(Attribution: Teacher Appreciation Cupcakes by Clever cupcakes, Creative Commons License)
Quick, tell me the name of your most favorite teacher, ever.
The one who influenced you the most: the one who had maximum impact: the one who brought out the best in you and made you think you could do anything you set your mind to. Made you feel special.
It could have been Mrs Brown who taught you Art and brought out the artist in you. Perhaps it was Mr Peters who showed you what a great athlete you are. Or perhaps the high school teacher who convinced you to rethink your disdain for Mathematics in case you might want to pursue the field of architecture.
You do remember them, right? Most people do. People often acknowledge their teachers at their graduation ceremonies, and when they get into the profession of their dreams. They speak of them fondly when they have their own kids, especially when they start school.
What makes these exceptional teachers so different from the vast majority of educators out there?
#1 They relinquish control
"A good teacher is one who makes himself progressively unnecessary." Thomas Carruthers
The teacher who takes on the role of a facilitator rather than the authority is an absolutely joy to learn from. They understand that their job is not to be the keeper of knowledge, but a vessel to pass it on.
They are not here to dictate, but to encourage. They are the best of them all.
#2 They learn on the job
Fancy degrees don't produce fantastic teachers, although the formal know-how of theory and practicum does help.
People who are naturally good at teaching come across like they were born to do this. They hardly need instruction on how to teach others, and yet they are willing to learn and continue to hone their skills in the classroom. Much like doctors or mechanics, they get to practice and hone their skills as they work.
#3 They aren't always fun
People often expect teachers to be great entertainers, but you know what? That isn't part of their job description.
Teachers need to do their jobs, which is to make their students leave the classroom with more knowledge and skills they came with; their main goal is to make you learn.
Sometimes, they need to be tough, or teach lessons that are boring or dry. But they do it anyway. They know that learning is not all fun, and that sometimes you just have to grit your teeth and plod on regardless. They're not performers, and are not there to entertain you. They're there to do their job.
#4 They don't know everything
They don't come to the classroom with the mindset of being the experts -- that there is nothing left for them to learn.
Every day there is some new technological advancement, or a latest technique in classroom management waiting to be explored and mastered. And don't forget the students -- teachers also learn from their own pupils.
True teachers are learners first.
#5 They begin with the curriculum and then add to it
A great teacher has incredible knowledge and enthusiasm for the subject matter they are teaching.
Not only do they have thorough knowledge of the curriculum and other standards that they must uphold in the classroom, they strive to exceed them.
#6 They are engaging
"Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn." Benjamin Franklin
They have a special kind of energy. They are prepared to answer questions and keep the material interesting for the students, and are masters of explanation.
#7 They don't look for an ideal student
"If a doctor, lawyer, or dentist had 40 people in his office at one time, all of whom had different needs, and some of whom didn't want to be there and were causing trouble, and the doctor, lawyer, or dentist, without assistance, had to treat them all with professional excellence for nine months, then he might have some conception of the classroom teacher's job." Donald D. Quinn
Great teachers treat each student differently and they don't label today's learners as worse than yesteryears. They know times have changed and students are constantly bombarded by hundreds and thousands of messages competing for their attention.
Diversity and disability makes for an interesting classroom experience, although not necessarily an easy one for the instructor. Teachers know this also and work with it. They will never call anyone a lost cause. They are confident that anyone will do well with the right kind of support.
"A good teacher must be able to put himself in the place of those who find learning hard." Eliphas Levi
You won't catch them whining about how difficult it is to teach today.
#8 They are approachable
"The dream begins with a teacher who believes in you, who tugs and pushes and leads you to the next plateau, sometimes poking you with a sharp stick called truth." Dan Rather
Would you expect a teacher to know every student on a personal level? That's not realistic, but what is possible is that the teacher cares for every student in the classroom. Great teachers may not know each child personally, but they do have compassion for all of their students, and their influence far exceeds their job description.
#9 They make learning easy
"A good teacher is a master of simplification and an enemy of simplism." Louis A. Berman
Great teachers create an environment that is ideal for learning and fosters positive behaviours. They don't discipline, but manage; they don't dictate but encourage. They create a place where each learner operates on a sense of belonging, and then they start their teaching.
They don't stick to tried and tested approaches--they mix things up and take things up a notch every time.
#10 They measure their success in their own ways
"A master can tell you what he expects of you. A teacher, though, awakens you own expectations." Patricia Neal
Teachers do expect a lot from you, as they want you to do your best. However, the best ones measure success in terms of progress, not by the number of A's you are getting.
#11 They are passionate
"The mediocre teacher tells, the good teacher explains, the superior teacher demonstrates, the great teacher inspires." William Arthur Ward
We all want to learn from teachers who are not only passionate about teaching, but passionate about life.
They aren't just interested in their area of expertise; they are interesting people to hang out with. They will talk to you about the upset at the Footy final or will exchange comments on recent trip taken by the prime minister. You can pretty much talk to them about anything, and they would be interested, just as long as you are.
#12 They show their pride in you
Do you remember how you felt when you got a star or a sticker when you did something good as a child? How about a mention and a certificate from your teacher at the school assembly? Did you have a teacher in college who put up your assignment and told everyone that it was the standard he was looking for?
Did you get a little embarrassed? Sure you did, but didn't it also make your heart leap for joy? Of course it did. We all adore teachers who respect us for putting in our best, going the extra mile and doing more than what was required.
Great teachers applaud effort and progress, rather than measuring how good you are at something. That alone speaks volumes about their character.
#13 They teach for the right reasons
"No man can be a good teacher unless he has feelings of warm affection toward his pupils and a genuine desire to impart to them what he believes to be of value." Bertrand Russell
The best teachers don't get into this profession for money, but because they want to make a difference.
Teaching can be the most frustrating profession, and yet the most rewarding one, too. People who are born to teach understand that.