All the characteristics of a good teacher relate to caring. This means caring out their subject matter, caring about their students, and caring about the world. We have created a world where it is certainly not profitable to be a teacher financially, so the motivation to be successful must come from the heart. There is a small but consistent progression of people who every year leave behind their careers in other fields to become teachers, usually taking sizable losses in income, but feel they want to contribute to making the world a better place.
CARING ABOUT THE WORLD
This is a pretty vague characteristic, but it is what makes those who would be successful in other more materially rewarding professions seek out teaching instead. They must have a desire to fill their soul and not their pockets. Very “Age of Aquarius” I know, but this is the greatest characteristic that contributes to talented individuals with lots of options choosing to share their talents with future generations.
CARING ABOUT STUDENTS
This characteristic is above and beyond the contribution to the future. This is caring about individuals who have not yet closed their mind, as so many adults have. In this era, talking down to students and dictating subject matter is completely ineffective (and was always the characteristic of a poor teacher). This characteristic contains all the wildly varying qualities that can be cited as contributing to good teaching; patience, respect, sense of humor, and so many others.
Those who care about their students take the extra step to finding out who they are as people. Are they from an abusive household, emotionally closed off? Are they hungry to learn, leaning on every word? Every variety of student needs to be identified and worked with. Not all students can be reached, but caring teachers makes an effort to help all their students, highest achiever to most troubled low performer.
CARING ABOUT SUBJECT MATTER
Teachers must exude passion about the subject they teach. If they are not interested, how can the students be? Think of Ferris Buehler’s History teacher, Ben Stein, droning on “Buehler, Buehler” without varying tone or inflection. In even the most fascinating subject, how can a student find his interest when it’s provided in monotone, without enthusiasm? This is exemplified by those murderous teachers who have each student read a passage from their textbook. The boredom in a classroom like that is palpably thick.
Teachers who care about their subject also continue to learn about it themselves, and how to best teach it, by updating their own education, not just in esoteric Master’s and PhD classes, but also in education classes, learning the latest techniques and methods to reach their students. This continued learning will spill over into the classroom, as enthusiasm for new techniques and new discoveries will keep the material from going stale in the teacher’s mind. It is extremely difficult for even the most fervent teacher to recite the same textbook jargon year after year. A good teacher continually re-defines himself or herself and his/her technique to keep the material fresh.There are lots of qualities that make excellent leaders, scientists, and general human beings. All of those qualities also make excellent teachers, but the factor that separates a good teacher from every other profession is care.(16)