning in my students?” In the comments section below, please share your thoughts about becoming great and your plans on how to reach greatness this year in your classrooms.
Students are most affected by the quality of their teachers. Not only do they interact with teachers every day in the classroom, but the quality of that interaction matters for our students’ future. In fact, Stanford University economist Eric Hanushek has noted that the difference between a good and a bad teacher can be a full level of student achievement in a single school year. But students are rarely asked what they think makes a great teacher.
So, we asked. Pearson surveyed students ages 15-19 across the U.S. about what they thought made an effective teacher. Their responses highlight just how important a student-focused approach is to the learning experience. The top five qualities of a great teacher, according to students, are:
1. The ability to develop relationships with their students
The most frequent response is that a great teacher develops relationships with students. The research literature agrees with them: Teachers need to be able to build trusting relationships with students in order to create a safe, positive, and productive learning environment. For example, a student in Boston told us that great teachers are “Willing to listen to students when there is a problem.”
2. Patient, caring, and kind personality
Personality characteristics related to being a compassionate person and having a sensitivity to student differences, particularly with learners, was the second most frequently reported quality. Again, there is research to support that teacher dispositions are strongly related to student learning and development.
3. Knowledge of learners
This is a broad category that incorporates knowledge of the cognitive, social and emotional development of learners. It includes an understanding of how students learn at a given developmental level; how learning in a specific subject area typically progresses like learning progressions or trajectories; awareness that learners have individual needs and abilities; and an understanding that instruction should be tailored to meet each learner’s needs. One student eloquently described it as: “The teacher understands the pace and capacity of the student.”
4. Dedication to teaching
Dedication refers to a love of teaching or passion for the work, which includes commitment to students’ success. Responses often referred to loving the subject matter or simply being dedicated to the work. To a student, this means a teacher should be “always willing to help and give time.”
5. Engaging students in learning
Students also said that teachers should be able to engage and motivate students to learn. Researchers talk about three types of engagement that are required for students to learn: cognitive, emotional, and behavioral. Survey respondents mostly focused on making content interesting and the ability to motivate students to learn. A student in Pennsylvania said great teachers are, “motivating students to succeed in and out of school.”
If you think about the best teachers you know, it makes sense. Those exceptional teachers develop strong bonds with students, and use them to help students learn.
Pearson also surveyed teachers, parents, principals and policymakers in the U.S., as well as in 22 other countries, about what they thought made a great teacher. The U.S. results align with the global findings. Globally, survey participants did not focus first on how much a teacher knew, or even what kinds of teaching methods he or she used, but instead on the teacher’s dispositions and ability to build relationships.
About the Author
Ashley has a passion for education research. She’s been with Pearson for seven years, focuses on outreach about education research, assessments, and great teaching. She holds a Masters in Journalism from the University of Iowa.