During my studies I read a lot from professors and other teachers about what makes a good teacher but I never hear from the most important people of all, current students! So I have handed the microphone to ‘lessons to be learned,’ a year 9 student, to give a guest lecture to future and current teachers on the topic ‘what makes a good teacher?’
School is a very prominent thing in a child’s life. It is also a very important thing, although some students don’t realise it. If a child doesn’t enjoy school, it impacts a great deal on their life.
Teaching, I think, is one of the hardest jobs there is. Because really, it isn’t just one job. When you are a teacher, you are also a doctor, a counsellor, a role model, a diploma (on a slightly smaller scale, of course.) Many teachers that haven’t actually started on the job yet are probably thinking wait, this isn’t in my job description. But it is. And, unfortunately, it isn’t in the fine print. You don’t realise until it is too late.
I have been very lucky with the teachers that I have had in primary school. Most of them have been OK, if not good, one has been bad, and three have been incredible. I can easily say this, but to articulate why they were good bad or in between isn’t as easy as it would seem.
I still remember my reception teacher. A lot of you would have no idea what I mean, so for those that don’t, it is a different name of prep, or, in New Zealand I believe that the first year of primary school is called grade one. She was one of my favourite teachers. I am still glad today that I had a good teacher for my first year of school. She was kind and friendly, and had this amazing quality; she never talked down to us. She never got angry when we needed extra help, or she had to repeat something. This really, when teaching a bunch of 5 year olds, is crucial. Patience is a must, and getting angry or yelling at younger children really doesn’t work. You just end up with kids that will, and can, cry you a river.
So what makes a good primary school teacher? Well, there’s the $154 question right there. I’ll let you put an amount on my answer. The best teachers I have had have many things in common. They all were confident, professional, and could communicate things extremely well. They could look at things from different angles, so that if a student did not understand what they were saying, they could explain it in a different way.
Please, do not ever underestimate the importance of knowing what you are doing. Or at least looking like you know what you are doing. If you aren’t confident, kids won’t take you seriously. Finding a style of teaching is what will help you do this. And of course, that is going to take some practise. Making a mistake, might I add, is not going to destroy your career either. It’s the way you deal with it, that is what is going to count. It helps to break down the barrier between teacher and student, and says, look kids, I’m human too. Two important things that I would like to advise are do not try to be funny until you know your class, and don’t be ultra-strict and then start to be nicer, you have got to be consistent. And don’t let them walk all over you. It is about balance. That balance is going to depend on your class, and the kids in your class.
My favourite teacher was funny, and has a great personality. The classroom was relaxed most of the time, and when it wasn’t, it was because a serious issue needed to be addressed. She bended the rules a bit, she pushed the boundaries, and didn’t make us do things if she thought they were boring. She would push students where she thought they needed to be pushed, and took time to get to know the students in her class. Her classes were interesting, and she knew how to play on people’s strengths and weaknesses.
So what makes a good teacher? What makes a bad teacher? Keeping lessons interesting is crucial, and being liked is important to become a ‘good teacher’ in your student’s eye, but of course there is no accounting for taste. If you aim to be your idea of a good teacher, then I think you will be miles ahead of many other teachers. But, all of the really good teachers I have had were liked by most, if not all students in their class. It is possible.