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What Makes a Great Teacher?

written by: Kellie Hayden • edited by: Donna Cosmato • updated: 9/11/2012

Are you thinking of becoming a teacher or just want to know what makes a great teacher? It mainly comes down to a passion for the work and the students. However, there are many other items that make a great teacher too.

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    Characteristics of a Good Teacher

    A good teacher is one who cares deeply about his or her craft and the students in the classroom. A great teacher is a good listener, is organized, communicates with parents, has classroom fairness, has a positive mindset, and is still interested in learning and professional development. It also does not hurt to have a great sense of humor and to hold students to rigorous standards.

    Work of a Good Teacher

    Good teachers spend quality time planning lessons, grading papers, and writing comments. They talk to students outside of the classroom, and improve their craft through continuing their education by going to professional development workshops.

    These types of teachers may complain on a bad day, but generally, they work to figure out how they can fix student problems. Continuously complaining will get teachers nowhere. However, being proactive and trying to fix a small problem before it becomes a huge one is a great strategy that the great teachers employ.

    Virtues of a Good Teacher

    Many teachers have called these good qualities the top ten virtues of a teacher. Good teaching is not just organization and planning; it is what kind of human being the person is. Teachers have a moral code they are held to by most state departments. Educators are front page news when they do something scandalous, so teachers must always hold themselves to the highest moral standards and ethics.

    Willingness to Mentor and Help Other Teachers

    In addition to working hard with current students in the classroom, good teachers help other teachers or pre-service teachers in the profession. They mentor new teachers or work with local colleges to allow college students to observe or complete internships in the classroom.

    Good teachers know that helping a new teacher or college student will take time and effort; however, they will learn something new in the process. Classroom teachers can keep abreast of cutting edge research, great new books and fresh teaching strategies by working with college students.

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    College Students Who Will Make Good Teachers

    There are many characteristics that make a great teacher. However, there are many qualities that make a bad teacher too. If you are planning on becoming a teacher because you think that it is the easy way to finish your bachelor's degree, or you think it will be easy, please find another profession. I like millions of other teachers across the United States take my profession very seriously and do not like to see slackers slinking into the classroom.

    Classroom Teacher Observations about College Students

    I spend a great deal of time with pre-professional teachers, as I am a liaison with a local university where my middle school has a partnership, and I mentor new teachers. College students come in for their field experience during their sophomore through senior year. In addition, I have had a student teacher almost every year I have taught. The following are my personal observations. However, they have rung true for over 16 years of working with college level students.

    Three Types of Pre-professional Education College Students

    Type #1: This type of student is a hard worker. Type #1 will do everything to prepare to be a great teacher. These college students walk into the classroom ready to help students and to learn themselves. They are the first to ask the teacher if he or she needs help with grading or if they can help any of the students. In addition, they put a great deal of thought and effort in their lessons. They care deeply about their future profession and their students. I always recommend this type of college student to my principal to hire.

    Type #2: This type of student is not quite sure that he or she “wants to work this hard” but has already invested too much time in the major to get out. Or, type #2 can also be super quiet and not sure how to handle a classroom of students. Sometimes these students are a work in progress, and they can improve to become a super teacher. Or, they do an okay job and will probably be an okay teacher. I do not recommend this type of student to my principal unless they make great strides in their performance.

    Type #3: This type of student thinks that the college education courses are pretty easy and thinks that teaching is an easy job that includes a summer vacation and all national holidays. Type #3 usually does the least amount work possible. I have given poor recommendations to these types of college students. Unless this type of student has a change of heart, this type of student will not make a good teacher.

    It is quite obvious that type #3 should not go into the teacher profession. There are even literature examples in picture books of what a good teacher is. I just hope that type #3 makes change before landing a job or changes professions.

    For all the rest who are willing to work hard to become great teachers, welcome to the teaching profession. It will not be easy, but it will be rewarding. Hopefully, you will become a great teacher.