What makes a teacher good?

When I look back on my own education, a couple teachers come to my mind as being “great”. 

The first example is my technology teacher in secondary school (1988-1990). He was not an educated teacher, but rather a construction engineer originally. He introduced me to the notion of not learning everything by heart, but rather we were allowed to bring everything we wanted to the tests. This was before the Internet was generally available in schools, so we had to think about what books, notes etc., we wanted to bring to the tests which in turn was a way of reflecting on our own learning which is a key part of the learning. 

Another example is my algorithms teacher during my master’s education (around 1992). This teacher was very charismatic and impressed us by never preparing his lectures, or at least he made it look like he never prepared. He came into the lecture hall, asked us which chapter we were currently reading, looked in the book for 10 seconds, closed it and then held a 2*45 min lecture by just speaking and writing on the blackboard. This impressed me as it showed that he really knew his subject. After all, he was a professor in algorithms so he should know the subject. 

So, what makes a teacher good? Here are a few things. 

  1. See and listen to the students. Take care in trying to understand what the students have trouble learning and then try to explain just that. 
  2. Show that you care. Tightly connected to point 1, but more about the emotions. Show that you want the student to learn, but also that you can be stern when needed. 
  3. Never ever lower the learning criteria. We can change much in our learning and teaching style, but we should never ever lower the criteria for passing. Students do not want to just pass, but rather see that they have accomplished something. 
  4. Pay attention to the details. Show respect to your students by not giving them material with a lot of errors. This includes everything, the learning material in the LMS, lecture notes, what you say and most importantly in the course planning. If you show the students respect through your work, then you will most likely get respect and good results back. 
  5. Connect theory to practice. Do not just give facts and theories but also connect it to real life by showing real examples that the students can connect to and by that motivate why they should be learning the subject in question in the first place. 
  6. Get the students to ask the right questions and get them to reflect on their learning. Why is a certain thing, the way it is? What did I just learn by doing this assignment? By reflection and questioning, the student can generalize and take their own learning to the next level.  

These are just a few things that can be said about what makes a teacher good. That do you think makes a teacher good? 

/Peter Parnes, a learner for life. 

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