What makes a great teacher? At our high school, students are given an opportunity to honor a teacher that has impacted their education/life.  After listening to the speeches year after year, I...

What makes a great teacher?

At our high school, students are given an opportunity to honor a teacher that has impacted their education/life.  After listening to the speeches year after year, I have heard many reasons why a particular teacher has been chosen.  In addition, in the classroom I hear the students talk about the teachers they love, the ones they respect and the ones they wish would have retired last year.

When you think back upon a teacher that has impacted your life, what was it about that teacher that made a difference to you?  What is it that makes a teacher 'great?'

Asked on by leabc

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karensuggs's profile pic

karensuggs | College Teacher | (Level 1) Adjunct Educator

Posted on

I believe this is a very easy answer.

1. A great teacher is a master in their field. You can not teach a topic if you do not know the topic.

2. A great teacher has a talent for taking a complicated concept and breaking it down into small pieces. Then the smaller units are easy to understand. The teacher then puts all of the pieces back together and the learner will experience a broad sensation of understanding that does not require memorization type exercises.

3. A great teacher knows her/his students. The teacher makes direct contact with the students during the course of the lesson, and watches for signs of confusion or boredom...and adjusts their strategies accordingly.

4. A great teacher is organized and highly skilled in time management.

5. A great teacher NEVER stops learning or seeking out formal learning experiences for themselves in order to enrich their own teaching experiences in the classroom.


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engtchr5 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Associate Educator

Posted on

Two simple questions to determine if you are a great and effective teacher:

1. Do you motivate students to desire learning on their own, inside the classroom and out?

2. Do you inspire students to follow their aspirations toward the future?

Those who motivate and inspire are the truest teachers of all. It may sound cliche, but time has proven its validity.

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burbina | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Adjunct Educator

Posted on

I think that everyone is going to have a different answer to this question.  The differences will also vary depending on the role of the person answering.  Students are going to have different responses than fellow collegues, and high school teachers are going to be different from elementary teachers.

Personally, I'm a high school teacher.  What I've seen throughout my 8 years of teaching leads me to think that a good teacher is one who is consistent.  One who is consistent with fellow staff, students, parents, etc.  I think this consistency also goes along with how a teacher treats their students; being concerned that all students understand the concepts...not just the football player who might not be able to play, or the kid who's parents are constantly calling or emailing.  I teach English, and I became an English teacher because of the writing aspect of it, so with essays, I like to give students the option of revision to improve their grade.  Not to average out to a better grade...to improve their grade.  I want them to leave my class knowing how to write effectively...not just "passing."

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islandmarsh | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Adjunct Educator

Posted on

After 20 years of teaching, a lot of what I believe about being a good teacher has shifted.  Things that I once believed, I now no longer hang on to.

What I believe is this.  First, you must be willing to share of yourself if you expect students to share with you.  But, as a social studies teacher, expressing my political beliefs are not up for grabs, but playing devil's advocate is.2nd - I truly believe if you don't laugh in every classroom every day - you don't have their attention.   Humor is so essential.  Having said that - once in awhile, talking about issues that are sad enough to make us cry is also a good thing.3rd - fair for one student is not fair for another.  One student may be dealing with being homeless and the next may have just had her cell phone taken for texting.  Life is not fair.  Some students need a free pencil.  Get over it.  Some students are waiting for a vanished parent to call them on their cell phone.  Listen to them.4th - don't debase students in front of their peers.  If they need a good talking to - find another place.5th - make sure you are grading on curriculum and not on bringing a box of tissues for extra credit.6th - admit your mistakes, bow to the students who are smarter than you are, admit if there are subjects you didn't excel in.  But know your subject matter.7th - if you hate your job, quit.  Life is too short.  If you love your job, you'll never work a day in your life.

