By Dr. Kathleen Tate, Program Director for Teaching, American Public University
We all have memories of our teachers—the good and the bad. Who are those teachers that make a difference and stand out in our minds as being great? What makes them so great? In reflecting about some bottom line qualities, I came up with a list of five qualities of great teachers.
(1) Wear Multiple Hats
Teachers have to manage a lot of students who have a myriad of needs and issues. Great teachers are able to shift seamlessly between roles in order to serve all of those needs on any given day. A great teacher wears an instructional hat, nurse hat, counselor hat, facilitator hat, timekeeper hat, psychologist hat, problem-solver hat, creative hat, security hat, data hat, assessment hat, decorator hat, planner hat, public relations hat, technology hat, accountant hat, curriculum hat, current events hat, policy hat, motivator hat, entertainment hat, peacekeeper hat, supply hat, mentor hat, and many more.
Teachers need to know themselves, their students, the curriculum, assessment, their colleagues, and their world. Great teachers know these components well. Great teachers want to know what biases they might have so they can resolve them and better serve the needs of their diverse students. They care about how they are doing and seek to improve their craft through reflection, seeking advice from experts, and other means.
Great teachers care to know not just their grade level or specialized area of curriculum, but they care about what students should know throughout their K-12 schooling. Great teachers care to know about how different subject areas intersect and connect so that they can teach in integrated, thematic ways that give students a bigger picture and an anchored context for learning.
Great teachers care about using a wide range of assessments to capture the diverse ways students express knowledge. Great teachers care about collaborating with their colleagues to meet the needs of their students. Great teachers make sure they are informed of pop culture and local, regional, national, and international news in order to relate curriculum and learning experiences to their students’ lives.
(3) Keep Learning
There are many policies, laws, trends, and standards to be aware of in education. Great teachers know they have to remain current in their field by reading journals, attending and presenting at conferences and workshops, and examining state and national standards for both teachers and K-12 students.
Great teachers are open to new ideas and continual learning in order to fulfill their students’ needs. Great teachers always seek new resources, information, and texts. They develop comfort and discernment with technological tools and use them to enhance learning.
(4) Are Creative
Great teachers cultivate exciting classroom environments that motivate and engage students through creative approaches. Great teachers are not afraid to take risks, incorporate arts-based learning, and think beyond the box. Great teachers are creative problem solvers when it comes to curriculum constraints, resources, logistics, and conflicts. Similar to CEOs, they must continually produce positive results and creatively resolve issues.
(5) Remain Positive
Great teachers remain positive with students, families, colleagues, and administrators. Great teachers uplift and believe in their students. Great teachers maintain professional, collegial demeanors with those they encounter within and beyond school walls.
Great teachers focus on positive feedback, language, and successes and embrace diversity, change, and challenge. Great teachers maintain composure and demonstrate kindness toward all school constituents. Great teachers seek win-win solutions, maintain positive classroom environments, and display and promote empathy.
Are you a great teacher?
About the Author
Dr. Tate holds a Ph.D. in Elementary Education, M.Ed. in Special Education, and B.A. in Soviet & East European Studies. She has been with APUS since July, 2011, and is an Associate Professor and Program Director of Teaching. She has over 16 years of experience as an elementary special education teacher and professor at both brick and mortar and online universities.