8 Traits of a Great Teacher

Aug 26, 2019 | Teaching

8 Traits of a Great Teacher

Teachers play a pivotal role in shaping the future of individuals and society. Beyond the subject matter they teach, great teachers possess certain characteristics that make them stand out and leave a lasting impact on their students. 

1. Teach With Intent:

Great teachers demonstrate a high level of intentional and intuitive skill in designing and delivering instruction. Teaching with intent involves identifying the cognitive complexity of the tasks and the prior academic achievement of the students and using that information to appropriately scaffold learning and assessments to meet those parameters. That will likely include direct and explicit instruction in addition to inquiry exercises and collaborative activities all employed in the service of specific outcomes including, but not limited to knowledge acquisition.

Want to learn more about ‘teaching with intent’? Listen to this podcast episode (recorded prior to our name change from ThoughtStretchers Education PD to ThoughtStretchers Education) with world-renowned educational researcher, John Hattie.

2. Life Experience Beyond the Classroom:

A wealth of life experiences outside the realm of education is a valuable asset for a teacher. Whether it’s traveling, working in different fields, participating in high-level sports, or any other pursuit, these experiences bring a unique perspective to the profession. Teachers with diverse life backgrounds can relate lessons to real-world scenarios, answering the perpetual question, “When will I use this?” This broader outlook fosters a richer learning environment and helps students see the connection between classroom activities and life beyond the school walls.

3. Effective Perception Skills:

Teachers are not only responsible for sharing their knowledge and expertise with students, great teachers are highly skilled at pulling high-level thinking from their students. Part of this skill entails being able to accurately perceive what is going on inside the brains of their students. Exceptional teachers use a variety of inquiry techniques to make student thinking visible and use that information to make powerful intuitive teaching moves.

4. Authenticity and Vulnerability:

Great teachers are not mythical figures; they are human. It’s essential for educators to show vulnerability and authenticity in the classroom. Whether expressing frustration, admitting uncertainty, or showcasing a range of emotions, these teachers create a genuine connection with their students. By being relatable, they teach the value of empathy, collaboration, and the acceptance of not knowing everything. This openness fosters a supportive learning environment where students feel comfortable expressing themselves and taking intellectual risks.

5. Technological Proficiency:

In an age where technology is an integral part of daily life, great teachers are proficient in leveraging technology to enhance the learning experience. They understand that being “not very good with technology” is no longer an acceptable excuse. Instead, they embrace technology as a powerful tool for communication, collaboration, and information access. A willingness to adapt and learn new technologies demonstrates a commitment to staying relevant in the modern world.

6. Modeling Risk-Taking:

While encouraging students to take risks, great teachers lead by example. They are willing to step out of their comfort zones, try innovative teaching methods, explore unconventional approaches to pedagogy, and acknowledge when things don’t go as well as planned. Even if the risks don’t always lead to success, the experience becomes a memorable and impactful lesson for students. Modeling risk-taking fosters a culture of experimentation, creativity, and resilience in the classroom.

7. Stay Up To Date On Educational Research:

Strong teachers seek out educational research to help ensure they are engaging in best practices. They also seek out a diversity of opinions and research in ways that not only confirm their beliefs but also challenge them. Great teachers also acknowledge that the educational process is complex and nuanced and while some educational research supports the effectiveness of specific practices it is quite possible that student needs encompass a larger set than those specific practices are effective at meeting. 

8. Independence from Administrative Approval:

While collaboration with administrators is essential, great teachers do not fear administrative judgment. They have confidence that their teaching prioritizes student needs and don’t view their relationship with school leaders as adversarial or hierarchical but more collaborative. This shouldn’t be taken to mean that teachers should be insubordinate in their practice and administration plays a part in this equation as well, but when teachers and instructional leaders have a shared clarity on purpose and vision the days of putting on a dog and pony show when ‘admin’ enters a classroom quickly diminish.

The greatness of a teacher extends beyond the curriculum and teachers can have an extraordinary impact on the lives of their students. While this list is surely not exhaustive of the traits of great teachers hopefully it can help you consider ways in which you might grow your teaching practice and that of other educators. 


1 Comment

  1. Carol Johnson

    As a middle school teacher, I appreciate this article. I ESPECIALLY relate to #8. Maybe that comes with age + experience but that is me 100%.


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