8 Characteristics Of A Great Teacher

8-characteristics-of-a-great-teacher8 Characteristics Of A Great Teacher

by Ian Lancaster

What makes a teacher strong?

What differentiates the best from the rest? There’s no shortage of bodies (some dramatically misguided) attempting to solve this riddle.  The answers are nebulous at best. Below is a list of traits, some of which may be familiar but many of which will never show up on any sort of performance review.  Check them out and see what you think.

1. They Demonstrate Confidence

Confidence while teaching can mean any number of things, it can range from having confidence in your knowledge of the material being learned to having confidence that your teaching acumen is second to none. Though these two (and many other) “confidences” are important the most critical confidence a teacher can have is much more general, and tougher to describe than that.

It’s the confidence that you know you’re in the right spot doing what you want to be doing and that no matter what transpires, having that time to spend with those young learners is going to be beneficial both for them and for yourself.  It’s clear to students when teachers exude this feeling. Working in schools is difficult and stressful, and also immensely rewarding. But if you’re not confident that you’re in the right place when you’re teaching…you’re probably not.

2. They Have Life Experience

Having some life experience outside the classroom and outside the realm of education is invaluable for putting learning into context and keeping school activities in perspective. Teachers who have travelled, worked in other fields, played high level sports or enjoyed any number of other life experiences bring to the profession outlooks other than “teacher”. From understanding the critical importance of collaboration and teamwork, to being able to answer that ageless senior math question “when are we going to use this?”, educators who have spent significant time and energy on alternate pursuits come to the profession with a deep understanding of where school fits into the bigger picture of life.

3. They Understand Each Student’s Motivation

Just as each student has a different set of interests, every student will have a correspondingly different set of motivators. Many (or most) students will be able to reconcile their own outlook and ambitions with what’s happening in the class and take motivation from that relationship.  Unfortunately some students will rely simply on external motivators, but worse, we’ve all run into students who really can’t find a relationship between what makes them tick and what’s happening in the classroom around them.

These students run the risk of disengaging altogether. This is where the master teacher knows each of her students and helps them to contextualize the work they’re doing to allow the student to make a connection with something in his realm of interest. Teachers who can’t help students make this connection need to rethink what’s going on. After all, what IS the point of work in which a student finds no interest and for which he can make no connection?


4. They’re People, Not Heroes.

Yes, all teachers are heroes. Now let’s move beyond the platitude to what this really means.  Some teachers still have trouble showing any sort of vulnerability of fallibility. These teachers will expend immense amounts of energy hiding the fact they’re frustrated at something, that they’re upset or perhaps even angry.  Why?  Other teachers get tied into logical knots to avoid admitting “I have no idea what the answer to your question is.” But teachers who genuinely connect with students are the ones who aren’t afraid to show emotions in class, who can admit that they aren’t in fact the repository of all knowledge.

Of course nobody want to be a wallowing, blubbering mess in class, but what better way to teach empathy than to give the students someone to empathize with when we’re having a bad day? What better way to foster collaboration and to teach that it’s okay not to know something than to say “I don’t know, let’s find that out!”?

5.  They’re Technologically Capable

Let’s not belabour this point, after all, plenty of ink (or pixels as the case may be!) has already been spilled on this topic. As time passes, the statement “But I’m not very good with _________.”(fill in the blank with any number of technological devices) is sounding ever more like “But I’m not very good with a telephone.”

The only time the sentiment above is acceptable is if it’s followed immediately by “…but I’m very willing to learn!” After all, we wouldn’t accept such weak rationalizations from students regarding their work. In 2013, as a profession, we lose credibility every time we allow excuses like this to go unchallenged. Enough said.

6. They Model Risk Taking

We encourage our students to be risk takers, we’d all like to be risk takers, but let’s be honest, the nature of the beast is that many teachers are not naturally risk takers.  This point goes hand in hand with showing vulnerability, the teacher who’s willing to go out on a limb, to try something new, to be “wacky” in the name of pedagogy earns the respect of students, even if the snickers seem to say something different.

No matter the success or failure of the risk taken, the experience will certainly be memorable for the kids in that class, and isn’t that what we’re aiming for?  After all, as the old adage goes, there’s no such thing as bad publicity.

7. They Focus On Important Stuff

Whether it’s worrying about who’s late to class, collecting every little piece of work in order to “gather marks” or spending too much time lecturing to the class in order to “cover the material”, there’s no shortage of ways to distract teachers from what’s important.  Strong teachers know that things like chronic tardiness or skipping class are usually symptoms of larger issues and as such, spending precious time and energy trying to “fix” the issue almost never works.  That’s what administrators and counselors are for.

They also understand that efficient and effective assessment means eliminating busy work while giving targeted, meaningful feedback and that engaging the students, connecting the material to their interests and passions, is the surest way to maximize learning. There’s plenty of minutiae and enough CYA (Cover Your…) in education to easily get sidetracked, strong teachers keep their focus on what’s important.

8. They Don’t Worry Too Much About What Administrators Think

This trait is tied in with many of the others listed above. Strong teachers do their job without worrying too much about “what the principal will think”.  They’ll take risks, their classes may be noisy, or messy, or both.  Their activities may end up breaking something (usually the rules) in order to spark excitement or engagement.

They understand that learning is not a neat and tidy activity and that adhering too closely to rules and routines can drain from students the natural curiosity, spontaneity and passion that they bring to school.  Worrying about what the boss may think can be draining and restrictive in any job, teaching is no exception.

