Do teachers have to have Super Hero DNA to be effective?

Thankfully, no.  It’s easy to feel that way sometimes, though – like we have to be superstar speakers with excellent elocution, more flexible than Elasto-girl, capped off with a patience that would make the biblical character Job seem a hothead.

People, we are not superheroes and that is why our students like us.  Wonder Woman is awesome, but she’s not easy to relate to…

There are likely many schools of thought as to what makes a great teacher.  Here’s my list:

  1. Curious – People who are curious like to hear different points of view, are attentive listeners and are life-long learners.  You would be more likely to hear “We haven’t done it that way before, but let’s try it!” than “We’ve always done it this way…and will continue to do so.” Time to look in the mirror if the last new thing you learned was that the fridge light turns off when you shut the door.   In a similar vein, a great teacher is:
  2. Flexible – What you’re doing isn’t working.  Are you willing to go a different direction, try something new, opt for a novel way to relay the information?  Being flexible doesn’t mean being a pushover.  Orlando (2013) says a flexible instructor can shift gears when he/she sees a particular tack isn’t working.  I’m not a sailor myself, but if I was in the middle of a harbor and the wind died, I wouldn’t sit with my sails facing the same direction they were before and say, “Well, the wind was here before and I’ve already put up the sails this way, so I’m not changing it now.”   You are looking out into a sea of blank faces/the wind has shifted. Time to try something else.
  3. Enthusiastic – For those of you are more introspective or more soft spoken, you don’t need to transform into an extroverted, charismatic dynamo to be a great teacher.  You do need to be enthusiastic about your content, about the learning process and about the students’ success.  If any of these are missing, you will appear disengaged and students will be disinterested and skeptical.  If the instructor isn’t interested in the content, why should they be?
  4. Caring – Have you ever met someone who seemed to have your best interests at heart?  Who celebrated your successes with you and who was saddened when you struggled?  That is what caring looks like to me, at least in the context of instruction.  If our students don’t feel like we care about them as people and we don’t treat them with respect, our influence in instruction will be dramatically impaired.

Show students you care.  Be enthusiastic about what you do and what you teach.  Change course if something isn’t working and always be looking for new and novel ways of reaching your students.  Lofty goals, admittedly, but no special lasso or super strength required.

References:

Orlando, M. (2013, January 14). Nine characteristics of a great teacher. Retrieved March 20, 2016, from http://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/philosophy-of-teaching/nine-characteristics-of-a-great-teacher/
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