No matter how old we get, most of us will be able to recall our school years and remember our favourite teacher(s) – one that stood out from the rest and made learning fun.
We typically say they are “relatable” teachers and that’s what makes them connect well with students, but that might only be one piece of the puzzle.
Is having a great and fun-loving personality the key to being a great teacher or are there more elements involved?
Ariel Sacks, a middle school language arts teacher, curriculum coach and author of Whole Novels for the Whole Class: A Student-Centered Approach, wrote for EdWeek: “Of course, a teacher’s passion, charisma, warmth, and humor influence the way students experience a class.
“But teachers aren’t really “born” knowing how to connect and inspire children in a classroom setting. Instead, they must grow these capacities by continually developing pedagogical and social-emotional skills.”
BEST TEACHER: This 4th grade teacher has a way of making learning fun – it’s called “flocabulary” and it involves standing on tables and singing hip hop songs https://t.co/y2KnUhsAxw pic.twitter.com/c4ndXcNSsE
— CBS News (@CBSNews) October 1, 2019
Sacks points out how the idea that a great personality is enough to make a great teacher is just fantasy and it’s really not that straightforward.
“Most of us have seen brand-new teachers or guest speakers who come in with what seems like the right energy: They’re confident, caring, and creative. But without relevant teaching skills, most aren’t effective with students.”
The article also notes that to being a great teacher doesn’t require an extroverted or a “big” personality.
Those who are soft-spoken but can effectively deliver course material in a compelling and engaging way can also be great teachers.
As Sacks explains, “What really matters is the ability to demonstrate compassion and emotional constancy, the cultural competency needed to develop trust and understanding with students, and the courage to, as Brené Brown writes, take risks and be vulnerable.
“These “soft” skills make a strong teaching persona that can support the delivery of a sound method. And when teachers with compelling personalities are successful, let’s not forget that they’ve got some real skills driving those outcomes.”
Sacks also noted how important self-awareness is for teachers. Without the ability to assess one’s emotions as a teacher, it’s impossible to keep improving and striving to be a better teacher.
She wrote, “Generally in teacher preparation and professional development, the focus is on teaching practices and how we can understand our students as learners. But we are rarely called to look at our own identities.”
— Sam Swanson (@swanno2000) September 25, 2019
Teachers should constantly reflect on their own teaching methods and how they connect with students to become a truly great teacher.
Sacks concludes that the most important element of excellent teaching “really boils down to our ability to develop a strong sense of ourselves in our teaching role.”
“The vibrancy we notice in an excellent teacher may really be a combination of skilled pedagogy, a highly developed awareness of the teacher’s presence, emotions, and needs, and the conscientiousness to attend to them as well as we all want to do for our students.”