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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

11 Habits of an Effective Teacher

11 Habits of an Effective Teacher

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I really appreciate teachers who are truly passionate about teaching. The teacher who wants to be an inspiration to others. The teacher who is happy with his/her job at all times. The teacher that every other child in the school would love to have. The teacher that kids remember for the rest of their lives. Are you that teacher? Read on and learn 11 effective habits of an effective teacher.

1. ENJOYS TEACHING.

Teaching is meant to be a very enjoyable and rewarding career field (although demanding and exhausting at times!). You should only become a teacher if you love children and intend on caring for them with your heart. You cannot expect the kids to have fun if you are not having fun with them! If you only read the instructions out of a textbook, it's ineffective. Instead, make your lessons come alive by making it as interactive and engaging as possible. Let your passion for teaching shine through each and everyday. Enjoy every teaching moment to the fullest.

2. MAKES A DIFFERENCE.

There is a saying, "With great power, comes great responsibility". As a teacher, you need to be aware and remember the great responsibility that comes with your profession. One of your goals ought to be: Make a difference in their lives. How? Make them feel special, safe and secure when they are in your classroom. Be the positive influence in their lives. Why? You never know what your students went through before entering your classroom on a particular day or what conditions they are going home to after your class. So, just in case they are not getting enough support from home, at least you will make a difference and provide that to them.

3. SPREADS POSITIVITY.

Bring positive energy into the classroom every single day. You have a beautiful smile so don't forget to flash it as much as possible throughout the day. I know that you face battles of your own in your personal life but once you enter that classroom, you should leave all of it behind before you step foot in the door. Your students deserve more than for you to take your frustration out on them. No matter how you are feeling, how much sleep you've gotten or how frustrated you are, never let that show. Even if you are having a bad day, learn to put on a mask in front of the students and let them think of you as a superhero (it will make your day too)! Be someone who is always positive, happy and smiling. Always remember that positive energy is contagious and it is up to you to spread it. Don't let other people's negativity bring you down with them.

4. GETS PERSONAL.

This is the fun part and absolutely important for being an effective teacher! Get to know your students and their interests so that you can find ways to connect with them. Don't forget to also tell them about yours! Also, it is important to get to know their learning styles so that you can cater to each of them as an individual. In addition, make an effort to get to know their parents as well. Speaking to the parents should not be looked at as an obligation but rather, an honour. In the beginning of the school year, make it known that they can come to you about anything at anytime of the year. In addition, try to get to know your colleagues on a personal level as well. You will be much happier if you can find a strong support network in and outside of school.

5. GIVES 100%.

Whether you are delivering a lesson, writing report cards or offering support to a colleague - give 100%. Do your job for the love of teaching and not because you feel obligated to do it. Do it for self-growth. Do it to inspire others. Do it so that your students will get the most out of what you are teaching them. Give 100% for yourself, students, parents, school and everyone who believes in you. Never give up and try your best - that's all that you can do. (That's what I tell the kids anyway!)

6. STAYS ORGANIZED.

Never fall behind on the marking or filing of students' work. Try your best to be on top of it and not let the pile grow past your head! It will save you a lot of time in the long run. It is also important to keep an organized planner and plan ahead! The likelihood of last minute lesson plans being effective are slim. Lastly, keep a journal handy and jot down your ideas as soon as an inspired idea forms in your mind. Then, make a plan to put those ideas in action.

7. IS OPEN-MINDED.

As a teacher, there are going to be times where you will be observed formally or informally (that's also why you should give 100% at all times). You are constantly being evaluated and criticized by your boss, teachers, parents and even children. Instead of feeling bitter when somebody has something to say about your teaching, be open-minded when receiving constructive criticism and form a plan of action. Prove that you are the effective teacher that you want to be. Nobody is perfect and there is always room for improvement. Sometimes, others see what you fail to see.

8. HAS STANDARDS.

Create standards for your students and for yourself. From the beginning, make sure that they know what is acceptable versus what isn't. For example, remind the students how you would like work to be completed. Are you the teacher who wants your students to try their best and hand in their best and neatest work? Or are you the teacher who couldn't care less? Now remember, you can only expect a lot if you give a lot. As the saying goes, "Practice what you preach".

