If you didn’t already know, today is World Teachers’ Day, a day that celebrates – you guessed it – teachers and the awe-inspiring contribution they make to education. In the UK alone, there are approximately 1.3 million teachers and support staff working in state schools; that’s a large workforce and one that quite rightly deserves a day dedicated to showing appreciation for their commitment to nurturing our world’s learners.
There is no doubting the importance of teachers and the work that they do; they not only educate, but motivate and inspire too, giving their students – be them children, young adults, or mature learners – the knowledge and skills they need for a successful future.
A quote by William Arthur Ward says, “The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires”. And this couldn’t be truer; the best teachers, and often the ones that leave the greatest impression on learning, are those that have inspired you and made you think about a topic or subject, even after your class has finished. A textbook will only give you so much information and convey this knowledge to a certain extent, but it is teachers that are the driving force behind learning. Sometimes, despite the fact that perhaps you don’t really enjoy a subject, a good teacher will have the ability to engage you and motivate you, enabling you to appreciate it.
There are no set guidelines for becoming the ‘perfect’ teacher, but this is a good thing, as we need our teachers to be adaptable and unique, with the freedom to decide how best to teach their students.
With this in mind, we’ve been discussing the qualities we think make for an excellent teacher…
Rebecca Rocca: “I think the best teachers are the ones who can relate to their students, without losing their authority. They are also intuitive, and can tell when bad behaviour or poor grades are a result of a deeper issue. And they are supportive. Students can achieve incredible things when they feel they have a teacher that’s ‘on their side’. So my three are: relatable, intuitive and supportive.”
Sue Murray: “In most jobs you have to change your way of working for the different people within your business and your clients. In my years as a primary school teacher I learned the challenge of having to be different for every child. Many liked me to be friendly and enthusiastic. Being a school where most of the staff were older, the children loved a young teacher and wanted to do well for me so I’d be happy with their work. On the other hand James, who was slightly on the autistic spectrum, wanted a more serious, factual teacher with routine and consistency. In my view there is no other profession where you have to be so mindful of every single child’s needs; not only their developmental needs but also the way they want to interact. I can only applaud and salute today’s teachers who achieve this every day. Happy World Teachers’ Day.”
Elizabeth Moore: “A good teacher needs to be inspiring. You’re so much more likely to engage with a subject when you can tell that your teacher truly cares about it, beyond the needs of the curriculum. In addition, they need to be understanding. Every child has a different experience of school life, and the best teachers are able to empathise, without prejudice. Finally, a good teacher is always determined. I’ve been in classes with the most ill-behaved and apathetic students before, but the teachers we had always went by the mentality of “no child left behind”, which eventually really got through to them, knowing that the teacher cared enough to keep trying.”
Charlotte Mitchell: “For me, trying to define what makes an exceptional teacher is a near-impossible feat because the teachers that I learned the most from were all so completely different: one was very strict, but also witty, another taught with passion and vigour, and my form tutor, who also happened to be my psychology teacher, was very patient, taking the time to talk to us and answer any and every question, ensuring we thoroughly grasped concepts. So I guess, although there is no magic potion that conjures the perfect teacher, I think every teacher should be a combination of firm but fair; enthusiastic but attentive; and have the ability to communicate with all students in the class and understand their personalities and learning styles. I thoroughly appreciate all of my teachers; without them, I don’t think I’d be where I am today!”
Lydia Goldman: “A good teacher needs to keep their cool. Being able to manage a class, keep students engaged and maintain their respect without raising your voice is a real skill. Once you’ve mastered it, however, you’ll be able to diffuse any situation within the classroom. Patience, perseverance and personality (the three Ps!) are, in my opinion, the backbone of every great teacher. You need patience to wait for the seeds of knowledge and confidence you’ve planted to blossom, perseverance so you’re not tempted to give up on any student – even if they are consistently challenging, and personality so that students can relate to you and see you as more than just their teacher.”
Jasmin De Vivo: “When looking back at my childhood education, there are a handful of teachers that really stood out for me, and it wasn’t necessarily just because of their teaching. A good teacher will be creative; it’s about thinking outside the box, especially for those subjects that aren’t as practical. For example, my maths teacher used to sing us nursery rhyme songs, changing the lyrics to maths equations and to this day I can still recall them! Secondly, I think a good teacher should be fair; there are always ‘stand-out’ students in each subject or classroom, but a good teacher won’t show favouritism, but will give every child an equal opportunity, regardless of their behaviour, popularity or attainment levels. Thirdly, a teacher should be motivating; children are more likely to show willingness to learn, if the teacher oozes enthusiasm when teaching and encourages children to work things out for themselves.”
Rachel Womack: “My best teachers have had great imaginations, high expectations and the ability to inspire pupils. They know your strengths and weaknesses, take your failure personally but give you all the credit for your success. Getting praise from a tough teacher means you’ve really done well, and if you know you can rely on them for support as well as challenge then there isn’t much you can’t do. So my three top qualities are inspirational, imaginative and challenging, and I’d like to thank my best teachers for helping me to love learning.”
Happy World Teachers’ Day to all the fantastic teachers and thank you for all that you do to teach and inspire us!