Attributes of a Great Teacher (Updated on Mar 2014)

I wrote this down a while ago when I heard a bunch of students complain how bad some of their teachers were. We were discussing how to tag teachers with a set of attributes. I came back home and drew a mind map. A Twitter exchange with a friend reminded me of this list. So I decided to post a bunch of Tweets almost at midnight.

Here they are, in no particular order. Some of the teachers who inspired me had many of these attributes. The greatest one was my grandfather. I had the privilege of watching him closely as I was growing up. He did not have a very high level of education but I have never seen any one with such unparalleled dedication. I don’t know whether they know it or not, but good teachers have a lot of influence on their students. In their tenure as a teacher (20-30 years or more) they probably have the potential to  influence 20-50K students directly. According to Teachers without Borders, there nearly 60 million teachers in the world.

Attributes of a great teacher:

  • Dedicated
  • Motivating
  • Engaging
  • Some times Entertaining
  • Good story teller
  • Has Knowledge of subject matter
  • Conversation starter
  • Inspires students
  • Challenges students to think
  • Can demystify hard subjects
  • Egoless
  • Innovates in teaching methods
  • Life-long learner
  • Has Infinite patience
  • Not judgemental
  • Understands student’s difficulties,
  • Understands student’s learning styles
  • Takes pride in students’ achievements

If I love this profession so much, why did I not take up  teaching profession? I ask myself that question a lot of times. I don’t know the answer. I studied engineering and jumped into a job and never looked back. But the most fun part in all my jobs and all my startups was the opportunity to teach a bit.

Updates

Mar 3, 2014

I found Good vs. great teachers: how do you wish to be remembered? and it is worth a read. A small fragment from that post (please go and read it to get all the qualitative differences Grant Wiggins talks about):

how does one go from good to great? I think the difference is qualitative – The actions, behavior, and attitudes of great teachers differ considerably from those of good teachers; it’s not just a matter of degree. (That’s why I find almost all the well-known evaluation systems humdrum – they focus on mere goodness instead of being designed backward from greatness.)

Let me propose a set of distinctions – admittedly a bit glib – that may have value for sharpening our sense of what greatness is in teaching:

  • Great teachers are in the talent-finding and talent-development business.
  • Merely good teachers think they are mostly in the business of teaching stuff and helping students so that it gets learned.
  • Great teachers are aiming for the future: are these students better able to succeed on their own after me and without me?
  • Merely good teachers look mostly to the past: did they learn what I taught and did they do what I asked of them?

Sep 21, 2013

I am taking a course on Coursera on Foundations of Teaching for Learning.  In Week 3 of the course, there is a fascinating discussion on What is a good school? What is a good teacher? What is a good student? The thought provoking part was a series of questions starting with “How do you know? Whom do you ask”.  I thought one of the slides on “What is a good teacher” may be very relevant to this topic. If you are interested in teaching and learning, I highly recommend this course from Coursera.

what_makes__a_good_teacher_

Jul 16, 2013 Seven Characteristics of 21st Century Educators  is a mind map of Seven Characteristics of Innovative Educator

July 16,  2013 Eight characteristics of 21st Century Teachers.

June 2  2012 The folks at Next Wave Multimedia were kind enough to create this presentation based on this post, using ComicsHead, a visualization and presentation tool.

4th Sep 2011 And then, I found this amazing blog post on the Technical Skills Required  of a 21st Century Educator via Teacher’s Learning Journal.

23rd March 2011 AOL Search Teacher’s Attributes

Meta

Some times your blog visitors and comments tell you more about the topic you write about. I am always curious about why people read certain entries and where they come from. One way to honor them and say I recognize you is to incorporate their insights and link to them. This is a way to say, I salute you. I am glad you came and made my post a bit richer.  Whenever I have time, I would like to post these under the Updates section of my blog posts.

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16 thoughts on “Attributes of a Great Teacher (Updated on Mar 2014)

  1. I wholeheartedly agree with the last statement, been teaching for the last 1.5 years and it has been immensely satisfying. Stumbled here via Sukumar’s tweet. Will add you to my reader.
    Regards,
    Raj

  2. @Raj Thanks. I think more professionals should get into part time teaching. I think while the academics are great, students can benefit from a few anecdotes of how they can apply what they learn.

  3. Two more attributes:

    – Must be neutrally paced – not too fast and not too slow
    – Must be the one who doesn’t have the “i know better” attitude and is willing to accept having made mistakes…

  4. A teacher who is a “Good story teller” can very well explain with ease even the complex of the theories like relativity, and can make the dullest topic look exciting!
    A good teacher is a extinct species in India these days and when I think about teachers who influenced me the most, all of them are from my school days 🙂

  5. I like teaching, i went to a college of education to do teacher’s training,on the long run i feel like changing proffession, but with this rightup i promise to stike to imparting knowledge.

  6. Wow! This is one of the best comments I received ever on my blog. Thank you. I love teachers in the academics as well as outside. They help me become what I am.

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