Great Teachers

I have been doing lots of reading about what makes some teachers great and have particated in discussions on the same topic.   I was inspired to come up with my own list of characteristics of great teachers.  So here is my Top 11 list in no specific order:

11. Great teachers will never utter this phrase: “There’s no time to…..” Great teachers get it done.  They don’t wait around for time to find them, they find the time.

10.  Great teachers see the big picture.  Every decision that is made affects everyone else.  Great teachers know this. They know that what may be best for them may not be best for the school.

9.  Great teachers put students first at all costs, even when something may make their life a bit more difficult, like covering recess duty, monitoring the hallway, or meeting during planning time. Great teachers will do whatever it takes to make their school great.  They realize that all students are different and that it is their job to meet the students where they are and move them toward their fullest potential.

8.  Great teachers WANT to have the “challenging students” in their class.  They see it as their mission to reach the most difficult students to teach and they never complain about having them in their class. If these students aren’t in their class they will not speak negatively about them and they will look to support in any way they can.

7.  Great teachers’ classrooms are always different.  These teachers experiment with new ideas and continually incorporate them. You will rarely see the same lesson over and over again year after year in a great teacher’s classroom.

6.  Great teachers embrace change.  They are constantly seeking to improve what they already do.  They realize if we aren’t changing we are getting further behind because the world is a constantly changing place.

5.  Great teachers don’t complain.  When things don’t go exactly as they want or planned, they roll with it. No matter how bad their day is going, they always find a way to see the positive.

4.  Great teachers are team players.  They seek to collaborate at all times.  They consider nothing that they do exclusively theirs and share everything with everybody without being asked.  When recognized for their work they direct the recognition to the team.

3. Great teachers do not want or need public praise. In fact, they get kind of embarrassed when they are recognized for something at a faculty meeting or in a newsletter. They know that they are just doing their job and don’t need praise for doing what they are supposed to do.

2. Great teachers WANT criticism.  They feel unsatisfied if after an observation or “walk through” they only hear “That was a great lesson” or “I liked how you did this” or “You are such a master teacher.” They are not satisfied until they hear.  “You really need to improve this.”  See, great teachers know that unless they know their weaknesses they will never be able to improve them.

1.  Great teachers support final decisions that are made.  They get involved in the decision making process, they give their opinion but when a decision is made, even if they don’t agree with it, they don’t seek to undermine the decision or the administrator who made it.  They know this will destroy school climate which in turn hurts students.

While this list is not complete and I by no means have reached this standard, I believe that these 11 things will be at the core of any teacher considered to be great.  I would love to hear your feedback on this list as well as other characteristics that you would add to it.


3 Responses to “Great Teachers”

  1. Meghan Horbal Says:

    I have a different interpretation, although I like this list very much. Mine is based on the “big ideas” we use as grade-level themes in my school. I figure if first through fifth graders can use and understand them, so should great teachers.

    1. Patterns- Great teachers seek patterns. Patterns of best practices, patterns of student behavior… things that work over and over or fail over and over. They see patterns and eliminate negative ones, while perpetuating positive ones, no matter what the cost is. They see patterns in their curriculum and help students see patterns in everything they do.

    2. Systems- Great teachers understand that school is a system. Their classroom is a system within that system. Systems are interdependent. They need to recognize how their classroom system is affected by the larger system and they need to fully understand the responsibility of making that system successful so that the entire system can be successful. If one small part fails, the entire system fails. This should not be taken lightly. They help their students understand their role in the system and hold them accountable for their own actions.

    3. Structures- Great teachers know how what structures need to be in place for optimal learning to happen. They manage a classroom, but never manage for the sake of managing. They equip their students to run the structures themselves. They know that the base has to be strong for the top to be supported and relate that to learning in their classroom. They know what happens to a structure when something is damaged and do everything they can to improve the structure when problems occur.

    4. Relationships- Great teachers know that they are not an island. Every interaction in their classroom is related to something else. They must maintain positive relationships with each other, the administration, the parents, the community, and most importantly, their students. They know how to create mutually beneficial relationships that make everyone work to be their most successful. The students in their classroom also understand the importance of relationships. They examine relationships in history, math, between subjects, in politics and with one another.

    5. Change- This is the biggest. Change is inevitable. Change can be positive or negative. Change can be slow, fast, natural, unnatural, easy, difficult, etc. Great teachers embrace change. They love change. They make changes work for them. They find the positive in every “negative” change and add it to their repertoire of what already makes them great. They teach their students coping skills for what to do when things change and encourage them to think about how they have changed since first grade, this year, since an hour ago. They are constantly changing to maintain greatness.

  2. Great list. Found it from a tweet on Twitter #edchat. Very thought provoking. I am going to share it with my colleagues.

    Special Education Teacher

  3. Love both lists. Great teachers know their stuff and know how to convey their material without Smart Boards or YouTube clips or snazzy little videos. These are lovely little tack-ons, but great teachers are riveting by themselves. They have a commanding presence, a kind of star quality like movie stars possess. The best teachers are the ones whose classes you just can’t stand to miss because they see how everything is interconnected. And when they explain the big picture to you, you can understand why things matter – even seemingly insignificant things like commas and semi-colons.

    Come visit me at “Lessons From Teachers and Twits”

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