Every teacher wants to be good, but what exactly are the qualities that make a good teacher? What are the skills, talents, and characteristics, and can they be taught or learned?
Teaching can be quite satisfying for people who do it well. I know this because I am a teacher, too. Although I do not think I'm always the best teacher, do I know that the majority of my students love me, and I guess this is partly why good things happen in my classroom.
I have spent a lot of time thinking about—and done a lot of research into—the question of what characteristics make a teacher effective and how I can succeed in the classroom. Although every great teacher has their own special, unique style, I have found that there are nine specific universal qualities that are necessary for anyone who wants to teach effectively, whether they want to teach in an elementary school or a university. If any teacher possesses the following characteristics and qualities, he/she can become a very good teacher with large fan base.
What Makes a Great Teacher
- expert communication skills
- superior listening skills
- deep knowledge and passion for their subject matter
- the ability to build caring relationships with students
- friendliness and approachability
- excellent preparation and organization skills
- strong work ethic
- community-building skills
- high expectations for all
Each of these characteristics is described fully below. Although great teachers may also possess a number of other wonderful qualities (like a sense of humor, personality, flexibility, kindness, leadership, classroom management, a calm demeanor, experience, and the ability to multitask), these are the qualities the best teachers universally possess.
Education is not the filling of a pail but the lighting of a fire.
— William Butler Yeats
1. Excellent Communication Skills
You'd think that the most important quality for a teacher to possess would be knowledge, since that's what the job is all about, after all: sharing knowledge. But no matter how knowledgable a person is, if they can't convey what they know to others in a way that is not only understandable but engaging, the knowledge itself is useless.
- If a teacher's communication skills (verbal, nonverbal, and visual, which involve speaking, writing, imagery, body language, and the organization of ideas into understandable structures) are good, they can convey knowledge with better skill and results.
- Since a large part of good communication is knowing when the audience has understood, these teachers notice when they have communicated effectively and when they have not. They will often paraphrase, illustrate, or take another tact entirely when it becomes apparent that their communication has fallen flat or has not reached or connected to the entire class.
- A good teacher notices when even one student among many does not understand, and makes an effort to communicate individually when necessary.
- Communication also involves explaining exactly what the assignments and expectations are. When students fully understand what is expected of them, it's much easier for them to deliver.
- Interestingly, not only are communication skills incredibly important in the classroom, but they are among the most important skills in any setting. According to a recent survey by the Pew Research Center, most Americans view communication as the most important skill for long term success “to get ahead in the world today.” So by being good communicators, teachers are modeling important lifetime skills by example.
2. Superior Listening Skills
In addition to being good communicators, good teachers also happen to be excellent listeners. As the Turkish proverb says,"If speaking is silver, then listening is gold." Of course, effective communication only happens when at least two parties are actively involved in the process together, and the only way to know if communication is heard is by asking (and listening to the answer).
So in an ideal learning environment, teachers ask important questions and then actively, carefully, empathetically listen to what learners have to say. When good teachers develop this patient quality in themselves, they start to become great. Great teachers listen hard and then use what they hear to improve the communication.
Those who know, do. Those who understand, teach.
3. Deep Knowledge of and Passion for the Subject Matter
There is a saying that a teacher is only as good as what they know. If a teacher lacks knowledge in a subject, that dearth of understanding is passed along to the students. And keep in mind that although formal education is one way a teacher might gain the knowledge they need in order to teach well, there are other ways.
Passion is infectious. Love of a subject matter inspires a person to learn more, dig deeper, and think harder about it, so passion inspires deeper knowledge. The best teachers are those that clearly love their subjects and pass that passion and desire to learn more on to their students. When the teacher not only has the right answer to a student's question but can expand the discussion with vivid examples, amusing illustrative anecdotes, and relevant facts, and when the teacher has a deep well of understanding and expertise to draw on, then every lesson is enriched, and every student might be inspired.
4. The Ability to Develop Strong Relationships With Students
It's not enough just to know what you're talking about, though, and a great teacher doesn't only teach from the head. In the best classrooms, hearts are involved, as well. In order to create successful learning environments, great teachers need to be able to build caring relationships with their students. It is the caring student-teacher relationship that facilitates the exchange of information.
