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The “Great Teacher” List

Student and Teacher

(via Flickr: Wonderlane)

A few weeks ago I participated in edchat on Twitter.  The topic of discussion was teacher evaluations.  During the “conversation” I made a shortsighted comment about the lack of value I saw in the formal teaching evaluation process–from an administrative point of view.  Several colleagues politely disagreed with my assessment and discussed the positive impact teacher evaluations have had on their schools.  Recently, I have spent a great deal of time reflecting on their comments and considering ways that I can create value from a system that has inherent restrictions.

During classroom observations the past few weeks, I have been thinking about characteristics that are shared by great teachers–characteristics I hope I can encourage through the evaluation process.  In doing so, I have come to a realization…great teaching is hard work and it is not for the feint at heart.  So why is great teaching so difficult?  Consider.

Great teachers:

  1. Balance empathy with expectations
  2. Steadfastly focus on the purpose and objective of what they teach
  3. Engage their students in discussion
  4. Provide relevance
  5. Multi-task
  6. Encourage, reassure and affirm
  7. Demonstrate creativity and flexibility
  8. Manage time
  9. Manage students
  10. Manage parents
  11. Communicate
  12. Laugh, smile, and show their “human side”
  13. Provide meaningful feedback
  14. Build rapport and trust (even with students they may struggle to appreciate)
  15. Work effectively with colleagues
  16. Advocate for the best interest of students
  17. Don’t quit–on a lesson, on a day, or on a student
  18. Appropriately stretch understanding
  19. Maintain patience
  20. Teach the required curriculum
  21. Teach the “hidden” curriculum
  22. Reflect on constructive criticism
  23. Criticize constructively
  24. See potential in all students
  25. Assess, analyze and modify
  26. Look for the small successes
  27. Remain enthusiastic (even when they don’t feel that way)
  28. Build confidence
  29. See the big picture
  30. Remember what is like to be a kid

It’s certainly not an inclusive list, but you get the idea.  Great teaching requires a tremendous commitment of time, energy and resources.

Tell me what I have left off the list!


About azjd

Junior high principal by day, aspiring difference maker, and Jedi in my own mind. Act justly. Love mercy. Walk humbly.


One thought on “The “Great Teacher” List

  1. Interesting list. It immediately reminds me of the kinds of findings that TFA is trying to come up with by keeping careful records of teacher effectiveness. Your observations are based on what amounts to anecdotal evidence, while theirs is based on what amounts to scientific evidence – as someone said of Chomsky and Foucault, you are climbing the same mountain from opposite directions. I imagine, though, that you have slightly different definitions for what constitutes “success” as a teacher, although then again, perhaps not. That recent article in the NYTimes called “Building a Better Teacher” also addresses these issues – what is it, exactly, that makes some people more effective than others? For example, #23 in the above list: criticize constructively. We can all agree on what that means, but in practice, there are subtle shades that can drastically alter how criticism is taken. Anyway, you’re right, teaching is hard to do. And perhaps you are among the uncommon administrators who are able to clearly articulate WHY that is. Many admin I know don’t really have time to visit classrooms, let alone come up with an intelligent picture of challenges their employees face.

    Posted by Greg Clinton | March 29, 2010, 5:32 am

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Jeff Delp

Junior high principal by day, sports enthusiast, technology fanatic and jedi in my own mind. Striving to be a difference maker!
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