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13 Ways to Be an Exceptional Teacher

13 Ways to Be an Exceptional Teacher
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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.

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

Do you?

More by this author

Marya Jan

Marya is a business strategist. She shares tips about life and success on Lifehack.

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Last Updated on July 20, 2021

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)
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You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

“Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

Warming up

If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

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  1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
  2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
  3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

Stay hydrated

Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.

Meditate

Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

2. Focus on your goal

One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

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Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

3. Convert negativity to positivity

There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

4. Understand your content

Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.

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However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

“No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

5. Practice makes perfect

Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

6. Be authentic

There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.

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Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

7. Post speech evaluation

Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

Improve your next speech

As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

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  • How did I do?
  • Are there any areas for improvement?
  • Did I sound or look stressed?
  • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
  • Was I saying “um” too often?
  • How was the flow of the speech?

Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:

Reference

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