… magic happens. Well, not really “magic,” just something special. Good teachers have a way of moving others to growth while growing with them. They know the classroom is where they belong just as surely as they know themselves. Every September when that room is filled with new faces, good teachers look at them, wondering about the challenges – and surprises – each may present. At the very same time they know that behind every pair of eyes lies the question, “Will this be an easy A?”
When a good teacher walks into a classroom, students sense a special kind of energy that is the edge of every adventure. They know somehow that the months or year ahead will mean both work and rewards. Whatever the subject, calculus, “phys ed,” etc., something about the teacher tells them they are in for a treat – something students have a way of knowing from day one, that is, when the teacher is going to be good.
Good teachers have certain qualities and characteristics most students have antennae for. Textbooks on teaching may generalize about dedication and responsibility but students seem to look for more tangible markers, such as attitude, presence, fairness and humor.
A positive attitude motivates most students. Good teachers establish that at once and build on it. Realizing that many students are idealists, good teachers point toward possibilities of performance rather than students’ shortcomings. They encourage their charges with honesty and effort, their focus more on what works than what does not.
In so doing, good teachers offer a special kind of presence in their classes, especially to individuals, helping students know they are important. One-on-one takes time but good teachers give it willingly, knowing the dividends may be immeasurable.
Fairness is inherent to good teaching. Any teacher who “plays” to the easy learners in a class will lose the rest. Usually such teachers are more concerned about themselves and easy results, shortchanging their profession as well as the other students.
Good teachers do not have to be entertainers or stand-up comedians but humor certainly helps. They realize that humor humanizes and really good teachers teach through their humanness, their own experiences and insights; their persons do not get lost in lesson-plans. Some rigidity is necessary in the classroom but a teacher’s spontaneous sense of humor can make structure more than tolerable and add a liveliness to any subject.
Good teachers know their students are not the enemy, that every student offers a new experience for learning, on both sides of the desk. When those who can, teach, there is rarely a more rewarding experience for both teacher and student. And, ultimately, for all of us.