The paycheck you receive from teaching might not be enough to even pay your rent. You will, however, make a difference in your students’ lives – a huge payoff that you will not get from better-paying jobs. Teaching is not the sort of job where you simply go to school, get a degree, and then find a job. Teaching is a talent – a gift – with which only a select few are blessed. Anyone can spend four years in college to become a teacher, but not every one can be an outstanding teacher, a role model, and an effective mentor for his/her students. Based on my teaching experience, I am going to explain what it really means to be a teacher and what makes a teacher the BEST teacher. The best teachers should be:
1 – Role Models:
Students always look up to their teachers. They tend to follow their teachers’ footsteps. Therefore, good teachers should always demonstrate that they can do what they ask their students to. If a teacher can do a project similar to what his/her students have been assigned, students will produce better work. For example, my students decided to go and buy food and drinks for the workers in the institution campus where I work after they had seen a video of me helping homeless people in San Francisco. Also, teachers must show enthusiasm toward the topic they are teaching if they want their students to do the same.
2 – Positive:
Being positive in life is not always an easy task, and being a positive teacher is even tougher. However, good teachers should always be positive. This allows their students to think in a positive and confident way. When I see my students struggle in their writing or their presentation skills, I boost them up. I always say, “It’s OK to struggle, guys. It’s not the end of the world. We struggle to learn and that is the learning process. Plus, English is not your first language, so I believe you are doing great and I am so proud of you.” That sort of reaction plants a really positive idea in students’ minds, and usually they improve so much after hearing such encouraging words. Teachers need to leave any negative personal and family issues behind when they come to class and arrive with a positive attitude so students can react positively to the class as well. At the end of the day, no one wants to be around people who are always negative.
3 – Enthusiastic and Passionate:
Excitement is contagious. It spreads around the classroom. If the teacher is not enthusiastic about the materials he/she is teaching, then students are most likely not going to take in the information they have been taught.
4 – Loving, Warm, and Caring:
Good teachers are those who listen to their students and are always there to help. If teachers show love and kindness to their students, they will make students comfortable enough to share their stories and problems. If teachers are only there to deliver a lecture and then leave, students lose the trust necessary for a positive student-teacher relationship – and being able to garner such trust is the most important characteristic teachers can have. I always encourage my students to come to my office even if they do not have any questions about their schoolwork. I always tell them to come during my office hours and just chat, to make them feel like they are always welcomed and that I am there for them and willing to listen. Moreover, good teachers should not be caring toward only their students, but also toward their colleagues at work.
5 – Storytellers:
People love telling and listening to real-life stories, and in order to make the class fun and interesting for students to be in, good teachers tend to tell real personal stories related to the concepts being taught.
6 – Student-Teacher Relationship Builders:
Successful teachers are the ones who build a bridge between themselves and their students. It is extremely important for good teachers to foster a community relationship with their students because without such an environment, it is very difficult for many students to enter a safe and trusting environment with their teacher. In Spring 2014, I had a normal, more distant relationship with my students, but in the fall I built a really close, while still professional, relationship with my students. When comparing student performance between the two semesters, there was a huge difference. My students in the fall enjoyed my class more and worked even beyond expectations. They never complained or whined about their homework assignments. On the other hand, my spring semester students were present in the classroom just because they had to be there and did the assignments because they needed to pass. So, building a strong relationship with students helps them learn better and makes them better students.
7 – Interested in Students’ Passions:
Most students have many passions and interests, and can be quite talented, so when teachers show interest in what their students are good at and enjoy, the students will fly even higher. In my case, for example, most of my Arab students like to write poems because doing so is part of their culture. So, I had my students write their own poems and had a poem competition. They really liked the activity and they were thankful toward me because I helped them express themselves more clearly in a manner which they already enjoyed.
In the end, I believe that the job of teaching is not just going through textbooks and having a three-month summer vacation. As fun as it sounds, it is a very challenging job. Teachers have to have certain qualifications and intrinsic motivation to be the role model and ideal mentor their students need. I hope these tips can help current and aspiring teachers in their future.