The best teachers are often the ones that care the most deeply, not only about their jobs, but about every student they serve. It's not enough just to love the subject matter: Great teachers also share a love of students. Caring about the students is what inspires teachers to reach out, do better, communicate more, ask, learn, refine, and improve. This is something that can't be taught, not even in the best school.
5. Friendliness and Approachability
Because it's the teacher's job to help students learn, they must be easy to approach. Students will have questions that can't be answered if the teacher isn't friendly and easy to talk to. The crabby, unapproachable, terse, mean, arrogant, rude, all-business teacher can't last long. If the students think of their teacher as their enemy, they certainly won't learn much. The best teachers are the most open, welcoming, and easy to approach.
6. Preparation and Organization Skills
No matter how charming you are, if you show up for a class without an excellent plan for how to teach your material, you won't succeed. Great teachers spend endless hours outside of the classroom preparing, designing lessons, learning more (both about their subject matter specifically and how to teach, in general), participating in professional development, and thinking of fresh and interesting ways to reach the students.
The best teachers have excellent lesson plans, lectures, and assignments that they continually improve. They have studied extensively and read widely about how to teach and methods to facilitate learning. They structure their days, lessons, and units in a way that fosters maximal understanding and interest. They collaborate with other teachers and attend classes to learn more about their subject matter and how to best convey it. They are available outside of class, and they grade papers quickly, writing personal notes to help their students understand.
A good teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.
— Henry Adams
7. A Strong Work Ethic
Anyone who's done it knows that teaching is one of the hardest jobs there is. The secret that keeps them going is that great teachers really, really want to be great teachers, and they'll stop at nothing do succeed. A great teacher will do almost anything to help their students. They always make time and they're always willing to help. If something doesn't work, they'll work tirelessly until they find a solution. A teacher's work is never done but the best ones never stop trying, they never quit.
8. The Ability to Build Community
The best teachers understand the importance of building supportive and collaborative environments. In addition to forming caring relationships with each student, the best teachers foster healthy and mutually respectful relationships between the students. They know how to establish guidelines and assign roles to enlist every student's help and participation. Every student feels like they are not only accepted by the larger group, but that their presence is a necessary ingredient in the classroom's magic. Their classrooms are like little communities where each individual plays a part and feels at home.
9. High Expectations for All
Studies show that a teacher's expectations have a huge impact on student achievement. The best teachers have high expectations for all of their students. They expect a lot from each student, but those expectations are both challenging and realistic. This doesn't mean they hold all students to the same high standard, but instead that they know what each student is capable of individually and strive to help each one attain their personal best.
What do you think?
What brought you here?
The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.
— Pablo Picasso
Susan M Sherrill on August 27, 2020:
I teach education courses to high school students who are interested in teaching as a career. I am always looking for resources to use for their lessons!
adityamittan on August 26, 2020:
Freddieson Shadii on August 26, 2020:
Thank you I want to be a good teacher
Nasir yakubu Dayi. on August 20, 2020:
I like that,very good motivation.keep it up.
Christabel on August 20, 2020:
Thank you, I want to be a good teacher.
MR MJUNI on August 13, 2020:
H I UMAR on August 10, 2020:
I WANT BE A GOOD AND ROLE MODEL TEACHER
Abby Slutsky from America on August 06, 2020:
This was an excellent article. Thank you for sharing.
Siuta on July 21, 2020:
Very helpful.thank you.
Sherley Dowman on July 16, 2020:
Really useful information. Thank you.
Stoney on July 15, 2020:
Vera Iwuese Angegher on June 19, 2020:
I got expose to new knowledge and am grateful.
joe on June 13, 2020:
as an instructor in both the military and civilian community, I am always striving to improve my teaching skills, these 9 skills goes back to the basics which I was taught some 30 years ago. It was a great refresher / reminder of what a great instructor is made up of. I would love to read more articles like this.
Thank you for doing such a great job.
