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Good Teachers

John Simkin

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Nils Clausson teaches in the Department of English at the University of Regina in Canada. In this article he examines the characteristics of a good teacher. He argues that a good teacher is:


Personalized to student needs

Makes it comfortable, fun, etc.

Caring, kind, supportive, positive, funny


Passionate about teaching


Fair, equal




Do you all agree? Is there anything he has missed?


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Could you please explain that one to me? The dutch translation has for me a negative connotation.

Some would also interpret it thus in English. I however believe that the best teachers are lateral, critical and subversive thinkers given that I believe our aim should be to create lateral, critical and subversive thinking in our students... students who can think for themselves :rolleyes:

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I did not encounter any good teachers while I was at school. Luckily I did meet one soon after while working in a factory. One of the things he taught me was that you did not have to work in an educational institution to be a good teacher. I did however have a couple of good teachers at university. More importantly, I also found a couple more while training to become a teacher.

I agree with Nils Clausson that a good teacher needs to be caring, supportive, humorous, patient, fair, creative, sociable and well-organized. As well as being passionate about teaching, they should also be passionate about the subject they are teaching. As a result of the dominant ideology existing in schools, students are in danger of believing that teaching is mainly about delivering good exam grades. That education is a means to an end. Being passionate about your subject helps to show your students that it is a means in itself. In this way you help to communicate to the student that the subject you are teaching is vitally important in the process of turning that student into an active citizen.

I also agree with Andy Walker that a good teacher should be a subversive. This is the only trait mentioned so far where there is likely to some disagreement about. However, I feel Andy is quite right to stress this character trait. All schools are more about training than educating. A good teacher has to constantly question this process. Being a good teacher is not about providing right answers. It is about getting the students to ask the right questions.

A good teacher also has to be energetic. Without a lot of energy the system will grind you down and you will end up being pessimistic about what you can achieve. Surely the worst teacher of all is the one who entered the profession as an idealist and ends up as a negative pragmatist.

The good teacher also has to be courageous. The need to take risks is vitally important in order to become a good teacher. The mediocre teacher finds an approach to teaching that makes them feel safe. The good teacher rejects the idea of safety and constantly seeks new ways of making education relevant to their students. Being brave is a vital part of being a good teacher. Being passionate about your subject is going to be a painful experience. Many students will reject your subject as being boring and irrelevant. That hurts. You have to be fairly brave to keep coming back for more. A music teacher once told me that he was retraining to become a maths teacher. When I asked him why he replied: “because I love music and I find the rejection too painful”.

Finally, and most importantly, the good teacher has to be generous. I remember a young art teacher telling me he was leaving the profession. I was surprised because he had the reputation of being a good teacher. I asked him why he made that decision. He replied that he was leaving teaching because he realised that he cared more about his own work, than that of his students. He added that he was not generous enough to be a good teacher.

I expect most of the regular contributors to this forum are good teachers. By finding time to contribute their views on education and by their willingness to share resources with their colleagues, they show their generosity. As I said at the beginning, good teachers are not only found in the classroom.

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A good teacher has to constantly question this process. Being a good teacher is not about providing right answers. It is about getting the students to ask the right questions

This is exactly what we are trying to accomplish with the concept of natural learning. (see thread on natural learing elsewhere on this forum).

But for a teacher to leave the relative safety(see the recent tragic events here in The Hague) of his classroom is a big step. Many teachers may still feel that they are 'kings' in the classroom and are not open for change. having an open-mind is therefore a very important characteristic. For me change is inevitable, society is changing, why not education?

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'Subversive' does have some negative connotations but I know what you mean. I think one of the most important characteristics a good teacher can have is to be a life-long student themsleves. There are plenty of occasions when I have extended my own knowldege (and I hasten to add that I think I have a pretty extensive range of knowldge and skills already) through teaching students. I try to enthuse everyone with my own enthusiasm and that's tiring sometimes !

So tireless might be added and I guess possessing 'Great Commitment '

(with capitals !)

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I can still remember reading lists of characteristics of good teachers when I did my teacher training. I think that if you had all those qualities mentioned so far you wouldn't be just a good teacher you'd be a brilliant teacher. I can certainly think of many teachers I have worked with that I would rank as being very good teachers. (Very good at interacting with other teachers as well as students!) Personally, I know I'm deficient in some of these traits, although probably above average in a few of them as well. So overall I would hopefully come out about average; I can think of some pupils who seemed to hate me, others I got on really well with. (I'm no longer a class room teacher.)

It's difficult to judge who were the best teachers when I was at school. Most of them were competent, a few dreadful, but having seen the other side of the fence I can only say that the education I received could have been much better. I guess the teachers I've liked best are those that are genuine and honest and don't try to be something they are not.



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Came across this on this website


Students' perceptions of 'good' teachers

'Good' teachers

Get angry sometimes, when there is a reason

Listen to all sides

Stick to the rules

Treat all the children fairly

Say sorry when they have done something wrong

Give interesting lessons

Always have things for the pupils to do

Always mark classwork and homework

Ask the children what they think

Are on time for lessons

Stop children behaving badly

Deal with bad behaviour quietly (do not shout)

Are the same way every day

Try to make children understand

Students' perceptions of 'bad' teachers

'Bad' teachers

Have favourites

Are not ready for lessons

Are late to lessons

Are rude to children

Don't know the children's names

Let some children get away with things and not others

Shout at children

Don't help when the work is too hard

Don't like some children

Waste time

Are too strict

Do not listen to children

Do not give children a second chance

Are friendly out of class but not in class

Leave the classroom halfway through a lesson

Do not care if children work or not

Are moody

Do not bother to mark classwork

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