You want to become a teacher, but not just any teacher. You want to make a difference in students’ lives, you want to provide them with a resource and experience they’ll take with them for the rest of their lives. You want to leave an impression and not like those teachers from your past who really shouldn’t have been teaching anyway. But how do you do it? How do you follow the state’s curriculum, but still put your own spin on a course? How can you not just be great, but exemplary? Well, here are ten qualities of exemplary teachers.
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1. Don’t Teach your Test
Some teachers offer a weekly reading and create a test from the text. They’re fill in the blank choices or make a definition. Is that the best way to teach? It’s like learning to read without learning to comprehend; it’s answering a question, but not knowing why.
If you want to be an exemplary teacher, teach your students reasoning. Give them the tools they need to deduce the answer for themselves. If you pursue history, don’t ask “who won the war?” and put a multiple choice question, leave it open-ended, say who won the war and ask for an explanation as to why.
2. Everyone can be taught
Just because a student is rowdy or seemingly suffering a terminal case of ADD, don’t write them off as “unteachable”. The fact is, everyone can be taught. Although many teachers are educated with a standardized form of teaching, it applies to most children, not all.
Of course, if you receive a proper education, you’ll be able to deduce what a child needs to learn effectively – which is good because you may be the first. If you want to be an exemplary teacher, you need to be able to figure out what your students need to be successful. If you know they require a different method of learning, but don’t do anything about it, that student could be left behind. This leads into the next staple of quality teachers…
3. Don’t Stop Learning
Once you start teaching, there’s a propensity among teachers to stop learning. This never happens with exemplary teachers. Even if you’re teaching history, there’s always more to discovery and different perspectives to find. The minute you stop learning, you stop becoming an effective teacher.
This is especially true however when you’re trying to teach unruly students – students who can be downright bullies (yes, even to teachers). It’s important for you to be able to learn what they need and learn how to provide the right lessons.
4. Make Mistakes
In Malcolm Gladwell’s novel, Outliers, he goes over what makes people successful and some of the hurdles children come across today. One of those hurdles is the façade of becoming a parent (or teacher). As a society, we place certain values on those titles and therefore feel like we need to “assume a role”. The problem is, the role isn’t real, and that’s why teenagers tend to go through a rebellious phase – they start to become more perceptive and see that their parents are the infallible know-it-alls that they seemed to be.
Don’t be infallible as a teacher. If you’re trying a new method for teaching students, let them know. If the new method applies to a quiz and the scores are atrocious across the board, that’s probably a result of your teacher. Apologize and find a solution. Don’t blame the kids and don’t pretend that your teaching methods are foolproof – they’re not. So make mistakes; make many!
5. Make your Students Welcome
If you want your students to be excited to go to class, then your classroom needs to be a place they want to go. Don’t ostracize students or severely penalize them for being late. Have something engaging for them to do right when they walk in the door, make it so they don’t want to miss your class.
Moreover, you’re a possible resource. You never know entirely what’s going on at home in some of these kids’ lives, and that’s all the more reason why you need to make sure your classroom is a sanctuary for them. Let them feel like they can approach you. Boundaries are important, but students should feel like they can approach you with questions and not feel stupid or embarrassed for asking. And if they have problems outside of the classroom, you may be the outlet for them. Be the resource that helps.
6. Share your Personality
All too often, teachers (once they’ve become teachers) change from being interactive to being a moderator. Students can bounce ideas off them, but rarely do the teachers actively engage in an idea. Don’t be afraid to contribute. If you’re teaching poetry, write and share some of your own.
If there’s a historical anomaly that’s never been answered, pose the question to students and get their theories. If you’re teaching astronomy and firmly believe in the existence of aliens, don’t be embarrassed by saying so. It’s element like this that helps turn a lecture into a discussion. If you’re not embarrassed about reading your own poetry (even if it’s awful), then other students won’t be shy either. Be yourself.
7. Get Put of the Past
Some teachers refuse to transition to computers and tablets because it’s too easy for students to get distracted. This is growing archaic and you should keep up with the times. If a YouTube clip helps explain your point, use it. If an app can help you check in on your students, download it. If a tablet will make it easier to keep your lecture notes, buy it.
If the fear is that students will become distracted or spend too much time on their smartphones, then you need to take a reality check. Students have been making games and “texting” one another since schools were invented. It may not have been on phones, but they’d pass notes to one another. It’s going to happen. The fact is, if you’re a good teacher, they’ll want to be attentive, so don’t restrict their impulses, give them something else to engage in.
At Warner Pacific University, we offer an expedited Master of Arts in Teaching (BA/MAT) program where you can obtain a teaching degree in 5 years’ time. This way you can get your degree and get into the classroom much faster than at a traditional college (and at a fraction of the cost). Enroll today to pursue your passions and become an exemplary teacher!
Guest post by:
Dale is the Vice President for Enrollment and Marketing at Warner Pacific and has over 25 years’ experience in promoting and advancing private colleges. He is passionate about helping students see the opportunities that college can provide and identify what strengths and insight they each bring to enrich the campus community. Dale loves to travel and has had the opportunity to visit 26 countries.