What Makes a Great Teacher?

What makes a great teacher? How can I achieve the title of “favorite teacher” from my students? What will make me stand out above the rest in the eyes of the students? These are questions that every new teacher asks themselves at some point during their first year of teaching. The number one answer to this question is simple: have a caring attitude towards their students and love teaching.

Peter D. Hart and Robert M. Teeter conducted a public opinion survey to find out what Americans think of the educational system, who is to blame for the problems in public schools and how to improve the quality of education throughout our nation. After reading the results of their survey and a number of other surveys on the same subject, I was not convinced by their findings. As a newly certified teacher myself, I wanted answers to these and other questions. A new survey consisting of a random sample group, of 300 which included college students, faculty, college alumni and primary and secondary school teachers, was conducted. The results are in!

The number one attribute that people feel is most important in a great teacher is a caring attitude towards the students. In the opinion of this group the order of importance of other attributes are as follows: a high interest in the job, confidence in themselves, ethical, fun and exciting personality, able to manage people, advanced degrees and last but not least, appropriately dressed for the job.

Who was your favorite teacher in school and what made them stand above the rest? 83% answered it was the teacher that loved the students and encouraged them to do their best. The least favorite teacher was the one that didn’t explain things well, acted as if they didn’t care about the subject or students, were not prepared or had no discipline in the classroom.

The qualities most listed as important to becoming and being a great teacher were knowledge, strong discipline, faith in God, yourself and others, self-discipline, understanding and a willingness to listen.

According to the survey, the lack of parental involvement is a major factor contributing to the problems in our nation’s schools. There is a need to increase the number of qualified teachers in the classrooms to lower class sizes and allow teachers to give students the individual attention they need. The nation’s educational system needs major changes or a complete overhaul. The “No Child Left Behind Act” is not working for all students and needs to be revised. Teachers need to be held accountable for theirs students’ performance. Parents need to be held accountable for their kids’ performance and discipline in school. The quality of teaching and the teacher determines the quality of education. Salaries, working conditions and ongoing professional development are keys to attracting and retaining teachers, even at the cost of higher public funding (i.e. higher taxes). The lack of discipline in the classrooms is education’s greatest problem.

Our schools reflect the changes occurring in our society, community and homes. Knowing how to teach is just as important as knowing what to teach; it is not all about what you know, but also how well you convey what you know to the students. Another important quality for a good teacher is having the skills to design learning experiences that inspire and enrich children. In-depth knowledge of the subject matter is not any less important than the ability to design lesson plans and teach well. Many felt they did not receive a good educational foundation and were adequately prepared for college. Now that you know what people think what are you going to do about it?

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