365 Characteristics Of Good Teachers

John DabellI trained as a primary school teacher 25 years ago, starting my career in London and then I taught in a range of schools in the Midlands. In between teaching jobs, I worked as an Ofsted inspector (no hate mail please!), national in-service provider, project… Read more about John DabellAre you a good teacher?Good teachers are effective teachers. They are also great but never outstanding as outstanding doesn’t exist. But what does a good one look like?Everyone seems to have an opinion about what makes a top teacher, a great teacher and what effective teachers ‘do right’. There can never be any real consensus or ‘absolute’ that we can template although research points to some key features. I’ve collected together 365 insights to demonstrate to people outside of the teaching profession, what these cherished characteristics are.‘Good’ teachers have a positive outlookwork with passion and are enthusiasticbring their best to the school every daymake the most of each and every minuterevel in the opportunity to be with and to teach childrenare energetic, dynamic and accentuate the positiveare time stealers extraordinaire and steal ideashave a healthy sense of humour and perspectiveare happy to be at school and love teachingconvey a love of their subjectconvey a love of teaching as a worthwhile professionare intentional with their time and effortsee themselves as helpers of learningapproach situations with a ‘can do’ and ‘will do’ attitudeaccept their inadequacies but strive to improve themencourage input from otherslisten deeply and give credit to others for their contributionsare keen to uphold the school’s valuessee themselves as essentially dependable and capablecommunicate effectively with othersbelieve in their own worth, ability and potentialare self-confident, motivated and happystrive for openness, honesty and genuineness in learning and relationshipsdo things with P.R.I.D.E. (perseverance, responsibility, integrity, determination, excitement)model forgivenesshave presencewalk the talk and practise what they preachact as role models with high ethical standardsare empatheticare ‘Elephant’ teachersact naturally in a range of situationsuse their personalities to energise the curriculumpromote and cherish mental and physical wellbeingdon’t make dramas out of minor eventssafeguard their emotional energy and protect their own welfareare optimistic and see problems as opportunitiesare responsive to changing circumstancesdon’t allow anyone to take away their excellencefilter out the spam and challenge toxic peopleexpect the bestlook for marginal gainsbuild alliancesare pogo-stick teachers and see the wider picturego for gold and enthuse others to do the samegive of themselves freely and oftenknow when to unplugare not faultlesssee mistakes as an opportunity and not a threatwork hard but don’t become workaholicshave self-doubtscount their blessings!get out of their comfort pits and zonesare hardy teachersdon’t aim for perfectionhave superpowerslookout for their colleaguesbuild visions and find time to innovateare grit spreaderscharge at obstacles and goals with total commitmentdrown out the bad with the goodempower others, start an uplifting dialogue and encourage public ‘shout outs’practise being brave and take risksare cheerful, determined and tenaciousS.U.M.O (Shut Up, Move On)wear different glasses and see the world differentlyare committed to achievement and active citizenshipspread collegial care and support to everyoneset boundariesavoid burnoutare cheerful in adversitymake lemonade when the fragile system gives them lemonsknow how to get their mojo back and reignite their confidence.choose their battlesknow how to deal with impostor syndromeside-step guiltcan’t imagine doing anything elseknow they are trustedget some sleep! ignore emails after hourscommit to a well-being oath‘Good’ teachers are always child-centredenjoy the company of childrenmeet, greet and make every child feel specialreject self-fulfilling prophecies and avoid labellingvalue the uniqueness of each child and never belittlebelieve in the worth, ability and potential of every childmaximise raw potential and tap the untapped potentialnever underestimate pupils’ capabilitiesstudy their children and find each child’s ‘sweet spot’observe and listen carefully to children to discover their educational needsask children “What is kind? What is specific? What is helpful?”help and support children to grow and flourishcommit to establishing a positive relationship with every learnernever patronise or talk down to childrennever break promisesencourage an open and trusting learning environmentencourage children to take risks and ask ‘big questions’encourage a growth mindsettake care of children’s mental healthencourage children to raise expectations of themselvesnormalise mistake-making as a natural part of learningchallenge children in multiple wayshelp children to speculate, think aloud and help each othergive children time to thinkhelp pupils redefine ‘failure’ as a stepping stone towards successhelp children become critical thinkers, problem solvers and effective learnershold positive expectations of every child and don’t blame them for their behaviourhave a constant awareness of how children are experiencing their learningsee pupils as pupils and not mini-adultsunderstand and value a child’s point of viewhonour the dignity and integrity of every childprovide constructive feedback and avoid slack praiseeat together and learn together with childrenshow a caring attitudedevelop character and responsibilityhave shining eyes and a lively tone of voiceare seen by children as approachable and valuable sources of advicehave high standards for all children every dayunderstand