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

The previous posts have all discussed elements that are meaningful.  I would say that flexibility has been the most important aspect in the teachers that have been meaningful.  They were flexible in their approach to content, their ways with students, their demeanor with assignments and taking chances with the work, and they showed that toughness and rigidity are not one in the same.  In my mind, these teachers meant the most to me because they helped instill in me the belief that learning is not solely from one point to another, but the multiplicity of vantage points in between.

clairewait's profile pic

clairewait | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

Only one person in these comments (post no.6) has identified the correct answer. A great teacher, first and foremost, KNOWS THEIR SUBJECT and can explain it clearly. Of course there is all the touchy-feely stuff, but that is secondary. A GREAT TEACHER KNOWS THEIR SUBJECT. (And if I am honest I have to say that I am regularly shocked by the number of teachers on enotes who confidently spout wildly inaccurate nonsense.)

A teacher is a dispenser of knowledge. First you must aqcuire that knowledge.

  Yes.  I agree.  Knowledge.  Knowledge of subject.  Knowledge of students.  The (good) teacher is a bridge.

misterb200's profile pic

misterb200 | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Adjunct Educator

Posted on

The teachers that have impacted me the most have one thing in common: the ability to listen. Teachers are talkers. We are dispensers of knowledge. But human beings need to be acknowledged and validated to feel and retain self-concept. My best teachers made me feel important and made me feel that what I had to say was important to them and to the class.

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dano7744 | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator

Posted on

I vividly remember with fondness great professors I have had in the past. I think one thing that they had in common is that they gave the impression that they truly cared about your success. They were easy to approach, easy to talk to, and were not sitting on some throne of arrogance because they were the "expert". Great teachers show interest, patience, and humility. When I first became a teacher, I tried very hard to emulate those attitudes and behaviors.

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M.P. Ossa | College Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

What makes a great teacher is patience, flexibility, passion, energy, attention, impartiality, fairness, assertiveness, self-discipline, and understanding of the changes in society, and in the demographics of their students.

My favorite teacher had all those qualities. And she only happened once in my life. I hope some of my students can see me the way I saw her.

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linda-allen | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted on

A great teacher is someone who can inspire/motivate students to want to find out more about whatever subject they are studying. I think of Socrates, who, instead of directly answering students questions, answered with another question to nudge the student to think a little more. A good teacher can spoonfeed information. A great teacher gives the student a spoon and shows him how to feed himself.

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kiwi | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

Posted on

To be a good teacher you also have to show students that you are able to be a good learner too. It is important that teachers have the integrity to show that learning is a lifelong process for everyone. I remember being really impressed with a teacher who always had a go at the creative writing task he set us - I have incorporated this into my own teacher.

Having a passion for your subject is also important - enthusiasm is infectious.

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lfawley | College Teacher | (Level 1) Associate Educator

Posted on

For me, the number one criteria for a teacher is a desire to teach. As currently the only full time English faculty member at my college (one just made a lateral move to the writing center) I have interviewed many adjuncts and have watched which ones work in the classroom and which ones do not. The ones who do well and who truly have a rapport with their students are the ones who love to teach. As for myself, I can't imagine NOT teaching. It is part of who I am. If you truly have a passion for what you do, it becomes more than a job. You devote the time and energy to it that you need to excel.

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copelmat | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Associate Educator

Posted on

Good teachers are empathetic toward their students. They may not always do exactly what the students want them to do, but they consider the students' point of view at every turn and act fairly and accordingly.

Good teachers are also knowledgable and passionate about their content. Attitudes are contagious and this is an important element of any classroom.

Finally, good teachers are innovators. They are not afraid to try new methods and are not afraid to fail. When they do, they shrug it off, and try something else.

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ako6777 | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Associate Educator

Posted on

A good teacher is someone who believes in her students and is not there just to collect a paycheck.  A good teacher believes in mastery and continued learning.  A good teacher listens to her students and understands their needs.  This teacher goes above and beyond trying to reach her class.

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booksnmore | College Teacher | (Level 3) Adjunct Educator

Posted on

I think a good teacher is someone who can change lessons/content to meet the immediate needs of students. Sometimes that means throwing out plans halfway through class because the lesson just isn't meeting students' needs. That means the teacher needs to be not only perceptive but also very flexible.

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