As a teacher, how do you decide what makes you good at your job? You obviously want to make sure you are delivering learning to your students in an effective manner so they leave you classes understanding the material, and are able to carry it forward into assessments, exams, and later life. However, it may be equally important to you that your students like you as a teacher, and enjoy coming to your class, as chances are your students won't learn very much if they dread coming to your class.
As a very general overview, this may be the standard you set for yourself when you judge whether or not you are good at your job, but what about the more specific qualities that help make sure you are continuing to be a great teacher?
One great quality a teacher should have in the ability to be adaptable. Chances are you're going to be going into each lesson with a lesson plan, so you know which points to cover in that session, and what homework to assign. However, are you sticking rigidly to your plan, no matter what happens during your class?
If you're teaching a particularly challenging topic, your class may not be able to get a firm grasp of the material in one session. Instead of sticking to your plan to move on the next time you have a class with them, you may want to spend a little extra time covering the material from the last session to make sure everyone is feeling more comfortable with it.
This may throw your schedule off-track, and obviously you don't want to be deviating from your plan every single week, but sometimes circumstances pop up where it is important to make sure the students feel happy with what they have learned before you move on, otherwise they may feel overloaded. If you spend a little time moving your plans for the next few sessions around you may actually see that you can make the time up in another session, as perhaps you don't need to spend as much time on one particular topic as you had originally planned.
Being adaptable to your students' needs is important, as making sure they have a good understanding of what you're trying to teach them is a huge part of your job, so don't rush through things just to keep on the track you've drawn up for them. Sometimes things just don't go to plan, and it's important to be able to work around these unexpected obstacles. Your students will also see that you've made the extra effort to help them, which they will really appreciate.
Be Compassionate and Understanding
As a teacher, it is important that you're seen as an authority figure, and that you have control over your class to help keep them on track. However, that doesn't mean you can't be caring towards them either. It's important to build a good relationship with your students, so they feel they are able to approach you, whether that's in class to ask a questions, after class to talk about something that is bothering them, or some difficulties that they are having.
If you shut yourself off from your students, your students will do the same in return, and are far less likely to tell you if they are struggling or if they need additional help. This could lead to them performing very poorly in the class, or even failing their assessments at the end of the class, which is obviously the last thing you would want as a teacher.
Make it really clear to your students that you are there for them to ask questions when they get stuck or are having a problem. If you have an email address they are able to contact you on, or office hours where they can come and speak to you privately, make sure you make these widely known to them as well. Taking that little bit of time to make yourself available to your students should help them feel more comfortable with you, and will give you the chance to build a solid relationship with them.
Equally, be understanding with them if they are having problems. If they are totally stuck on one particular part of the course, try and find some ways that they can tackle the problem so they don't feel overwhelmed with the pressure of dealing with it on their own. Whether it's suggesting some extra reading they could do, booking in a one-to-one slot with them to help them through the parts they're stuck on, or suggesting a study group they could attend that might help them, these are all great ways of showing you care about how your students perform. Rather than just brushing it aside and telling them they should be able to keep up with the rest of the class, showing that you understand that sometimes parts of the learning experience can be quite tricky, and offering solutions to work through the problem, will help show you students you care.
Building this relationship with your students will help them approach you more in the future, and will also show the rest of the class that you are there to help and not just teach them if they ever have a problem themselves further down the line.
Create a Great Environment
If you want to be a great teacher, you'll want to make sure that your students are excited about coming to your class and that they enjoy being there. The best way to do this is to make sure you create a great environment in the classroom for them to learn and feel comfortable in. Sometimes the topics you are teaching can be challenging ones, but that doesn't mean your students will automatically dislike you or hate coming to your class. It's important for you to create an environment they all feel happy in, as this will aid them in their learning experience.
Part of this links into the previous point of giving your students the ability to approach you and ask questions. It's important for your students not to feel stupid or like you, or anyone else in the class, is going to judge them if they ask a question. Use questions to create discussions within your class, so it feels like a collaborative effort to work through a problem and make sure all the students are on the same page. If you teach your students how important it is to work together and not judge their classmates, this should be a skill that they carry with them into other classes and throughout their learning experience.
You also want to create an environment where your students are excited about learning, and a great deal of this can come from the way you teach them. It's important to convey your passion for the topics you are teaching, as portraying them as boring is going to make your students switch off before they have even started learning. Even if you're teaching something quite challenging, try and think of ways you can make it really engaging to your students, as well as giving them the opportunity to work together. Things like group work and completing projects can make material that may not seem very interesting to start with actually quite engaging and interesting. It's important you get the key information across, but you want to keep your students connected at the same time, so think about the type of work they would enjoying completing that would help get the information across just as well as something like an essay or book report.
If your students look forward to coming to your class and completing the work you set for them, it should mean your classroom is a great environment for everyone involved, and will help their learning improve.
Being a great teacher is about more than just making sure that you are teaching your students the material you're supposed to be. It's also really important to make sure that they relate to you as a teacher, fully grasp the material you are teaching, and feel really comfortable in your classroom. You want your students to finish their teaching experience with you not only full of the knowledge they need to continue their education, but also with a good experience of you as a teacher.
If you don't build a good relationship with your students, you may be preventing them from building a good relationship with what you're trying to teach them too, so make sure you take a little extra time to work on the things that you think will make you a great teacher!