What are the characteristics of an effective teacher? Are superior teachers simply born with the skills they possess, or do they acquire those skills in a classroom? One thing is certain, effective teachers are essential for any improvement in the educational system. “More than any other variable in education—more than schools or curriculum—teachers matter.” This comment comes from an article in the January edition of The Atlantic entitled “What Makes a Great Teacher.” What enables some individuals to command students’ attention and challenge them to do their best? Within one academic year, the difference between students in a “super” teacher’s class and those in a poor teacher’s class can be staggering. In fact, as much as a three year differential in learning can occur within a single academic year. So being able to identify key characteristics of excellent teachers and teacher candidates is essential to improving the quality of the classroom experience.
The Teach for America Program has been compiling data about effective teachers for the past two decades. Not surprisingly, these educators have some common characteristics. Excellent teachers have high expectations for their students, regardless of their socioeconomic backgrounds or location. They also continually seek new ways to improve themselves and their teaching methods. They are persistent and engaged. They seek parental involvement. They organize; they plan; they persist. Persistence can take the form of high grade point averages in college as well as leadership achievement –running something and showing tangible results.”
Having knowledge is essential for a super teacher. But knowledge in a particular subject area like math, science, or language appears to count more than simply possessing a set of credentials like a Masters Degree in a general field like education. A super teacher also has the ability to share her knowledge with students.
Another shared trait is “life satisfaction.” In fact, those teachers who reported that they were content, “Were 43% more likely to perform well in the classroom than their less satisfied colleagues.” Attracting such individuals must be the imperative for any educational reform.