that they will not always see immediate resultscontribute personal stories and celebrate the successes of former studentsdevelop personal, mature relationships with childrenare generous with their smiles and make children laughhave faith in children to do wellkeep things positiveuse their own autobiographies to empower learning and personal developmenttake time to explain things from more than one anglehelp children when they are ‘stuck’, upset or troubleddo not give up on children and do not give into childrenmake children feel clevermake allowances, forgive and forgetinsist that work is a high standardnudge and push children into doing betterknow what goes on ‘beyond the gate‘help children to be creative, original and use their initiativegive children strategies to succeedreact calmly when things don’t go ‘right’make children feel secure and protect their mental healthinspire and inculcate a love of learning in childrenmaintain disciplineare alert and responsive to different feelingsextend the range of pupil learning experiences including homework when appropriatehelp children become independent, resilient and skilful learnersare aware of the Matthew effectencourage children to be learning detectivesunderstand the overlapping waves model of cognitive development and see learning as a gradual ebb and flowlet parents know when their child has shown a particular interest in a topic or skillencourage children to identify the difference between opinion and diagnostic advicehelp children to achieve more than they thought possiblelet children know they are not their test resultssee ourselves through our children’s eyes‘Good’ teachers enjoy teaching!are well organised, prepared and reflectivehave sound subject knowledgeteach like a championsee teaching as white water raftingare nets not spoonshave clever classroomschampion children and fight their cornermake ‘invisible’ pupils visiblerecognise that learning is emotionalteach hand, head and heartbelieve learning should be challenging and joyfulfind something children care aboutbuild a class culture and happy classroomspoverty-proof their classrooms if requiredcreate situations in which children succeedgive oracy a high profile and commit to dialogical teachingunderstand Assessment for Learning, responsive teaching and use the 5 Minute AfL Plansee formative assessment as the bridge between teaching and learningdon’t obsess over ‘data’think aloud and model stepsassess learning incrementallycommit to low-stakes, not high-stakesexpect ambiguityuse strategies that support inclusionimprovise, ad-lib, edit, tweak and tailoravoid the formulaicdo not write detailed lesson planslet children decide the direction learning takesdeliberately introduce alternative perspectivesdeliberately introduce periods of silenceshun bullet-pointed lesson plans and off-the-shelf ready-made lessonsmake learning as loud and colourful as possibleuse exciting and varied approaches like concept cartoonsradiate excitement when they introduce a new topicmake learning memorable and make things stickdon’t use lollipopsare great storytellershelp children ‘get in the zone’ and in a state of flowcreate a relaxed and enjoyable atmosphereuse the APPLE model for prior knowledge (Appropriate, Present, Pupil Need, Learner’s Environment, Enhance)are clear about what they want children to learnconcentrate on the things that pupils need to experiencetell children what they need to know and show them what they need to dojudge what can be expected of a pupilare concerned about the quality of their teachingdetect things before they get out of handteach with patience and open-eyed couragemaintain a constant focus on children’s learning goalsmake the best use of every minutehave a belief in their teaching and in children as learnerscombine the routine and the probingask lots of questions, particularly ‘how and ‘why’ questionsask questions ‘Columbo’ styleuse open questions and Fermi questionsreason by analogygive analysis, not opinionstrive to ensure that every child feels confident to approach adults without hesitation to ask questionstalk to children in a way that they can understandovercome gaps in knowledge, understanding and skillstake careful account of the needs of individualspromote deliberate practice so we can all achieve extraordinary thingsencourage independent thoughtencourage children to ask questions and engage in the learning processchallenge misconceptionsdon’t gloss over ‘wrong’ answers but treat them as stepping stones towards a fuller understandingestablish a context for materiallink learning to real-world issuespresent new material in small chunksuse examples, details, analogies, metaphors and variety in modes of explanationuse wit and humour effectivelytactically tackle low-level disruptionpresents facts and concepts from related fields and ‘joins the dots’allow children to succeedpay close attention to detailare not slaves to differentiationfeedback and feedforwarddon’t use verbal feedback stampsbuild on and work with the knowledge that children already possesscan stimulate, direct and pace interaction with the classmake rapid assessments and can change direction to fit the needs of individualsmonitor progress and foster successteach children how to monitor their own progressdemand and monitor independent practicemake sure children show their successesdon’t sit behind their desksdemonstrate their own thought and work processes when problem-solvingencourage children to summarise new learning in a graphical wayencourage children to achieve their goalsuse a great deal of encouragement with a small amount of praisenurture metacognition and teach children how to think, not what to thinkteach children strategies and not just contentmotivate children to create new