9. FINDS INSPIRATION.

An effective teacher is one who is creative but that doesn't mean that you have to create everything from scratch! Find inspiration from as many sources as you can. Whether it comes from books, education, Pinterest, YouTube, Facebook, blogs, TpT or what have you, keep finding it!

10. EMBRACES CHANGE.

In life, things don't always go according to plan. This is particularly true when it comes to teaching. Be flexible and go with the flow when change occurs. An effective teacher does not complain about changes when a new principal arrives. They do not feel the need to mention how good they had it at their last school or with their last group of students compared to their current circumstances. Instead of stressing about change, embrace it with both hands and show that you are capable of hitting every curve ball that comes your way!

11. CREATES REFLECTIONS.

An effective teacher reflects on their teaching to evolve as a teacher. Think about what went well and what you would do differently next time. You need to remember that we all have "failed" lessons from time to time. Instead of looking at it as a failure, think about it as a lesson and learn from it. As teachers, your education and learning is ongoing. There is always more to learn and know about in order to strengthen your teaching skills. Keep reflecting on your work and educating yourself on what you find are your "weaknesses" as we all have them! The most important part is recognizing them and being able to work on them to improve your teaching skills.

There are, indeed, several other habits that make an effective teacher but these are the ones that I find most important. Many other character traits can be tied into these ones as well.

LAST WORD: There is always something positive to be found in every situation but it is up to you to find it. Keep your head up and teach happily for the love of education!


This post was created by a member of Edutopia's community. If you have your own #eduawesome tips, strategies, and ideas for improving education, share them with us.

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Sally from Texas's picture

Some of my friends say, " you have been around the block a couple of times, Sally." I guess that is true. I will begin my 45 th year of teaching this Fall. I am totally excited, inspired, enthused, and so eager to meet my next group of students. I absolutely LOVE to teach. I've had the privilege to teach in 8 different states and have taught Pre-k through 8th grade. I am a reading specialist and have taught a vigorous MATH program for fifth grade for the past 20 years. All of the above effective traits are true. For me, it also is compassion, being innovative, trusting your gut when it comes to trying new things, and first and foremost BUILDING THAT RELATIONSHIP with your students so you know HOW they learn. Think outside of the box and do whatever you need to help that student to understand. Try and Try again to get to the root of what helps that student learn.

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Malú Offermann's picture

I agree. This year will be for me the number 35 !!!
I have already made many little things for them. I'm very excited to begin a new school year!

Dave Greene's picture

In researching my book, (http://www.amazon.com/Doing-Right-Thing-Teacher-Speaks/dp/1460225481) I reached out to many people and asked these simple questions:
Here are the responses:
hat the best teachers never stopped learning and listening. How else can we find out what makes good teaching, but by listening to people from both sides of the desk? In researching this book, I reached out to many people and asked these simple questions:

As a student:
1. What made your best teachers your best teachers? Consider personal characteristics, techniques, activities, and relationships with students. What made your worst teachers your worst teachers? Consider personal characteristics, techniques, activities, and relationships with students.
2. From which teachers did you learn the most? Why? From which teachers did you learn the least? Why? (You don't have to name names.)
3. Please describe any particularly positive or negative classroom moments or activities that stand out. What made them so memorable?

I received a wide variety of answers from friends, family, colleagues, and former students. I wasn't quite sure what to expect, but I have been saying for years to anyone who will listen that all you have to do to improve education is to ask people what made their best teachers best, then train teachers to do as many of those replicable things as possible. Two things cannot be replicated, though: personality and natural talent. Although personality and natural talent cannot be learned, teachers certainly can be taught to use what works best for them as individuals.
Hard as it was, I selected what I thought were the clearest messages and tried to list them by six essential categories: Challenge, Engagement, Interaction, Personality, Personal Touch, and Planning. These are listed in alphabetical order, because they are equally important.

Challenge:
* The best teachers build a relationship with their students by challenging them.

* The best teacher puts you in a position to succeed.

* They actually cared about my success and did not allow for the possibility of failure by setting high expectations. This made a lifelong impact on my life.

