The brightest sparks in teaching: what makes a great teacher?
Arc Skills
May 8, 2017

The brightest sparks in teaching: what makes a great teacher?

Teacher Appreciation Week

Following on from our last post which discussed the value of teaching to children and its impact on the economy at large, our attention this time turns to the qualities that all great teachers possess.

The starting point

The starting point must be an excellent command of their subject. Whether the arts and humanities or scientific disciplines, every teacher must be able to demonstrate their expertise. This knowledge, which has been honed over many years, will not only give their students the best chance of success but will make lessons far more engaging. As we know, attention spans are notoriously poor in the classroom.

Many of us are now graduates, often the first person in our families to have attended university, so in theory we can all become teachers. Yet it takes a certain type of individual to succeed, and that’s where personality must come into it. It’s a difficult juggling act, as teachers need to be both warm and approachable while at the same time firm and fair.

The classroom can be a difficult place and that’s why teachers need to follow a specific training curriculum (which will vary country to country) to prepare them for the challenges that lie ahead. There are many elements involved, not least dealing with difficult children, and often, parents too. Then you have the marking, the lesson planning and paperwork to think about – teachers need to be adept at many different things. Passion for your subject isn’t enough.  

Determination and dedication

The best teachers are determined and resilient. They will persevere until they are satisfied that their students have attained the required level of subject mastery. They set high expectations and believe that each child has the potential to succeed irrespective of ability. Success is dependent on effort and they know that the more they put in, the more they’ll get out. That’s why the top educators are relentless in their quest for improvement.

Although teachers have their own career path, in terms of whether they want to move into more leadership or school administration roles, their students always come first. That’s why most who enter the industry do it because they want to make a difference to the children whose development they are entrusted with. The satisfaction of seeing the students succeed, at times against all odds, is the big payoff.

Teachers that leave a mark

We all remember teachers who left an indelible mark on our learning journey. What made them special? We respected them for their knowledge and discipline but also because they cared. They didn’t belittle us, they built our self-esteem. They never gave up on us and taught us to reach for the stars. And even though we might not have always shown it, we appreciated them then as we do now.

As Prince Harry mentions in his video message of congratulations to the 10 finalists of the Global Teacher Prize, teachers ‘go beyond the pages of textbooks’ to ‘spark curiosity and nurture dreams that can change our world for the better’.

Don't forget to #ThankATeacher who has helped you become who you are today!