Top 5 Qualities of a Great Teacher

Great teachers remain with us throughout our lives: the way they encouraged us to speak out when we were unsure; the time they stayed back after class to help us understand a maths problem.  These men and women have common traits, including a love of their subject and a genuine interest in young people’s development….

Great teachers remain with us throughout our lives: the way they encouraged us to speak out when we were unsure; the time they stayed back after class to help us understand a maths problem. 

These men and women have common traits, including a love of their subject and a genuine interest in young people’s development.

Here, we examine five of those top qualities, and what to look out for during teacher recruitment

1. A great teacher shows a love of the subject

Most of us have a story about the teacher who inspired us to choose a particular profession. It could be the maths teacher who lifted the curtain on the hidden world of numbers all around us; or the English teacher who helped us fall in love with books and writing.

A teacher who doesn’t have a love for their subject is quickly identified by pupils. You might think that anyone who applies for a teaching job must be interested in the subject, and you’re probably right. But being interested in something is not the same as being able to convey that enthusiasm to others.

Unless a teacher can ignite excitement about their subject, they’re not going to be able to hold the attention of a roomful of teens.

2. A great teacher makes lessons stimulating

A major contributing factor to this point is the one above. If teachers can’t communicate enthusiasm, they’re not going to deliver interesting lessons.

The result is that classroom cliché: the teacher standing in front of a bored class reading in a monotone from the text book.

Instead, a good teacher will have ideas for turning the classroom into a place of debate, because activities that encourage children to ask and answer questions stimulates interest.

Through these classroom debates, pupils are learning how to express themselves, which leads to our next point: independent thinking.

3. A great teacher encourages independent thought

The best tool to give a child for life is the gift of independent thinking. Some teachers concentrate on exam results, and, on the face of it, appear to be doing a great job.

However, closer inspection of their students reveals that although they can recite facts and figures, they don’t know how to respond when presented with unfamiliar problems.

Great teachers teach their students to look at literature, maths or history and draw their own conclusions.

4. A great teacher relates abstract concepts to reality

Young people are interested about finding out how the world works, and not so keen on abstractions. Not performing well in maths, for example, might be because a student doesn’t understand why maths has any real value.

But if a maths teacher can show, for example, that the shortest route around a Formula One track can be found by calculus, the subject comes alive.

Similarly, a Charles Dickens novel might interest modern students if the teacher draws comparisons between the way children were treated then and now.

During recruitment, find out what the candidate plans to do to connect the classroom with the world outside.  

5. A great teacher is approachable and open

Some of us are old enough to remember when approaching a teacher was a nerve-wracking affair. Many teachers seemed to dislike being approached by students, and were aloof and intimidating.

Now, things have changed. Students expect teachers to be approachable and take an interest in them as people with opinions and ideas that matter.

If a candidate isn’t a ‘people person’, they might find this a challenge.

There are areas of teaching – university lecturing, online education – where social interaction with pupils is not as important. But to teach at secondary or primary level, a person must have an interest in students’ development and social lives.

Being a teacher is a balancing act, and schools do their best to retain teachers who do it well. Teachers are friends, mentors, educators and life coaches. It’s a challenging job, and teacher recruitment is about finding who is up to that challenge.