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What Makes a Good Teacher?

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Melissa, an Upward Bound student, has been helping out in the Career Center for the past six weeks. She graduated from high school in June and took some concurrent enrollment classes at Dixie State College. She is considering secondary education as a career. This choice is based on a positive experience she had with a dynamic history teacher in her junior year of high school. I asked her to share with me and with you what she thinks makes a good teacher. Here is her response.

What Makes a Good Teacher
A good teacher knows the subject they are teaching well enough that they can break it down into simple terms for students to understand. They will show interest in what they are trying to teach, for example, dreaded math. Remember back to grade school when the teacher would stand up in front of the class and tell you straight out, "Now, I know this is boring, but we have to teach it." A good teacher doesn't say this; a good teacher loves what they are teaching, and they show the enthusiasm to get the students excited about what they are about to learn.

When a student asks a question, a good teacher will stop and make the time to answer the question and not with simple stupid answers, but with in-depth answers, allowing the student to soak up the knowledge they are asking to gain. A good teacher uses different techniques and styles to teach their students. Instead of just lecturing, they use visual aids; they get the students involved kinesthetically; they try new things and teach unforgettable lessons.

For example, I had a teacher my junior year in high school who never failed to show some type of a PowerPoint, and he lectured for what seemed like forever, but he also never failed to get us involved whether it be a worksheet, or a game. He told stories about WWI and the people living during that time. He showed us the movie Flyboys and used model airplanes that he built himself to show us the different airplanes used during the war. He was one of my favorite teachers for this reason: he actually cared about his students and what he taught them, and he had a passion for history, which is something I will never forget.

A good teacher takes the time to get to know their students, who they are, and the backgrounds they come from. They take the time to figure out how to talk to each individual student and to find out what style of teaching they respond to best. My little brother hates English, hates math, and hates testing, but give him something hands-on to do, like auto shop, woodworking, or welding, and he thrives. A good teacher would take the time to get to know him and see that for him to take interest in things like math, it needs to be taught to him in a more hands-on way.

Also, a good teacher should be culturally responsive as well as expansive. They should know the students' cultural backgrounds well enough that they can teach the students according to their lifestyles and what they will understand. In addition, they should also be expansive, teaching the students of different cultures and expanding their knowledge of the world around them, in both the present and the past.

For example, one of my friends, Ricardo, once told me about his second grade teacher, who happened to be his favorite, and how she was extremely into black history. She would show videos, read books, and tell real accounts of the African Americans who lived through slavery as well as those who died while in slavery. By this I don't mean sugar-coated stories for children, but the truth, in detail including the good and the bad. Though you may think this to be a bit harsh for eight-year-olds as I did, Ricardo tells me that the way she taught was so rich with insightful and intriguing knowledge that to this day his respect and knowledge of the time when slavery was a way of life is still growing.

I believe that a good teacher teaches honesty, respect, trust, and most of all cooperation. I believe an optimum environment to obtain an education is one that is secure, comfortable, engaging, and promotes the intellectual, social, and emotional growth of each individual A good teacher will strive to create such an environment for their students to enter into each day. A good teacher is someone who is warm and inviting to their students, someone who is approachable and a student can come to with questions.

A superior teacher teaches "to the student" and not "at the student". Most of all they remember they are there to teach the students, not to teach the subject, and though they have a passion for what they are teaching, they will also love being around the students and have a passion for teaching them.

Melissa's essay made me reflect on my own teaching and helped me evaluate myself from a student's point-of-view.

Kathy Kinney,

Career Center Director,

Dixie State College, St. George, Utah

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