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8 Common Qualities of Out-Standing Teachers

Written by Jaspal Sidhu
SIS Group of Schools, Founder and Chairman

Jaspal Sidhu

Endeavours to improve student outcomes often depend on two things; the student’s effort and the quality of the teacher. To get a student to put in the maximum effort to achieve his/her potential, a teacher needs to make a connection with the student, and to make that all-important connection, the teacher really needs to have out-standing qualities.

8 common qualities of out-standing teachers

While there are and will always be many theories, academic writings, view-points and witnesses to the qualities of an out-standing teacher, after more than 20 years in the education sector and meeting hundreds of school leaders, teachers, parents and students from all over the world, I have found that the out-standing teachers I have met and those that have been highlighted to me have 8 common qualities that make them stand out in their profession. These qualities have allowed the teachers to make connections with their students and have effectively changed the lives of their students.

These are the qualities that SIS must endeavour to seek, enhance and amplify in our teachers.

These out-standing teachers are Earnest, Funny, Firm, Enthusiastic, Consistent, they believe in Timeliness, are Open-minded and are inherently Researchers.

These qualities aptly form the term “E F F E C T O R”, which I would define here as simply “one who creates a positive effect”.

Let’s examine these 8 qualities.

1. E-They are Earnest

When a teacher is earnest, he/she shows a humanizing element that will help make connections with the student. An earnest teacher is not defensive. An earnest teacher is humble and will sincerely seek all round feedback for self-improvement. An earnest teacher promotes selflessness and will be more concerned with the well-being of his/her peers and students, and hence will spend deeper, more meaningful time for those who need help. The teacher seeks opportunities to gauge the level of understanding in the class as he/she wants the students to do well. The earnest teacher encourages everyone in the class to be involved in the communities around them with meaning and sincerity. The teacher understands limitations and will move away from perfectionism and will not make impossible demands from peers and students. The teacher sets reasonable expectations whilst expecting students to give their best effort. An earnest teacher is not condescending and plays an effective role as a mentor. This teacher behaves inclusively and is non-discriminatory against gender, religion or economic status of anyone. The earnest teacher’s humility will allow the teacher to adapt well to different cultural environments. The teacher also communicates better with peers, parents, Board members and other stakeholders.

2. F - They are Funny

When a teacher injects humour into the class, it puts students at ease and brings forth “attention arising from relaxation” compared to “attention arising from fear” which one may want to forcefully enforce with a waving finger, loud voice and strict look on the face. Humour encourages spontaneity and breaks down boredom. It cuts through tension and fear. Students listen more and will be more inspired as they are naturally relaxed. Humour also builds trust as it reveals a softer, caring person behind the “mask of a teacher” and the traditional impressions it carries. Humorous people are generally more approachable and likable, and hence easier to work with.

3. F - They are Firm

An out-standing teacher is firm. He/she is aware of the time available to carry out a lesson and is focused on the outcomes intended. A firm teacher does not nag or criticise, shout or scold. They have the clever ability to create a positive and engaging atmosphere in the class without losing control. They know when to purposely allow discussions to go off track for students to enjoy, laugh, express freely, explore and when to bring the discussions back to the core of the lesson. They know what facial expression or body language to display to say “no means no”. A firm teacher has complete control of the class while maintaining respect of the class at the same time. He/she is focused and praises, elicits, and responds to student questions properly.

4. E - They are Enthusiastic

A teacher’s enthusiasm can be contagious. Students can feel the teacher’s excitement and love for the subject. Enthusiasm in a teacher allows for innovative and creative ways for teaching and in turn encourages curiosity in students and motivation. Students are engaged, committed and contribute more when a teacher is enthusiastic. Enthusiasm brings forth different facial expressions, body language and tone of voice, and makes a boring or complex topic interesting. An enthusiastic teacher will often take a class away from the concrete walls of the school into the natural environment to break the monotony of a lesson and let students experience first-hand what they are learning. An enthusiastic teacher will engage with technology to find new ways to teach a lesson and make it exciting, encouraging digital and creative literacy in the classroom. The enthusiastic teacher will also make time to engage a student’s parents and help them along the learning journey of their child.

5. C - They are Consistent

An out-standing teacher is consistent and hence organised. He/she is more approachable. The class is well resourced and physically arranged. He/she is able to manage the class well. A consistent teacher brings a sense of stability, calmness and security. Students thrive in a stable environment. Other students who thrive on routine will be comfortable with consistency as they know what to expect. Consistency creates a stable environment and also encourages respect.

