As a teacher I continually consider whether I embody the characteristics of a good teacher. Reflecting on practice, evaluating events and circumstances, is surely necessary for success in all professions but perhaps more so in teaching, where the future prospects of young people may be improved or impaired according to the skills of their teacher. Most people have an expert opinion on education as they have been to school and speak from personal experience. Some critics say there is a lack of discipline in today’s classroom and that the teachers need to be more authoritarian figures. However, teachers who demonstrate such control in their classrooms may be intransigent megalomaniacs who are not prepared to alter in their stance, even in the most extreme of circumstances. In such classrooms pupils do not behave because they choose to but because are bullied into it. Rather, a truly effective teacher understands that positive teacher pupil relationships prevail and behavioural problems are less likely to exist in a classroom where learning opportunities are appropriately planned and resourced. It is widely believed that the characteristics of a good teacher are varied. On the whole, teaching standards fall into three main areas; subject knowledge, ability to relate to young people and effective use of methodologies. An effective teacher should demonstrate ability in each of these categories.Subject knowledge is important as without it teachers cannot hope to deliver the requirements of the curriculum effectively. Demanding challenges in the classroom can do without the inadequacies of poor knowledge and understanding on the part of the teacher.
Teachers must be able to meet the needs of all pupils, from gifted and talented pupils who need activities which reach beyond average expectations to those with additional educational needs as well as those who do not belong in either of these categories.Positive pupil relationships form an important part of effective teaching. Building positive relationships brings out the best in pupil performance. If a pupil has trust in their teacher’s judgment and demeanor they are more likely to have the confidence to ask more questions and have the willingness to improve their own work. Also, showing a genuine interest will encourage pupils to improve their levels of attainment and, ultimately, raise standards.Effective teachers use a variety of methodologies and are well aware of the preferred learning styles. Research has shown that human beings learn in three main ways, commonly referred to as visual, auditory and kinesthetic. Most of us make use of all three aspects in our learning to some extent but many people have a stronger preference in one area. For example, if a pupil is shown to be a kinesthetic learner then they are likely to enjoy practical aspects of learning with hands-on experience such as in the practical subjects. A good teacher will seriously comtemplate the learning preferences of the pupils they are teaching.
Attempts today are made to measure the performance management of a teacher through data analysis of the attainment of pupils taught. One of the main criticisms of this is that, as pupils do not always develop in a linear way, it is an unfair way to judge teachers by pupils performance and also that the true benefits of effective learning lie beyond tests.Some people argue that effective teachers are born not made. There is a belief that teaching is a vocation; a “calling” rather than just a job. There is no doubt that teaching is quite different to other jobs, not least because there is no other profession where a person is given responsibility for more than twenty other individual human beings at a time. Young people are not manufactured products, they are human beings who deserve a good education. Most teachers enter the profession because they have a love of their subject and a wish to impart it to others, making a difference in young lives. Sadly, teachers seldom know how truly effective their teaching efforts have been and, when they do, it may well be many years later when they get to hear of the success of a former pupil, and even then, at best, they have only been a part of that success.Sadly, it must be said that, given the problems which face them in today’s classrooms, many teachers feel that, despite best efforts, their effectiveness is compromised and unfair criticisms of their capability abound. However, it is equally true that teaching can still be a rewarding profession and that the most important characteristic of a good teacher is the recognition of the importance of fostering a positive, day-to-day interaction with their pupils.(13)