One of my daughters, who is finishing up an Honours Degree and applying to Teacher’s College, asked me what I thought were the five attributes of an effective teacher. When I first thought about effective teachers or mothers for that matter, images of the some of worst teachers I have had sprang to mind. My grade one teacher yelled and became angry quickly, did not like children, dismissed my insecurities or struggles to learn with little compassion or empathy and moved through her lesson plans rigidly, if the class grasped the material or not. The unpopular teachers in high school had similar personalities. Even, if they were brilliant and really knew their subject, they had trouble controlling the class because they were not respected.
One of the best ways to learn how to teach and to mother is to remember both the good and poor examples from our own days as students. That being said the five attributes that I think are essential for an effective teacher are the mirror opposite of my worst teachers.It is crucial that a teacher be patient, compassionate, adaptable or innovative, dedicated or committed, and passionate about teaching.
Anyone who deals with children has to be patient. It is the most important trait for both an effective and mother teacher because children can be exasperating, annoying and irritating. When a child knows that they can make an adult lose control by getting angry, they act even worse because they have the upper hand, they have the power in the relationship. Countless experiences with my children reinforced this basic fact that the best way to handle poor behaviour is by modeling good, patient behaviour myself because actions and emotions do speak even louder than the correct words. Children love to ‘push adults buttons’ or ‘ get arise out of you’. When I remain calm and patient, the kids settle right down.
Equally crucial is the quality of compassion. Kids intuitively know if an adult likes them, understands them and empathizes with them. Once again, if an adult is cold and cannot relate to a child emotionally, a child will act up in their presence. In my experience, the teachers and mothers who were the most compassionate, who could truly empathize with students were the most respected teachers. Whether I was a little kid in primary school or a teen, kids want to please teachers who they like and respect. It is the compassionate teacher who can maintain good behaviour and control in a classroom because they treat their students with mutual respect and compassion and kids respond to that.
A good teacher and mother must be innovative and adaptable because kids need variety. Kids do not learn well when they are bored, Even in university, it is a struggle to pay attention and learn from a boring prof who drones on in a monotone voice with little variation in tone or style of delivery. Students need new, exciting, creative and most of all fun ways to learn. The classroom changes from year to year or even semester to semester – teachers need to be able to switch gears, They may have to handle one class in one way and the next class completely differently because each class has different types of personalities and learning styles with different needs. Teaching is a relationship with the good teacher taking her cues from the students. I went to a very small country, elementary school with one class per grade. I remember that teachers would comment on the personality of each group of students; some classes were quick, with a lot of smart kids setting the benchmarks where another year had a class with a lot of boys who found it hard to sit still. One style of teaching does not fit all.
The most effective teachers that I have had were hardworking and dedicated. They did not just do the minimum to get by but went out of their way to plan extra activities, celebrations in the classroom, coach sports or run clubs even at lunch time. Teaching, especially in the early years is a demanding profession, not just a job. To be successful, a new teacher has to be willing to work long after classroom time to do lesson plans, mark work and prepare crafts, participate in extracurricular activities.
Lastly and most importantly, an effective teacher is passionate about teaching kids. It is passion that is an inner drive, that is not dependant on approval or compliments or seeing results right away. It is passion that prevents discouragement or burn-out because it is an inner fire that motivates and energizes. It is passion that also excites and inspires students.