6. T - They believe in Timeliness

A teacher who subscribes to and practices timeliness understands that it communicates respects. Being on time means you care. In particular, leaders who call for meetings must demonstrate timeliness. Otherwise it can be interpreted as “their time is worth more than my mine.” You must try to start on time and end on time. Or your students and colleagues will soon start branding you “always late.” And that erodes credibility. Timeliness also shows that you prioritise your students and their needs. In a collaborative environment which a school should be, demonstrating timeliness also states, “I appreciate you, your ideas matter and your contributions valued.” Prompt responsiveness to questions, also shows confidence. These are values of a true professional. It says “I know my stuff and I can meet datelines. And if I can’t, I will tell you in a timely fashion.” Timeliness in giving feedback, in meeting project datelines when others are waiting, in grading and in communicating with parents create a halo effect around you, and your school. If you cannot be on time, you surely will have a hard time to ask your students to be punctual in what they do.

7. O - They are Open-Minded

An open-minded teacher is fair. He/She has no favourite in his/her class. The teacher looks out for effort instead of the final result, and grades fairly. Open-mindedness also promotes sensitiveness to different cultural norms and social values. It encourages the teacher to be observant. The teacher encourages conversations and promotes the voice of the quiet and meek amidst strong opinions. An open-minded teacher is a magnet for collaboration. He/she will be the voice of change, if what is happening in the school does not benefit the student. An open-minded teacher is a great mentor. He/she settles classroom disputes quickly never allowing into linger and break friendships. The teacher is transparent and will imbibe moral values in his/her class lesson needed in an unpredictable and challenging world. The teacher will encourage students to be responsible global citizens. The open-minded teacher has a sense of responsibility and good work ethos.

8. R - They are Researchers

An out-standing teacher is inherently a researcher, hence knowledgeable and competent. He/she is always seeking ways to improve. His/her research will naturally allow the teacher to know his/her subject content better. The teacher is able to prepare and organise lessons effectively and has meaningful evaluation methods to monitor student progress. The teacher is able to find and reach out to effective resources to complement the lesson. The knowledgeable teacher’s lessons will be exemplary because the teacher uses examples effectively and makes the lessons relevant, fun, current and will have the class engaged. This teacher is likely to respond to the needs of a classroom better with a variety of teaching techniques, and intervenes effectively to help students who are struggling in class as he/she is able to change the way information is presented in order to make it more understandable. The teacher puts forth meaningful assignments that require analytical thinking and “out of the box” creativity. The teacher also knows that he/she needs to be equipped with other softer skills like communication and collaboration in the face of the 21st century, and will seek out professional development opportunities. This teacher is likely to have a wide network of similar individuals because of his/her collaborative nature and thirst of knowledge.

What happens when an EFFECTOR Connects?

When a teacher makes a connection with a student, the teacher will be able build a caring relationship and thereafter both parties will genuinely make time for each other.

The teacher will begin to understand the student better from a variety of aspects be it social, cultural, emotional, physical or intellectual. The teacher will set high expectations for the student within the understandings that he/she has of the student. Making that connection will allow the teacher to be in a position to have meaningful, patient conversations to motivate the student to put in the required effort.

When a student puts in effort, it is only natural that he/she will expect to see and feel improvement and progress, as that will enthuse him/her to push on.

The out-standing teacher needs to run along-side this student keeping the connections active and on-going. The teacher will need to monitor the student’s growth for any intervention that may be needed.

To monitor a student’s growth, a teacher needs the appropriate tools and in-house systems around rubrics and agreed growth matrices. This could be looking at simple data around attendance, test results, quality of home-work, timely submissions, project completions, grades, participation in sports and the creative arts all the way to the student’s overall performance, demeanour and attitude (from multiple sources of feedback coming from his peers, parents and other educators).

The out-standing teacher will ensure that the effort the child puts in is acknowledged and celebrated.

Monitoring growth will also prompt if there is drop in the student’s effort. The teacher then needs to intervene and find ways to ensure the child’s perseverance prevails, sustaining the Connection made earlier.

An EFFECTOR basically understands his/her ethical responsibilities to the teaching profession.

Schools need EFFECTORs.

Who are they again?

They are simply out-standing teachers who make connections with their students.