It has been suggested that a good teacher can drink three cups of coffee before 9am and keep it in the system until after 5pm. However, this hardly does justice to the definition of a good teacher. A more proper definition should touch on whether a teacher can laugh with their students, can paint great pictures in their minds and create a sense of wonder within them.
The question of what makes for a ‘good teacher’ has been thrown into greater focus by contemporary discussion on merit-based pay for teachers. The question is also relevant because of current hand-wringing about the need to improve the performance of schools. If you want to improve schools, you need to improve teachers. It matters little if a school is government run or private, free or expensive, co-ed or single sex, a great teacher can make these things irrelevant. A great teacher can turn a dreary curriculum and even last period on a Friday into something of spellbinding interest. A great teacher is not necessarily the friendliest teacher or even the most popular. A great teacher is the one who inspires and disturbs until a new level of possibility is seen.
For this reason, we must do more than grind through course content. We must build relationships and enter the world of our students, even to the extent of becoming moderately tech savvy! Humour and approachability will help, over-familiarity will not. Some irascibility and even strictness is allowed in a teacher providing it is transparently clear to students that they are still valued. Finally, those wishing to be successful teachers must enjoy teaching. If teachers do not enjoy teaching, their students will not enjoy learning.
Most teachers are good at their craft. I’m sad that I haven’t always told them so.