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13 Ways to Be an Exceptional Teacher

13 Ways to Be an Exceptional Teacher

GtQuick—tell me the name of your most favourite teacher ever.

The one who influenced you the most; the one who had maximum impact; the one who brought out the best in you and made you think you could do anything you set your mind to. Made you feel special.

It could have been Mrs Brown who taught you Art and brought out the artist in you. Perhaps it was Mr Peters who showed you how great an athlete you are. Or perhaps the high school teacher who convinced you to rethink your disdain for Mathematics in case you might want to pursue the field of architecture.

You do remember them, right? Most people do. People often acknowledge their teachers at their graduation ceremonies, and when they get into the profession of their dreams. They speak of them fondly when they have their own kids, especially when they start school.

What makes these exceptional teachers so different from the vast majority of educators out there?

#1 They relinquish control

“A good teacher is one who makes himself progressively unnecessary.” – Thomas Carruthers

The teacher who takes on the role of a facilitator rather than the authority is an absolutely joy to learn from. They understand that their job is not to be the keeper of knowledge, but a vessel to pass it on.

They are not here to dictate, but to encourage. They are the best of them all.

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#2 They learn on the job

Fancy degrees don’t produce fantastic teachers, although the formal know-how of theory and practicum does help.

People who are naturally good at teaching come across like they were born to do this. They hardly need instruction on how to teach others, and yet they are willing to learn and continue to hone their skills in the classroom. Much like doctors or mechanics, they get to practice and hone their skills as they work.

#3 They aren’t always fun

People often expect teachers to be great entertainers, but you know what? That isn’t part of their job description.

Teachers need to do their jobs, which is to make their students leave the classroom with more knowledge and skills they came with; their main goal is to make you learn.

Sometimes, they need to be tough, or teach lessons that are boring or dry. But they do it anyway. They know that learning is not all fun, and that sometimes you just have to grit your teeth and plod on regardless. They’re not performers, and are not there to entertain you. They’re there to do their job.

#4 They don’t know everything

They don’t come to the classroom with the mindset of being the experts; that there is nothing left for them to learn.

Every day there is some new technological advancement, or a latest technique in classroom management waiting to be explored and mastered. And don’t forget the students—teachers also learn from their own pupils.

True teachers are learners first.  

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#5 They begin with the curriculum and then add to it

A great teacher has incredible knowledge and enthusiasm for the subject matter they are teaching.

Not only do they have thorough knowledge of the curriculum and other standards that they must uphold in the classroom, they strive to exceed them.  

#6 They are engaging

“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.” – Benjamin Franklin

They have a special kind of energy. They are prepared to answer questions and keep the material interesting for the students, and are masters of explanation.

#7 They don’t look for an ideal student

“If a doctor, lawyer, or dentist had 40 people in his office at one time, all of whom had different needs, and some of whom didn’t want to be there and were causing trouble, and the doctor, lawyer, or dentist, without assistance, had to treat them all with professional excellence for nine months, then he might have some conception of the classroom teacher’s job.”  – Donald D. Quinn

Great teachers treat each student differently and they don’t label today’s learners as worse then yesteryears’. They know times have changed and students are constantly bombarded by hundreds and thousands of messages competing for their attention.

Diversity and disability makes for an interesting classroom experience, although not necessarily an easy one for the instructor. Teachers know this also and work with it. They will never call anyone a lost cause. They are confident that anyone will do well with the right kind of support.

“A good teacher must be able to put himself in the place of those who find learning hard.” – Eliphas Levi

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You won’t catch them whining about how difficult it is to teach today.

#8 They are approachable

“The dream begins with a teacher who believes in you, who tugs and pushes and leads you to the next plateau, sometimes poking you with a sharp stick called truth.” – Dan Rather

Would you expect a teacher to know every student on a personal level? That’s not realistic, but what is possible is that the teacher cares for every student in the classroom. Great teachers may not know each child personally, but they do have compassion for all of their students, and their influence far exceeds their job description.

#9 They make learning easy

“A good teacher is a master of simplification and an enemy of simplism.” – Louis A. Berman

Great teachers create an environment that is ideal for learning and fosters positive behaviours. They don’t discipline, but manage; they don’t dictate but encourage. They create a place where each learner operates on a sense of belonging, and then they start their teaching.

They don’t stick to tried and tested approaches—they mix things up and take things up a notch every time.

#10 They measure their success in their own ways

“A master can tell you what he expects of you. A teacher, though, awakens you own expectations.” – Patricia Neal

Teachers do expect a lot from you, as they want you to do your best. However, the best ones measure success in terms of progress, not by the number of As you are getting.

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#11 They’re passionate

“The mediocre teacher tells, the good teacher explains, the superior teacher demonstrates, the great teacher inspires.” – William Arthur Ward

We all want to learn from teachers who are not only passionate about teaching, but passionate about life.

They aren’t just interested in their area of expertise; they are interesting people to hang out with. They will talk to you about the upset at the Footy final or will exchange comments on recent trip taken by the prime minister. You can pretty much talk to them about anything, and they would be interested, just as long as you are.  

#12 They show their pride in you

Do you remember how you felt when you got a star or a sticker when you did something good as a child? How about a mention and a certificate from your teacher at the school assembly? Did you have a teacher in college who put up your assignment and told everyone that it was the standard he was looking for?

Did you get a little embarrassed? Sure you did, but didn’t it also make your heart leap for joy? Of course it did. We all adore teachers who respect us for putting in our best, going the extra mile and doing more than what was required.

Great teachers applaud effort and progress, rather than measuring how good you are at something. That alone speaks volumes about their character.  

#13 They teach for the right reasons

“No man can be a good teacher unless he has feelings of warm affection toward his pupils and a genuine desire to impart to them what he believes to be of value.” – Bertrand Russell

The best teachers don’t get into this profession for money, but because they want to make a difference.

Teaching can be the most frustrating profession, and yet the most rewarding one, too. People who are born to teach understand that.

Do you?

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Marya Jan

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The Gentle Art of Saying No

The Gentle Art of Saying No

No!

It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

  1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
  2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
  3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
  4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
  5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
  6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
  7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
  8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
  9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
  10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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