Thursday, April 21, 2005

What Makes a Good Teacher?

This morning's e-mail brought this message. I thought I would share my response with you all, since quite a few readers are education majors.

Dear Ms. Mathews;
One of the reasons for this message is the above subject.[What is a good art teacher?] I am a student in the Art Ed program at Kent and for an Intro into Ed course, I am to interview five people and pose the above question. Since reading the article in the PD I continue to enjoy reading your blogs and I wonder if you may find time to answer the subject question. If not, please let me know.
Thank you for your site

What is a good teacher?

I think I know what a good teacher is, but just to be sure, I asked my Art 1 class that question. This particular group of students range from 14 year old 9th graders to 20 year old seniors.

These were their answers:

"A teacher who makes us laugh"
"Good teachers take the time to explain things when you don't understand."
"They can "break it down"...make it simple."
"You know they will be there for you if you need help. Like, if you lost your bus ticket and don't have a way to get home they will get you another one."
"Good teachers make you work hard...they prepare you for real life."
"They make you want to do your best."
"They don't put you down and try to make you feel stupid."
"They make you feel like you are important....they take the time to listen."
"They don't make assumptions about who you are by what you wear."
"They take the time to get to know you."
You see, I like to check with the consumer to make sure I'm on the right track with my own observations.

First and foremost, I feel a good teacher must genuinely LIKE kids.

I have known too many teachers who do nothing but complain about kids and seem to enjoy being mean to them. I have known teachers who brag about how many kids fail their classes. Teachers who entered the field of education for all the worst reasons:
They had power issues. They wanted to be the one in boss others around. They may have had some unresolved problems dating back to their own student days.These teachers are the worst. They don't like to be challenged. They discipline by intimidation.

Next, good teachers model the behaviors they expect from their students.

Timeliness: If you expect your students to be on time for class, be on time to work.
Cooperation: Work together with the other people on your team. Involve community members in projects.
Creativity: Try new things! Experiment. Learn from your mistakes. Don't be afraid.
Reading: Talk about the books you are reading. Discuss what you read in the paper. Let them see how reading can open up their world.
Writing: Share your writing with them. Write them notes, letters, memos. Show them that writing skills are used in everyday life.
These last two things also help your students get to know you. They want to know you a little more personally. When you establish a relationship with them, they pay attention. They work harder for you.

Good teachers "know their stuff" ...and if they don't quite know it well enough...bring in someone who does. Tap your networks for volunteers, guest speakers, field trips. This way you learn along with your students....(this goes back to modeling).

Good teachers know how to keep their "cool". They don't overreact, or take things things too personally. They don't scream or "lose it" on students. They treat their students with respect. I've seen too many cases where a class will walk all over a teacher because they can. They know what buttons to push to upset the teacher. For a lot of kids, that's just fun.

Please notice. I did not include ANYTHING about curriculum mapping, measurable goals and objectives, writing action plans, or any of the other countless topics included in educational coursework for teachers. Those are the things many professors and administrators (who do not spend any substantial amount of time in the classroom)think make a good teacher, yet it all has very little to do with the reality of getting kids to pay attention and learn something.
You can write a phenomenal lesson plan, but have no clue how to connect with kids.The best teachers know you need to first build a relationship with your students...then you can take them anywhere.

I hope this helps. Please let me know if there is anything else I can do for you.


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