And thank you for helping me, I want to be the best I can.
uday on May 23, 2020:
Excellent really useful to become a great teaching professional.
Ifeyinwa on May 13, 2020:
Very helpful. Thanks
Ezinwanne on May 11, 2020:
interesting and quite helpful. Thanks
James Kayoke on May 07, 2020:
Thanks so much...this is so helpful to do my task.
Jade on April 28, 2020:
This was very helpful-Thank you
Selvi nadar on April 22, 2020:
Really useful for me....as i am a teacher..i change myself in many ways with ny Students .but some things is missing in my teaching...so now i got it ...
Veronica on April 03, 2020:
Nice to my understanding
BTE on March 18, 2020:
Interesting and very helpfull to teachers
Puja sing on March 13, 2020:
Very easily to understand for your answer . Thank you
Ronnie T. Tariman on March 10, 2020:
practical and relevant
manjit kaur on February 25, 2020:
interesting and valueable
Pertunia on February 20, 2020:
very interesting read and eye opening
Nsokolo Samuel on February 18, 2020:
wow that's really interesting and encouraging information thank you!!!
J NYAUZA on February 14, 2020:
Very interesting article with good knowledge and it's very motivating. I think i will keep the good work in mind. Thank u
Rathanak on February 11, 2020:
I really inspired this I'll apply for my teaching .
Aliyu on February 06, 2020:
Very good an interest idea thanks
John Adewoye on January 27, 2020:
Daisy on January 22, 2020:
That's a great article. It makes me more knowledgeable and I have known well what a successful teacher is after reading that . Thank You so much for sharing.
Narendra on January 20, 2020:
I IT HELP FOR STUDENTS
email@example.com on January 16, 2020:
well conviced and hope all teachers will behave so.blessed
Sumayya on January 13, 2020:
Thank you for information
Reno Odillo on January 08, 2020:
Realy,the must be approachable and create friendliness to the students.But also being responsible,honest and tolerant to students
Salisu Ahamd Salisu on January 08, 2020:
Comfort on January 07, 2020:
I really appreciate, what I have learnt from this article will help me a lot in my career in future.
MUSTAPHA ABBA on January 05, 2020:
I really appreciate with what 'u' did
Mastura Surattee on January 03, 2020:
Being a teacher for more than 30 yrs I still would check if I still have thoae qualities.
This article helps.
Badshah Siddique on January 03, 2020:
Thank you soo much for this idea teachers
Gayatri rai on December 23, 2019:
Thanks ...I like this article...its very useful in my teaching profession.
Tong Aru on December 16, 2019:
I am help. Having read this article. It's helpful to me in my day to day experience.
Thanks to the Team for their efforts.
Kelly Beri on December 05, 2019:
Thanks alot for this great article it really helped me because am a practicing teacher
BOAKYE STANLEY on November 25, 2019:
A student from university of education winneba UEW Ghana.
This has contributed me alot and I do appreciate it.
andraina 2.0 on November 20, 2019:
i like this article because i'm a student
Lydia Bacca on November 14, 2019:
I really love this article, all the points are so true I am a teacher myself, and been teaching, I find so much satisfaction, in this profession, it's a life touching work am so proud to be part of a student's, life. God bless you all the Teachers around the World. Peace.
Abruhani Bakari on November 11, 2019:
Thanks. The article has been very useful in my teaching profession,particularly the paragraph about ability to develop strong relationship with students. Thanks
Molla Derbew on November 06, 2019:
I Hopp I will update my self based on those Nine basic things. Thank you, well done!!
ria on November 03, 2019:
I hope I can practice it as good as I can
firstname.lastname@example.org on November 01, 2019:
I want to be a teacher... Since childhood.
Chris Door on October 30, 2019:
This is inspiring and insightful.
I am a young teacher and this is a timely reminder of the fact that I should bolster my morale and courage to grow and evolve.
I am loving it. Kudos to one who points these cold facts. I instinctively tends to this in my work....
Julius okeno.. homabay kenya on October 28, 2019:
job well done
j on October 24, 2019:
teacher is born(god gifted) ,not trained....the one who donot agree this is not a teacher.....
