What Makes A Great Teacher

teacherSome have wrongly thought that if they know a subject matter then they can teach it. Some have claimed the title teacher, mentor, professor or what-have-you just because they know a great deal in a field of study. It takes more than knowledge to become a teacher, a lot more to become a good one, and a whole lot more to be great.

Being good at Math doesn’t make one a Math teacher. Having a perfect accent and impeccable grammar doesn’t make a person an English teacher. And if by luck, accident, mistake or necessity, a person was given a teaching load by virtue of just being good at a particular field then that’s very unfortunate, a disservice to the teaching profession.

There’s a whale of difference between knowing a subject matter and knowing how to teach it. It is not a guarantee that when one is an expert in a domain of knowledge that he could be a  teacher in that field. Perhaps he has the potential to be for he already possesses one of the requirements to become a teacher – and that is mastery in a discipline. But expertise in a field, knowing what to teach, is just the beginning of the journey we call teaching.

Knowing what to teach is a big challenge. Knowing how to teach what you know is the bigger challenge. But the biggest challenge is knowing how best you can teach what you know. Knowing how best the students learn is what makes a teacher a great one.

There are three Ps that aspiring teachers need to develop (and for practicing teachers to hone further)…PEDAGOGY, PASSION and PATIENCE. The three Ps that separate a teacher from a pretender, the Ps that make a teacher great.

PEDAGOGY is the art or/and science of teaching [1]. It is the discipline that deals with the practice of education. Pedagogy, in a nutshell, tells how best to teach.

Pedagogy can be acquired through formal or informal training. Teachers of today took different routes to the profession. Some have degrees in Education majoring specifically in the field that they are teaching. Some majored in a field of study then took units in Education so they can teach while the rest have had informal teacher training.

There are quite a few whose career-pathing was not set in stone and just tried teaching as a job, learned the ropes and fell in love with the profession eventually.

It doesn’t matter how teachers got to the profession, what matters is they fell in love with the profession and loves what they are doing.

The most basic thing that pedagogy tells us is never begin a class without a lesson plan. Never come to class unprepared. It’s not enough that teachers know their subject matter like the back of their hand. They need to prepare. They need to set learning objectives, to decide which strategies to use and to choose a particular method of assessing learning. Most importantly, they must know what educational philosophies inform all the things they do in the classroom.

It’s never an easy task. Every aspect of the learning-teaching process involves some nitty-gritty details. In setting learning objectives for example, teachers need to be familiar with the taxonomy of learning objectives and strike at least a balance between the lower order thinking skills (LOTS) and the higher order thinking skills (HOTS) and knowing that it’s okay to tilt the balance in favor of the latter. They should also be familiar with the kind of learners they are dealing with  and decide which strategies are most applicable for them. It’s also the teacher’s inherent duty to differentiate instruction in order to cater to the different levels and abilities of the students. At the end, they need to perform assessment in order to measure the learning that takes place.

Pedagogy leads us to the nooks and crannies of the important corner stones of education – objectives of education, principles and methods of teaching and learning, and measurement and evaluation.

In short, pedagogy tells us that teaching is not for the faint-hearted, the deadbeat and the lotus-eaters.

There’s another P aside from PEDAGOGY that teachers should look into – PASSION.

It’s not enough that teachers have a solid foundation on pedagogy. They also need to have passion.

Lexicographers define passion as a strong feeling of enthusiasm or excitement for something or about doing something.

Passionate teachers display enthusiasm in what they teach, how they teach, and in dealing with their students. They show concern not only for their work but more so for their students. Teachers may have completed the highest degrees both in their fields of expertise and in Education but without passion, they can never be an effective teacher, a great one.

Degrees and training make teachers good. Passion make them great. As Furnham [2] puts it, “All great teachers are passionate.”

Why is passion in teaching important? Thompson [3] provides the answer. “Teachers with passion inspire students. They get students interested and even excited about what they are learning. Passion is what makes students decide to study more.”

The last of the Ps is PATIENCE.

In a manner of speaking PATIENCE in the context of this article is also PASSION,  but not the way it was previously defined but passion with a capital P which means the sufferings of Jesus Christ.

Teachers in a way have their own sufferings for which they need tons of patience.

When they embraced the profession they are aware of the ultimate sacrifices they have to make. They know that becoming a teacher is to be self-less. Like Jesus, teachers have to carry their cross.

When they decided to become teachers they knew that they need canteens full of patience from which they drink when the many paperwork required in the profession leave them thirsty, when dealing with difficult personalities in the workplace leave them parched, and when the need to adapt to current innovations in education, integrating technology included, saps every ounce of fluid from their body .

Dealing with different personalities in the class, especially with the difficult ones, would sometimes dry up those canteens. Their patience will be tested, stretched to the limits, but they must endure. Not all learners are like sheep easy to shepherd. Some are like colts, young and wild, that must be carefully domesticated and trained, firmly but lovingly.

There goes the Ps that make a teacher great – PATIENCE, PASSION and PEDAGOGY. But while pedagogical skills can be easily acquired from exposure and training, passion and patience are harder to develop. Teaching pedagogies are cerebral matters while passion and patience are matters of the heart and soul. The teacher’s skills in pedagogy make students excel in their chosen fields, his passion and patience make them truly human.


1 https://en.wikipedia.org

2Adrian Furnham (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/)

3Alfred Thompson (https://channel9.msdn.com)


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