ideasfoster innovation, new approaches and take risks themselvesdon’t shut down learning but keep lines of enquiry openencourage and appreciate diversitydo not stereotype or speak negatively of othersnurture and encourage empathy and respectseek and encourage understanding of, and respect for, people of diverse backgroundsare perceived as fair, especially in behaviour management and methods of assessmentencourage children to work in teamsencourage collaborative learninghelp children to transfer learning into new situationsgive children the confidence to tackle unfamiliar challengeshelp children to Stop, Think, Act, Reflectprovide Dedicated Improvement and Reflection Time (DIRT)use pose, pause, pounce, bouncerepeat, pause, repeat, linger, pause, repeatdon’t take centre stage and talk too muchpresent difficult concepts comprehensiblyoffer support for difficult conceptsplay devil’s advocatescaffold and explain clearlyhold children accountablelet children teach one anotherbuild memorable learning experiencesensure praise is personal, sincere and linked to learningknow whether or not the class is following the material and check regularly that children understandaddress underperformanceare sensitive to each learner’s mood and motivationdemonstrate creativity in teaching strategiesrepeat what has already been learnt each dayregularly activate and reactivate learned knowledgeteach in a relaxed way without losing authority and respectknow that one size does not fit allhelps children take ownership over the direction of their own livesinculcate a sense of mystery and suspenseawaken wonder within the classroomare sometimes punks are sometimes mavericksteach purple cow lessons and teach like piratesare lazy and keep it simplework less than their childrencelebrate the work of their children and their school communitypromote healthy, cheerful competitionbuild a climate of emotional intelligence in classcreatively foster synergy between experience and dialoguedon’t spend hours markingassess in the moment with plenty of verbal feedbackpromote cognitive conflict and thought frictiondon’t cap ‘low-attainers’ by denying them access to more challenging workapply a ‘low threshold, high ceiling’ principle to open-ended tasksdon’t do PowerPointmanage their marking workload and use the 5 Minute Lesson Plan‘Good’ teachers seek professional developmentare intellectually curious and love learningare critically reflectivecommit to professional development in educationare experts on their own teachingprioritise professional learning and reading are respectful of colleaguesbuild engagement among colleagueshave critical friendships are outward-looking connected educatorscollaborate with passion and purposestay abreast of trends in education and researchare cultural anthropologists of their schooluse lesson study to get betteropenly display a thirst for knowledge and constantly strive to learnwork as team players and multiply each other’s strengthsfocus on relationships, relationships, relationshipsembrace reciprocal vulnerability without losing credibilitycontrol the narrative, speak up and challengecontribute to cultural breakthroughs in their schoolare persistent and never give upsay ‘no’ when they have tocommit to having regular learning conversations with colleagueshave open and accessible paths of communication with colleaguesextend their learning outside their comfort zonedemonstrate leadership in teaching and learn from mistakesask “So what?”use Smyth’s model of reflectionare curious and seek to find out what works and what doesn’tcontribute to debate and discussioncontribute their own writing on education e.g. blogs, articlesseek out pockets of intelligence and listen to podcastsseek out positive and powerful voices in educationdemonstrate creativity in teaching strategiesbuild links at national and international levels in education e.g. via social mediaseek continually to improve teaching skillsseek to learn and incorporate new skillsseek feedback and criticismhave a ‘pay it forward’ mindset by giving help and receiving helpwelcome different points of viewmodel the way for others by managing their workload and wellbeing keep up to date in their specialitycombine brainpower with horsepowerpersevere with time management and commit to wellbeingactively and constantly seek new opportunitiesare pro-active and initiate rather than remain passivelook at research-based ideas to implement into their practicedebunk educational myths and legendsdo less, not more and do it betterstrive to make great impacthave a vision of the footprint they want to leave on the worldhave a ‘giving’ mindset and share ideas and resourcesreflect, monitor and adjustMark. Plan. Teachconduct teaching, learning and assessment audits on themselvesare change agentsserve as catalysts for improvementobserve each other teach as part of a learning teamplan, organise, reflect and evaluate togethertalk shopknow when to stop talking shopavoid balkanisationuse different lenseslearn how to coachlearn how to managelearn how to mentorknow that ‘good’ is good enoughseek help from more experienced staff and less experienced staffvisit the staffroomestablish links with sympathetic friends and familylead by example and let others shinegive themselves a pat on the back and know they are fabulous.These qualities and characteristics are just a sample of what good teachers do. There will be plenty I have missed and you could probably add 1,000 more things.As this list shows, teaching is a highly complex and demanding job that really is multi-skilled and multi-dimensional. In another profession, anyone else expected to do all this would demand £200K a year. Teachers are worth so much more.Related

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