By Trevor Glassey
In today’s world, education is one of the most prevalent institutions that came with the modern world. Some may say that the rise of democracy and its need for an educated population to make good decisions in voting led to its rise. Others say the downfall of blue collar jobs due to machinery forcing people into the education to get white collar jobs.
Whatever the reason, it is now an important part of children’s lives, making it worth questioning how to have the best instructors for such an important institution. With that in mind, I set out to answer a deceptively simple question: what are the traits of a good teacher? Now, this is a matter of opinion, as one will learn by asking what people believe should be most valued in teachers and why it helps them teach. As such, three groups have been taken into account —the students, the teachers and the internet —to learn what people believe are the best traits to have as a teacher.
The student responses tended to be a little vague. Most of the answers were that the teacher should be knowledgeable about their subject, patient, respectful and most importantly, engaging in some way. While other traits may exist that are important, these were the most commonly listed traits. Interestingly, students would not bring up “knowledgeable” when initially asked about the traits of a good teacher, but when prompted, they would immediately agree and say something along the lines of “well yeah, that’s like the baseline.” Patient is an often espoused virtue, many saying that they like having a teacher willing to put up with shenanigans now and then or not getting frustrated helping a student understand something they just don’t get. “Respect” is a common answer, with students saying that they won’t respect and don’t listen to teachers who don’t respect them. Lastly, being engaging in some form was mentioned by most students, though it took many forms. This was often one of the most important traits, as being able to interest students in the subject through humor or personality was one of the best ways they learned. Students believe that teachers must be able to teach in a way that can appeal to the many types of students available.
“Teachers should be adaptable to handle the different types of students that end up in their classroom,” expresses senior Eldridge Espanol. “If a teacher conflicts with the students, the students may not like them and won’t learn because of it.”
Teachers also have their own opinions on which traits are the most important, though many are very similar to student’s opinions. Teachers must once again be knowledgeable, patient and respect students. Along with that, some teachers had traits like approachable, fair, open to new ways of improving the class, holds high expectations of students and able to form a connection with students.
The new ones bring some light into how teachers perceive their goals and effects in the educational system. Approachable was seen as a valuable trait as it allows students to come to teachers and actively seek help. Being fair is important as treating students differently depending on how the teachers likes them will cause that teacher to lose their student’s respect.
While not everything tried needs to be used, being open to new ways of teaching is important for improving the class from year to year. Holding high expectations of students is important as it allows for teachers to challenge them rather than let them wallow in what they already know. Lastly, and probably most difficult, is forming a connection with the students. Much like engaging, this varies student to student, and makes it likely impossible to appeal to every student.
“One thing I’m always trying to improve on is my flexibility,” mentions Ms. James. “Sometimes things don’t always go according to plan, and being able to work around it without being flustered is important.”
The internet has numerous websites reporting which traits are the most important, most of them student surveys varying from colleges to elementary school. Along with previously mentioned traits, online data of college-level students shows numerous skills, like organized and effective communicator. They also brought up ideas like forgiveness, cultivating a sense of belonging and admitting to mistakes.
“Students seldom mentioned where teachers attended school, what degrees they held, or whether they had been named a ‘Teacher of the Year.’ Instead, students focused on these teachers’ nurturing and caring qualities,” explains Robert J. Walker in his research study of in-service and pre-service teachers.
In the modern world, education has become essential to getting ahead in most areas of life. As such, it is important to reflect on what makes teachers effective. How often these traits show up means that clearly there are some truth to them, but remember that every person is different and while these guidelines may be useful, different situations will call for different actions. ♦