What’s at the Core of a Great Teacher? #BCSLearns

Much is written and researched about what makes a great teacher, and, quite simply, the organic and dynamic and complexity of human beings (teachers and students alike) as it relates to master teachers, cannot be reduced to a short list of key characteristic. Allow me to share two different lists from two different sources about what makes teachers great, and let’s compare.  In an article from The Chronicle of Higher Education entitled “What Makes a Good Teacher?”, the author, A.C. Growling outlines the key ingredients he believes great teachers evoke.

  • Enthusiasm – Students often catch this in their classrooms.
  • Charisma – Teachers can be Pied Pipers for their subject.
  • A capacity to clarify and make sense – This quality illuminates any subject.
  • Humor – It lightens the hard work students need to do.
  • Kindness – A teacher’s power is enhanced when there’s a human connection.
  • A genuine interest in students’ progress – This involves constantly checking for understanding and responding accordingly.

In the article The Heart of Teaching: What It Means to Be a Great Teacher from Edutopia, the author shares a different list of characteristics of great teachers.

  • You are kind
  • You are compassionate
  • You are empathetic
  • You are positive
  • You are a builder
  • You inspire

What do you notice?  Kind is listed in both lists, and while there are slight similarities among the other characteristics, the lists are quite different.  We could find another list that would add on to these two lists of importance characteristics.  That’s my point!  Teacher is far to organic and dynamic and complex to be reduced to just a few key ingredients that teacher must evoke.  Perhaps great teachers are more like chameleons who have to change and adjust through a modicum of flexibility based on the context of the instructional situation and what the student(s) need.

Want to check out a few videos about great teachers?  Check out an ABCNews story – “What Makes Great Teachers” (3:22) and then and incredibly inspirational TEDx talk by Lisa Lee called “Getting at the heart of teaching” (11:12).

  • make sure every student’s keeping up
  • flexible
  • set high goals
  • great artist
  • see students as unique, valuable individuals
  • learn from their students
  • praise matters – How to Nurture Persistence with (the Right Kind of) Praise
  • love what they’re doing
  • find the inner core in themselves and their students, not the Common Core

So, with all these lists, please comment by adding on characteristics from these lists proving the complexity of great teaching!


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