In fact, the best teachers live by the code “It’s easier to get forgiveness than permission.”

More articles…


The good, the bad and the ugly: Technology and 21st Century Learning.

International Education Today

There are many in the world of education (not to forget the corporate powerhouses in the technology industry) who believe that the world was re-created on 1st January 2000 but it is necessary for educators to recognize that there is not a single story and to think critically about the place of technology in our schools. Tom Bennett, the recently appointed advisor to the UK government on issues relating to behavior in schools, has pointed out that schools have been «dazzled» by computers. This would seem to be true of the international sector with schools scrambling to introduce one-to-one programs and the growing influence of Google, Apple and Microsoft. This is particularly worrying in the light of Andreas Schleicher, the OECD’s education director, reporting that» Those students who use tablets and computers very often tend to do worse than those who use them moderately.»

Technology has become part of life and schools have…

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12 things Every Student Should be able to do on GOOGLE CLASSROOM

Are you using or planning to use Google Classroom in your instruction? Below is a run-down of 12 important things every student should be able to do on Google Classroom. These are basic tasks to help students manage their classes and assignments in Classroom. This work is based on guidelines provided by Google Classroom Help. The chart at the end of this post provides links to resources where students can learn more about how to go about doing each of the tasks mentioned in the visual. Enjoy

google classroom skills for students

Web tools for digital portfolios

June 13, 2016

Digital portfolios are an important part of the learning process that takes place in class. The pedagogic importance of digital portfolios is well documented in the teaching literature. Students use them for a variety of educational purposes such as to document their learning, showcase their academic accomplishments, reflect on the learning process, develop self-assessment skills. Digital portfolios are also an essential source of learning meta-data that teachers can use to evaluate the effectiveness of their teaching methodologies. Based on insights gleaned from students portfolios, teachers can re-purpose their courses and curriculum design in such a way that targets students emerging needs.

digital portfolio tools

Digital portfolios are both process and outcome oriented. They provide students with a traceable trajectory  representing and documenting their learning experiences throughout the lifespan of a semester or a school year. This allows students to constantly refer back to the learning artefacts they have included, assess them and measure improvement. However, before starting digital portfolios with students, teachers should attend to some issues related to the production, use and publication of portfolios. Besides seeking permission from students parents, teachers should provide clear guidelines to students on the kind of content to be included in ePortfolios, the purposes and benefits of using portfolios as well as the skills involved in working on them.Cornell University has this excellent guide detailing the different steps you need to take to incorporate ePortfolios in your instruction. Creating a rubric to guide your ePortfolio assessment is also an essential step in the process of integrating digital portfolios in your teaching. University of Wisconsin has this wonderful rubric which can be used for ‘self-assessment and peer feedback’.

We are also sharing with you this collection of some very good tools to use with students to create, share and publish ePortfolios. Check them out and share with us your feedback.

1- Tackk

‘Tackk is a free creation app that allows anyone to create content on the go, without needing technical or design skills. Share your message or tell your story easily with text, images and more, then share via text message, on social or email.’

2- Portfolio Gen

Portfoliogen is a FREE online service for teachers to create their own customized portfolio webpage. Registered users receive their own URL web address allowing them to share their credentials with prospective employers, principals, professors and peers.

3- Pathbrite

Pathbrite is a great platform that allows users to create academic digital portfolios using different media. Pathbrite offers different templates for users to choose from and each portfolio can include things like : Google Docs, letters, Youtube and Vimeo videos, transcripts, popular social media websites like Facebook, LinkedIn. Pathbrite also lets you important your materials like PDFs, Docs, Pictures, Videos and many more. Each portfolio created by Pathbrite can be shared via email or social media.

4- Google Sites

Creating a digital portfolio using Google Sites is pretty basic. Just head over to its home page, sign up and then click on create my site. Pick out a template for your site and give it a name and description  and there you go. Google Sites also allows you to upload your materials into your page including, files, PDFs, videos, pictures and HTML codes.

5- Silk

Silk is a web tool that you can use to create beautiful webpages where you can create, edit, and share your digital portfolios. Each page comes in with a variety of themes to choose from. Silk gives you more ways to structure and visualize your content. A Silk page consists of collections that hold together similar pages, and supports raging important bits of information on each page.

6- Weebly

Weebly is a platform that lets you set up a web page in a matter of few clicks. It also provides pre-set themes and templates to use with your webpage and provides you with powerful authoring tools to add materials and cease content on your pages.

7- Digication 

Digication is a very good web tool that allows students to create beautiful portfolios to showcase and share their learning. Digication is very simple and easy to use. It provides a wide range of customizable templates to choose from. Students can select the template they like, add different kinds of content to it and then publish and share  with their peers, teachers and parents. ePortfolios can embed various forms of data including videos, images, audio, graphics and almost any file you throw at it.



ΠΑΡΑΔΙΔΩ ΤΟ ΜΑΘΗΜΑ… Ή ΚΑΝΟΥΜΕ ΜΑΘΗΜΑ; ΠΙΣΩ ΑΠΟ ΤΙΣ ΛΕΞΕΙΣ: ΕΝΑ ΑΛΛΟ ΣΧΟΛΕΙΟ… ΜΙΑ ΕΠΙΛΟΓΗ ΤΗΣ ΚΟΙΝΩΝΙΑΣ Denis Morin Ο Denis Morin διδάσκει στο Παιδαγωγικό Τμήμα του Πανεπιστημίου της Λωρ…