Omoniyi on October 24, 2019:
Very fantastic, applicable to all levels of learning
Enoch on October 21, 2019:
Teachers are responsible for the track progress of students
sunil on October 21, 2019:
Teachers are the creators of civilisations, values , culture.
They weave tomorrow.
They sculpt mankind.
They give us tools to explore the immense potential that is innate in each one of us.
imran on October 20, 2019:
teaching is experienced
Joshua on October 14, 2019:
Teachers are bedrock of every successful individual
Antonyo singano on October 10, 2019:
I am a student at unilicungo university of mozambique. This article is wonderful and it helped me in my work of research,I was given the same topic.
Katherine Akiatan on October 08, 2019:
Being a good a teacher is very fulfilling as you see your learners progress.Thank you! this article is a great help.
sanju on October 07, 2019:
Teacher is one who makes students life success
Latoya Wallace on October 01, 2019:
I want to become a teacher its my desire, dream and passion and Im aiming for the goal.
mlamleli zubenathi on September 24, 2019:
i'm student teacher and i cant wait to be in the field i just love working with the children
CALLISTUS KONGKUAH on September 23, 2019:
Just loving to make an impact in someone's life, what l love to do most
CALLISTUS KONGKUAH on September 23, 2019:
Just loving to share, what I have is most valuable in life
keerthi on September 23, 2019:
It is very nice and important teaching methods point and very useful us
Sherley Dowman on September 11, 2019:
barch on September 07, 2019:
use full things are mentioned txs
Uche Monica on September 04, 2019:
How do I access myself of being either a good or a bad teacher?
Jabulani on September 04, 2019:
It's very amazing I like the words and Self esteem that you have they both encouraging and I learned a lot from them thank u
Saky on September 02, 2019:
Morris on September 01, 2019:
t on August 27, 2019:
Johanna Emmanuel on August 23, 2019:
This was amazing
caca on August 20, 2019:
This article is very informational.
BRahail on August 20, 2019:
Love the way you explain....
Clear and to the point
eliud omulo on August 20, 2019:
eliud omulo on August 20, 2019:
Herath on August 15, 2019:
M. Boone on August 13, 2019:
I need to choose a topic for a course I'm taking. This article assisted me in choosing, The Characteristics of a Teacher Leader. Thanks!
Jonah Moti on August 12, 2019:
Love this job so best articles
asad on August 08, 2019:
clear and to the point, explained well
Atta Hussain Athar on August 05, 2019:
Lekoro Masesi on July 31, 2019:
A very good and helpful information.Thank very much
Sharmaarke Omar araye on July 26, 2019:
I wait this article for years
siraj panhwer on July 23, 2019:
full of best knowledge article
Ahmazarudeen on July 21, 2019:
Great article. When teachers are generally good with their students, they study well. Communication should be articulate.
Uzma Mushtaq on July 20, 2019:
Kyeremaah Emmanuella on July 18, 2019:
I'm very much grateful for this article
Phumza Mpu on July 18, 2019:
Thank you so much for such detail, rich and helpful information
Ghazi Mohammad on July 13, 2019:
Well done very useful, helpful, practical!
Mongezi Kuze on July 06, 2019:
The article is an eye opener for beginners, much appreciated
Bhawana Srivastava on July 05, 2019:
Really a good and effective article. Thanks for sharing.
QISTINA ZAKREY on July 03, 2019:
thank you for the questions
Najma Batool on June 25, 2019:
Thankyou so much for the upgrades informations time to time and sharing the knowledge with all.
manikaran xia on June 24, 2019:
it is great that google post these online questions . it is so fun to play and answer them. And the best part of it is that its educatif.
Tusiime Rodence on June 21, 2019:
Well done thanks for that article.
Usman Darda'u Usman on June 20, 2019:
Thank you very much for the article.
Zamira Turdyeva on June 16, 2019:
Good ideas!Well DONE! ....interesting
Makgothokgo Matome Richard on June 10, 2019:
I like what has been explained as others really hijacked that profession n they need to reintrospect themselves.i thank you.