What it means to be a good teacher

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The teachers who made lasting impressions on me are the ones who knew how to make learning a positive and stimulating experience. So many bad or mediocre teachers concentrate on memorization of facts and figures, and maintaining order and discipline in their classrooms. Today, schools are often so focused on raising standardized test scores, they leave little time or flexibility for teachers to actually help their students learn. What little that is learned under these circumstances isn’t likely to stick and certainly isn’t going to inspire students to think or learn on their own.
A good teacher, above all, is one who inspires her students and teaches them to think for themselves. Good teachers will instill a desire in their students to pursue knowledge throughout their lives, and not just learn facts but come to understand the “how” and “why” of things and events. Good teachers can take young learners below the surface of their subjects and encourage critical thinking, healthy skepticism of “official stories,” and openness to different points of view.
The best teachers, from preschool to graduate studies, share certain qualities:
*They enjoy interacting with their students, relate to them well, respect them, and want them to thrive.
*They can reach their students at different intellectual, social, and cultural levels.
*They are enthusiastic and deeply knowledgeable about their subject areas.
*They are creative and innovative in finding original and effective ways to involve their students.
*They have excellent communications and listening skills.
*They are flexible and open to different ideas, and encourage the same qualities in their students.
*They are able to maintain classroom order without dampening their students’ spirits, curiosity, or creativity.
I think the worst thing any teacher can do is show he has no respect for the kids he’s supposed to be teaching. Teachers who drone on monotonously, lecturing straight from the textbook the students are supposed to have read, isn’t teaching, he’s simply wasting everyone’s time. Having glassy-eyed students memorize lists of terms, facts, and dates isn’t going to benefit them much in their future lives – most of them will probably forget 90 percent of things they learned by rote once they’ve passed a test on the material.
One teacher I’ll never forget was my college history professor. In the courses he taught on medieval and ancient history, he enthusiastically acted out scenes, and talked about people and events as though he’d been there himself. He truly made history come alive for us in ways none of my history teachers had done. I not only learned a lot in his classes, I became much more interested in history in general. It was probably the first time I’d thought of history as something that involves real flesh and blood people and understood how historic events affected ordinary people’s lives. The spark he lit in me has never died.
A bad teacher can shut a young mind down, stifle a child’s curiosity, and destroy her self-confidence. But a great teacher can inspire students to live up to their potential, to never stop learning and engaging with intellectual curiosity in the world around them.
Dorothy Hoffman

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