The field of teaching has changed dramatically in recent years. In addition to subject knowledge and classroom management skills, modern teachers must also balance the increasing demands that come with standardized testing and diverse populations of learners who need differentiated instruction. The best teachers share these five characteristics that make them successful at teaching and, more importantly, help them change students’ lives for the better.
Now more than ever, teachers must be creative in the classroom. This applies to every grade level and every subject, from elementary to high school. Today’s students were born into a culture that is saturated with media. They expect to be intellectually engaged in ways that previous generations did not. Creative teachers have the ability to infuse core lessons with meaning and purpose for their students. Whether incorporating smartphones and technology into lesson plans or encouraging teamwork and collaboration, creative teachers think outside the box and foster a love of learning in their students.
2. Organization and Attention to Detail
You can tell a lot about a teacher from his or her desk. It may be controlled chaos or look as though it belongs in a spread on Pinterest. No matter what method they choose, successful teachers are organized and pay attention to small details on a daily basis. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the average class size in the United States ranges from 21 students in elementary school to 26 students in high school. The amount of paperwork generated in a typical school year is overwhelming. When you consider that grading is only one small piece of this puzzle, along with lesson plans, measuring overall academic performance to standards, and tracking attendance, it becomes clear that organization is key. Not only that, but there are legal implications for insufficient paperwork that could impact both teachers and students.
Despite your best efforts, some days just don’t go as planned, and this is especially true for teachers. Perhaps a student gets sick in your room, or you have to shepherd your class to a pep rally, or your brilliant lesson on arachnids gets interrupted by a tornado drill. Veteran teachers know that even the best plans can get off track and that many variables are out of their control. Flexibility is both an attitude and a mindset. Teachers who can go with the flow encourage that necessary life skill in their students. Planning and focus can make it much easier to pick up where you left off and get your students and yourself back on track.
The most successful and engaging teachers still love to learn themselves. Even educators who have been teaching for decades can discover something new every day from their students or the subjects they are teaching. Having an open mind that is genuinely curious means you will never get bored with the job and will look forward to new challenges and the creative approaches they will require. Professional development will take on a whole new meaning if you approach it with the idea that you are acquiring new knowledge for the benefit of your students.
Teachers, especially in public schools, encounter students from every walk of life. Students may come from wealthy families or poor, they may have illnesses or disabilities, or they may have experienced trauma in their lives. Truly compassionate teachers get to know their students and build relationships with them. Not only is this necessary in finding the best way to approach each student, it’s also the best way to prevent disruptive behavioral issues in the classroom. Appreciation for what students may be going through outside of school is one of the most important factors in successfully teaching the whole student as opposed to just a number on an attendance sheet.
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Teaching is a both a challenging and rewarding career. Making a real impact on the lives of students and improving their future outcomes through learning is a great opportunity. Developing and perfecting these five characteristics of successful teachers can make the journey even better.