* The best teachers paced the class at a level that worked for everyone. In hindsight, it seems magical, apparent more when absent. I'm aware of teachers who kept everyone challenged, but more aware of teachers where I felt like the material was moving too slowly or too quickly for me to handle. In the latter case, the result (on my part) was boredom or frustration--and in both cases, a loss of interest in the topic. But in the former case, the result was challenge, pride in my work, and a feeling of accomplishment.

* The best teachers are those that lead the student to water but force them to get to the end on their own.

* The ones that I learned the most were the ones who challenged me, who wouldn't let me just take the easy route, who were patient yet firm, who didn't cosign my BS and let me get away with mediocrity.

Engagement:
* The best teachers came in prepared and eager to reach out. You felt that they loved what they were doing. I learned most from the ones who were able to engage the classroom.

* Kids know if you want to be there.

* The best classroom is one where students can think, question, and make those personal and meaningful connections.

* They used clear, vivid language--some of their phrases I remember over forty years later. They loved engaging in debate with their students.

* My best teachers were always engaging, relying on interactive teaching methods to best gain the interest of the students.

* One significant quality that I admire was that they saw teaching as an adventure, constantly questioning, having fun doing it, and that it had real- life relevance.

* My best teachers were the teachers who were open and willing to reach their students on the student level. They were the teachers who best understood how we, as students, were still growing and learning--and making mistakes. They were the teachers who made an effort to appreciate us as individuals and recognize us for our own talents and interests.

Interaction:
* A great lesson is one in which there is student participation and connection between student and teacher.

* They use active interaction with students.

* They did not "lecture" at us--but spoke with us--used real-life examples, allowed us to speak freely, even if we disagreed. They fostered participation and real discourse.

* A lesson is great when there is enough opportunity for authentic interaction between students, teachers, and other students.

* Interactive teaching where students can chime in with their questions and thoughts, while maintaining a sense of direction and achieving teaching goals.

* I learned a lot from teachers who let us into their world and their interests--it made them more relatable. I learned the least from the teachers I did not have more than a classroom relationship with. I now realize that the most significant learning experiences I had in high school were with the teachers that I connected with.

Personality:
* The best teachers were any teachers who seemed authentic, who seemed to really walk the walk as well as talk the talk.

* My best teachers were teachers that gave me knowledge, not only by textbook, but also with humor. They create activities that apply knowledge.

* They have a good sense of humor. They make learning fun.

* The best teachers have a big personality. You can see that they are excited by what they do!

* I enjoyed those teachers who clearly enjoyed teaching, i.e., they themselves weren't bored with what they were doing, but rather projected a love for their subject--and their subjects [students].

* The personal characteristic of my best teachers was that they loved their job, and it was evident in their teaching style. They love to see the student "get it."

* It seems that the best atmospheres were those where the teacher had both a personal relationship with students and (somewhat contradictory) complete control of the classroom.

* My best teachers were enthusiastic about their subjects--they cared deeply, and made us want to care also.

* They knew how to play with and poke fun at the students, to keep the atmosphere light and easy.

* Teachers who like students are generally successful.

* Many of my best teachers possessed integrity, humor, and consistency.

The Personal Touch:

* Kids pick up on attitudes and can usually cut through the facade. When kids feel genuinely cared about by a teacher, they think the teacher is a good teacher.

* The best teacher, whether teaching science, math, or football is the one who can bring out the best in me, and take my worst, and show me how to make it better. The best teacher finds qualities in the not-so gifted student that allows that student to see that he, too, can succeed. The great teachers showed an interest in us, but did not overdo it by trying to be "our friends." The great teachers used their personal life experience to help us grow and mature.

* The best teachers gave attention, not just to the subject, but also to the real academic needs of me, as a student, as a growing person. The best allowed me to express myself creatively without judgment, and enforce critical-thinking skills. They knew how to make demands to elevate my skills, abilities, and responsibilities as a student. They were personal, without losing sight of their role as teachers, mentors, and guiders of the academic spirit. They would build and not tear down. They understood the journey a young person needed to take to get to the bridge in preparation for the next phase of development...they inspired this by their actions.

* Clearly, they were experts in their chosen field and were enthusiastic about the content, which translated many times to the students also being enthusiastic about the content.

Planning:

* They use innovative teaching methods.

* They keep the kids interested. A great lesson is one where the class is working along with the teacher.

