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Attributes of an Effective Teacher, Part 2: What You Need To Know

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What do you need to know in order to be in charge of helping other people know things? What kind of information and wisdom does a teacher need to posses? In this blog, I will discuss all of the things you need to be knowledgeable about in order to be an effective teacher. In order to be an effective teacher, you'll need to be:

Knowledgeable About the Subject

Teachers need to be sufficiently knowledgeable about their subjects. You should to be able to analyze all the elements of a subject, to challenge its theories and fundamentals, and have a detailed awareness of all its implications, social biases, and possible uses. Education experts have often argued that all elementary teachers should have a proven, broad, and detailed knowledge of all the subjects they will be expected to teach, and that high school teachers should be experts in their field; they need a university-level specialization or a college major in the subject they teach.

Knowledgeable About the Curriculum

Teachers must have a clear idea of how to teach their subject in the most effective manner. A teacher might be an expert in physics, for example, and convey positive energy during instruction, but if he or she starts teaching concepts relating to quantum physics before students have a good notion of what an atom is, students will inevitably be lost, bored, or will quickly lose confidence in their own abilities. By the time a teacher has reached an expert level in his or her field of study, he or she may well have forgotten the exact learning steps taken to get there, so the subject curriculum will play a crucial guiding role. The curriculum outlines the structure and the layers of learning, which are developed along a defined course of time. Teachers must know exactly what they will be asking their students to study and when, as well as which previous layer of knowledge is being built on.

Knowledgeable About Pedagogical Content

Teachers should be knowledgeable about the methods that they can and will use for conveying their knowledge; they should possess knowledge of pedagogical content. Pedagogical content knowledge might be viewed as a profound understanding, interpretation, and adaptation of the curriculum. It refers to the way teachers organize the topics, issues, and learning points, and choose the clearest analogies and metaphors to leave an impact on their students. Pedagogical content knowledge enables teachers to bridge the holes in the students' knowledge to transmit their point clearly and profoundly and to foresee misunderstandings and problems that may arise. The teacher must know how to address these issues with clarity and confidence and to make the right choices in his or her methods, according to the group's interests, situations, and backgrounds.

You might, for example, use the analogy of a microscopic city to explain the functions and happenings within a cell, where the nucleus is described as the city mayor or the decision maker, and the cell membrane as the city wall, which acts as a border and allows some things to leave, and others to enter. This analogy facilitates learning because it creates a conceptual image in the minds of the students, catalyzing comprehension and retention of the lesson.

Knowledgeable About Theory vs. Practice

As a teacher, you must take responsibility for your own development. Try new ideas, be imaginative, talk to other teachers, and to stay up to date with the latest theories and research regarding education and effecting teaching. If your students seem to be making little progress, you must swiftly adapt your method, change your teaching theory, and seek new ways to transmit your message. Continuous professional development should be seen as a personal investment in your teaching career, enabling you to remain up to date with the latest teaching practices. Technology can offer you new and innovative ways with which to make classroom management easier, but it's up to you to ensure that you remain up to date with rapidly changing devices and systems.

In many different aspects of our lives, a large gap seems to exist between the theory and the practice of the activity. Just as experienced drivers will tell learners that "you don't start learning how to drive until you've passed your test," many experienced teachers have a similar attitude toward the theories of teaching they studied in college, and the reality of standing in front of a class and actually teaching. This is one of the reasons that courses now require greater time spent performing fieldwork, with increased focus on engaging in the real classroom atmosphere early in a teaching student's educational career. You will undoubtedly need practical solutions to problems, and these are often learned more quickly and effectively through experience. Teachers should have a deep passion and respect for the progress of their own profession, as much for themselves and the students as for the profession.

Here, we discuss what a good teacher needs to know. Check out my previous blog, "Attributes of an Effective Teacher, Part 1: What You Need To Be" to see how your personality matches up to the characteristics displayed by competent, confident educators.

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The opinions expressed in Education Futures: Emerging Trends in K-12 are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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