It’s not every day that you find yourself enrolled in a class with a truly top-notch instructor.
I have found it to be quite rare in my time as a student at all levels of education but this is not to say that I have been exposed to nothing but bad teachers. Actually my case has been much to the contrary. A majority of the educators I’ve been exposed to were very good teachers.
However, only a handful of them were worthy of being deemed great teachers.
What is it then that makes a teacher great? What is the x-factor that seems to be missing from so many good instructors?
Energy is one possibility. A teacher who brings energy to the class can turn a seemingly boring lecture into a full-scale adventure. The ability to capture an audience’s attention is one of the most important characteristics of a successful educator. I have been exposed to teachers who attempt to make energy their staple, their x-factor if you will. While it is a good sell early, it can be a little over-the-top and tends to get old quickly. Used in moderation it is a powerful tool, but not the indistinguishable mark of a great teacher.
Another possibility is the establishment of a strict, clear structure for the happenings of a class. Having everything ready to go and in the right place will obviously increase the efficiency of any classroom. It allows more material to be covered in the same amount of time, which generally means the more organized a teacher is, the better.
Organization alone is not enough, though. A certain degree of spontaneity and variation is necessary to keep things from getting stale. Creating and sticking to an overly rigid schedule or set of rules can cause many students to lose interest. It is important to remain organized, as well as flexible.
Finally, discipline is another possible game changer when it comes to building the perfect educator. The consummate instructor must not be friend or enemy to the students.
A great instructor has to earn both the fear and respect of the class. It is only by balancing these that a classroom can operate at its maximum potential.
The importance of upholding the rules of the classroom can not be understated. Without the power to punish and correct students for misbehaving, the class would fall by the wayside.
Still, discipline itself is not enough to make a great teacher.
A combination of all these skills is needed in order to be a good teacher and it seems obvious that in order to be great, one must also be good.
What then sets the great teachers apart from the rest? It seems to me it has absolutely nothing to do with technique, organization or discipline.
Although all of these things contribute greatly to being a good teacher, they do not distinguish a teacher as being great.
The key is a keen sense of empathy.
Great teachers must be able to put themselves in the shoes of their students. An ability to communicate and operate as a peer, while maintaining control over the classroom is absolutely vital. In my experience, the great teachers had an innate ability to work with students on an individual level.
It can be quite difficult to approach hundreds of students who all have different needs, especially when thrust into a setting where one-on-one time is limited. Great teachers are able to see the group as individuals and individuals as the group.
Finally, to the students who seek out this perfect professor, don’t forget that in order for teachers to be great, they need a little help from the students as well. Open yourself up to your teachers, and you might just find that there are more good teachers out there than you thought.