* A great lesson plan connects planning, questioning, and activities to doing, action, and reflection.

* A lesson is great when it is well planned. One has to consider all the ways children learn. Teachers have to know their students, and provide them all opportunities.

* A great lesson is one that is well planned but is flexible enough to leave room for the "teachable" moment or for situations that would make a change of direction needed.

* I think a variety of activities are needed, both to keep the interest of the students and to find ways of reaching all different kinds of learners.

* Higher-level questions on all grade levels are important, and I never saw enough of these used by student teachers.

* Get to know your students' learning styles and what seems to hold their interest and challenge them. This valuable information will help with how to plan your lessons, and the types of questioning and activities you use. The types of learners in your class will dictate the lessons you plan. I guess you would call this customizing your lessons to your particular students.

* All types of lessons can work, but no one technique should be used always.

John Bennett's picture
John Bennett
Emeritus Faculty in the School of Engineering / University of Connecticut

Great list to compare against for those teachers seeking to always improve. I'd add one more:

12. FACILITATES DEVELOPMENT OF IMPORTANT SKILLS. Those skills, so important for the lifelong learning critical to successful personal lives and careers, include effective learning, effective problem solving, communicating, and working collaboratively.

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jojo nepomuceno's picture

I agree with what you points Carrie and enjoyed reading your article. I have been teaching for more than 20 years and love what I do. I too always try to smile even when things are not going as i planned but usually it brings me so much joy to work with my students who have special needs and my day is made when i see the big or small changes and accomplishments working with my students. I really wouldn't exchange teaching for any other profession.

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Jane Connor's picture

Something I have learned over the years is that fairness means to give each child what he or she needs, NOT treating everyone the same!!

pranaam's picture

I know, Jane. The only people who think differently are either liars or way too far removed from the reality of the classroom.

Michelle Gallego Ordovez's picture

Effective teaching will be acquired of course if you love what your doing. I read a quote saying that "The only way to do great work is to love what you do." So if your passion is to teach then you will be a great teacher and an inspiration to those students. Also if you meet variety of struggles in life then you overcome it and solved it then it will help you to do more great things and surely your students would loved you.

Zaileen Cipriano's picture

Such a nice article, I find it really helpful. I agree with all the things that Ms. Lam pointed out. To become an effective teacher one must enjoy teaching, and not only treat it as an obligation. A teacher must have a positive outlook in life, he/she must always be happy and smiling for her students to be encourage too. And of course, a teacher must have a standard because having such, will bring out the best in the learners. And in order to be an effective teacher one must be open -minded and always be ready for change, he/she must accept constructive criticisms to improve her teaching.And what I love most is to make some reflections, by doing so, a teacher will be able evaluate herself on what are his or her weaknesses and thinking some ways on how to improve them.

Brian Sztabnik's picture
Brian Sztabnik
AP Literature teacher from Miller Place, NY

What a great list Carrie.

The connections that exist in teaching are at the heart of everything that you wrote-- connections with students, connections with content, connections with colleagues, and connections with inspiring educators on social media like Twitter and Facebook.

This is why social media and tech tools like blogging have enhanced the educational experience for teachers, parents and students. They allow us and our students to form deeper and more insightful connections with others.

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Gaetan Pappalardo's picture
Gaetan Pappalardo
Teacher, Author, Guitar––Word.

This list paints the perfect teacher. We all want to be this teacher, but, of course, we are all human. And I think kids need to know that "we" are all human because that's reality. We have bad days and good days. We fall behind and it's ok. We are not perfect. But, in the end we all make it through.

I also think that in order to do our best and have time to do what really matters, which is to teach and make connections with our students and parents, is to work smarter, not harder. I see too many teachers hung up on the minor details of teaching that it hinders their student/teacher time during the day.

Thank you for compiling such a detailed list.

Gaetan

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Melanie Eisen's picture
Melanie Eisen
Assistant director of professional development, YUSP

I like the list, but I also think that sometimes we have bad days, and that's part of being a person- how we deal with bad days becomes a lesson we can share with our students. I also would add to the list the idea that our learning, like our students is ongoing- you listed "inspiration"- but I think it's more than that- it's the understanding that we are professionals, and as such we need to always be looking for pathways of professional growth. It is just as important to never afraid to ask for help- Teaching can be a very lonely profession with a lot of closed doors- look to others whether in your building or PLN to support your work-

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Mary Jones's picture
Mary Jones
second grade teacher from michigan

Interesting. It sounds like teachers need to be perfect. Always be positive. Never fall behind. To me that's a recipe for burn-out. No one achieves 'always' or 'never'.

