Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Great Teacher?

The best teachers teach from the heart, not from the book. ~Author Unknown

           What does it mean to be a “great” teacher? Does it involve being a friend to students? Being a dictator? Being relaxed? Letting things slide? I’ve often wondered what it means to be “great” in the eyes of my students, so, one day, I asked them. 
       In a survey, student responded loud and clear about what they believed made a "great" teacher. From that survey came 15 resounding characteristics. That doesn't mean this list is the end all/be all. It jsut represents my students at the time. If I surveyed another group of students would I get different characteristics? Some, perhaps. But I believe the students mostly nailed this list. What do you think?
       The next three blogs will explore these 15 qualities in five-characteristic segments.
As you read, evaluate yourself. You may be surprised at the results. I know I was.

A “great” teacher…
1. Knows his/her students.
       A great teacher to the students wasn’t one who the content to the ninth degree; it was someone who knew them. Yes, the teacher knew the material, but that person also knew how the students learned and presented material in different ways for different students. Lesson learned: Students all learn differently.
 Lesson learned: It’s my job to maximize learning , so it’s also my job to know the students well enough to know how to maximize their learning.

2. Understands that everyone has a bad day.
       This came up again and again with my students. They believed a great teacher was one who understood that not everything is perfect in the world, especially not their worlds. The students felt sometimes they had issues they were dealing with which were more important than school. Maybe it was a fight with a family member or friend or a recent breakup.
 Lesson learned: Students have lives outside of school. Sometimes that life includes bad days. Recognize that and adjust for it.

3. Recognizes that not everyone loved the content area as much as the teacher.
       Not everyone loves English. In fact, most of my students are at the other end of the spectrum. They especially dislike writing. And they let me know that, daily. In the survey, students wrote that great teachers didn’t assume everyone loved the content area as much as the teacher nor did that teacher believe everyone had the same adeptness at it.
Lesson learned: Not everyone loves my content area as much as I do. Realize it, accept it and teach accordingly.

4. Doesn’t make the student feel inferior or “dumb.”
       Sometimes it’s easy to lose patience when trying to teach a concept and the student just doesn’t get it. This, obviously, must happen often with students as they related it in volume in the survey. Some teachers see the student doesn’t understand something and makes derogatory comments about the student’s ability. Some of my students claimed they had been called dumb, slow, lazy and other “uplifting” terms.
Lesson learned: If I want students to engage in learning my content area, show them respect rather than inferior and “dumb.” No one likes that feeling.

5. Laughs with students (not at)  and can take a joke.
       This is another area that students believed characterized a great teacher. Someone who teaches but also laughs with the students. Jokes around. Has a sense of humor. Laughs at him or herself and mistakes made. I think this is tough for some teachers because of the need to always feel in control and to feel in charge. The more we can laugh at ourselves, I think, the more relaxed our classrooms will feel to the students. Environment is important!
Lesson learned: The more I laugh with my students, the less they laugh at me.

The next blog will cover five more characteristics. Kids are smart and know what they like.I can learn a lot from them. Maybe it's time to start listening.

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