Some teachers are great and others are just so-so. And still others are not good at all. They’re the ones whose classes students actively try to avoid. When students are forced to take classes with a teacher they do not like, they tend to get lower grades. Sometimes, it’s a personality clash, and other times it’s because the teacher cannot seem to make the subject matter enjoyable. You can increase your success rate with students by learning the strengths of a good teacher, including changing how you present course material if students do not seem to pick up concepts.
Characteristics of a Good Teacher
A good teacher has several characteristics, including the ability to listen—not just hear, but actually listen. A good teacher also knows how to use different teaching methods for students that do not pick up concepts via the teacher’s traditional or preferred methods of teaching. For example, in teaching variables and sub-variables in programming, one professor might use the analogy of a filing cabinet with file folders, or showing the concept using a year, which holds months, which holds weeks, which contains days.
If a student doesn’t understand the concept, the teacher should be able to find another analogy, perhaps showing the concept using a Rubik’s Cube. The whole cube is the main variable, while each block is a sub, and each color on each block is another sub. Other characteristics of what makes a good teacher include:
Any teacher can teach any subject if they memorize the content. However, if a teacher doesn’t have in-depth knowledge of what is taught, the delivery comes across as flat and you’ll lose your students’ interest. If you do have a student that enjoys the class, the student may ask a question that you cannot answer if you don’t have in-depth knowledge of what you are teaching. Finally, you won’t be able to engage your students and challenge their minds if you have only a basic understanding of the content.
A good teacher should have confidence in the material being taught, and should also have confidence in students to learn the material. Students who believe in themselves are more apt to learn, especially if they believe they are learning the material with confidence. Additionally, students that have confidence have fewer academic problems and have a better understanding of the content matter.
Part of confidence is showing respect for the students. If you keep in mind that respect is earned, by respecting your students, you instill confidence and earn their respect. You also show confidence in yourself, the material you are teaching, and in your students when you show you love learning and teaching.
A good teacher knows how to communicate with students. Part of communication is making your students feel at ease with the subject on the first day and showing that you are approachable. Explain how the subject relates to different fields and in life in general, if applicable. Make sure your students know that they can go to you when they have problems understanding certain concepts, and that not everyone will understand all of the concepts immediately.
Along with communication comes a sense of community and belonging. When you show your students that you want them to learn through communication, structure and group participation, you create a sense of belonging that encourages students to learn.
Communication is more than communicating with students. A good teacher will also collaborate with other teachers—ask for help when you need it, and be willing to help other teachers that have a problem they can’t work out.
When a teacher knows how to manage all aspects of the classroom, including behavior issues in earlier grades, students learn better. Most students, even those of college age, prefer structure, organization and a positive atmosphere. Part of classroom management is setting high expectations for your students. When you give a lot, you show you expect a lot from your students, which encourages learning and success. Part of management skills is the ability to lead. Students, even college age, but especially younger students, look up to a strong leader.
Being flexible with your students helps with their growth. A good teacher knows when a lesson isn’t sinking in with students and is able to change how the material is presented on the fly. The best teachers adjust and adapt to student needs. Every student learns at a different pace, and many learn by various methods. While managing a classroom of 30 or more students leaves little room for flexibility, you may find that your job is easier when you can take the time to meet each student’s different needs throughout the semester.
Keeping It Professional
Whether it’s your personal appearance or your organizational skills and the way you present material to your students at any grade level, you maintain a professional appearance and attitude. A good teacher keeps it professional by being prepared every day, having the ability to communicate to students, colleagues and administrators, and by being timely.
Teaching becomes much easier if you have relevant life experience. For example, a French teacher might visit France for a couple of months in the summer. Or they might take in an exchange student and speak only French half the time the student remains in their care. Science teachers may do experiments before introducing them to the class—and during the experiments, trying different things to “see what happens.” While this isn’t exactly life experience, it does make it easier to explain to your students what should happen, why it happens, and what happens when you do “x” instead of “y.”
Some students are very motivated to learn. Others cannot seem to find anything to keep them motivated about learning the subject matter. A good teacher helps students find a connection between their interests and the material being taught. Keeping students motivated means a better overall experience in the classroom and makes the student feel successful for “finding” a way to connect the subject matter with student interests.
A good teacher—and a good leader—is up to date on the newest technology. When you can incorporate that technology in the classroom, especially in today’s day and age where students are always looking for the newest attention-getting app, you are showing students that you care about the learning process, that you want them to learn, and that you have faith in their ability to learn the material, regardless of how difficult it might be.
Empathy and Patience
Treating each student as an individual, including spending extra time with one who has trouble learning the material, shows the student that you care. If a student has problems outside of the classroom that hinders the learning process, a good teacher picks up on that and tries to help with extra instruction, suggestions on problem-solving—if the student is open to receiving suggestions. Good teachers also demonstrate the patience to help students work through problems.
Contact Post University
If you have always dreamed of being a teacher and want to be the best, regardless of what grade you prefer to teach, visit Post University to learn more about our teaching degrees.