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Tom_IHBCN's picture

Yes, as well as #1, "Enjoys teaching" (which is obviously vital!), missing is perhaps "Enjoys learning".

You can't really be/continue to be an "effective" teacher if you think you've already learned all there is to know about your profession -- especially when, nowadays, the world, society and education itself are evolving so fast.

You got to actually LIKE learning that things you thought were right -- and were the "right" way to do things, and teach them -- maybe no longer are...

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Andrew Vivian's picture
Andrew Vivian
Consultant

Great list. Might I suggest, somewhere near the top, " focuses on learning, not teaching"? I know this might be implied in the list, but a teacher could still do almost everything on the list as the "sage on the stage" rather than the "guide on the side", which is more appropriate in this century.

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Martin Richards's picture
Martin Richards
I train educators to use a coaching approach in their teaching practice

Everything on this list is on a professional coach's too.

This is a very useful list to share with teachers who say they don't have to be coaches "too". Copied!

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Mr. Davis's picture

I love this. Especially the positivity piece and the personal touch. Too often teachers aren't themselves and that comes across to the students as less than authentic. Today's student is sophisticated. I talk about some of these same things on my new blog at Classficient.com which aims to help teachers become more efficient in order to create well-managed classrooms.

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Gaetan Pappalardo's picture
Gaetan Pappalardo
Teacher, Author, Guitar––Word.

This list paints the perfect teacher. We all want to be this teacher, but, of course, we are all human. And I think kids need to know that "we" are all human because that's reality. We have bad days and good days. We fall behind and it's ok. We are not perfect. But, in the end we all make it through.

I also think that in order to do our best and have time to do what really matters, which is to teach and make connections with our students and parents, is to work smarter, not harder. I see too many teachers hung up on the minor details of teaching that it hinders their student/teacher time during the day.

Thank you for compiling such a detailed list.

Gaetan

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Tanya Penner's picture

One thing I would add is an effective teacher continuously learns and evolves. I have known many teachers who became stagnant and ineffective because they believed there was no need for professional development, collaboration, etc.

We must be willing to step outside our comfort zone at times in order to progress.

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James's picture
James
US & Qatari Intercultural International Liaison

Miss Lam, the response from Jocelyn was absolutely contradicting of her own argument. The comment about "what profession wouldn't give 100%, which is then countered with the defense that a teacher can burn out quickly, and that the student should show the energy doesn't make any sense. I don't think any parent would want to hear that response from a teacher instructing their kids. Both parties (teacher & kids) should exert 100% in teaching and learning. As a professional 100% should be embedded in your job 24/7, all negative/derogatory personal issues should be left at home or maybe another job should be chosen. Clearly it's a testament to the positive responses posted prior that "everyone" else clearly understood what you meant, and we all appreciate your efforts..not to mention completely agreeing. GREAT BLOG ma'am, keep up the Good work --looking forward to more.

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Melanie Eisen's picture
Melanie Eisen
Assistant director of professional development, YUSP

I like the list, but I also think that sometimes we have bad days, and that's part of being a person- how we deal with bad days becomes a lesson we can share with our students. I also would add to the list the idea that our learning, like our students is ongoing- you listed "inspiration"- but I think it's more than that- it's the understanding that we are professionals, and as such we need to always be looking for pathways of professional growth. It is just as important to never afraid to ask for help- Teaching can be a very lonely profession with a lot of closed doors- look to others whether in your building or PLN to support your work-

(3)
Brian Sztabnik's picture
Brian Sztabnik
AP Literature teacher from Miller Place, NY

What a great list Carrie.

The connections that exist in teaching are at the heart of everything that you wrote-- connections with students, connections with content, connections with colleagues, and connections with inspiring educators on social media like Twitter and Facebook.

This is why social media and tech tools like blogging have enhanced the educational experience for teachers, parents and students. They allow us and our students to form deeper and more insightful connections with others.

(3)

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