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How to be a Good Teacher

tips for teachers - teaching resources

Teachers and their individual teaching styles cover the spectrum. Some are strict, some are lenient, some are funny, and some don’t hang around long enough to develop a style at all…you get the picture. The “burnout rate” for new teachers is shocking. Many simply cannot handle the demands of the job, so after the first year or two, they find another profession. The ones who are still teaching after four or five years are most likely doing something right. They’ve found a way to manage their classes, and they’ve been able to keep the administrators happy enough to decide to renew their yearly contracts.

Every teacher goes about teaching a little differently. There is not, nor should there be, a “cookie cutter mold” for effective educators. Students benefit greatly from experiencing a variety of teaching styles. That said, there are some salient characteristics that most good teachers share:

Knowledge and love of the subject: If a teacher doesn’t know her material well, how can she hope to teach it to others? The best teachers truly love the subject they teach and are constantly trying to learn more about it. Students pick up quickly on this! When they see a teacher who’s excited about a subject, the sentiment can spread to them.

Management: Good teachers have to be excellent managers. It’s not easy to keep a room full of students focused, keep up with grades and assignments, follow all the school’s rules, keep parents happy, and jump through all the state-mandated hoops and red tape.

Motivation: Teachers also have to serve as motivators. In order to be a quality teacher, one has to be able to motivate students – to get and keep them actively participating in the learning process. This is often a daunting task. Good teachers have numerous motivational strategies in their “bag of tricks.”

Patience: For her own sake as well as for the benefit of the students, a teacher needs to have an extreme amount of patience. If you’ve never had the experience of being a classroom teacher, you can’t imagine the things we have to handle. Mischief, clowning, bullying, tears, fights, skipping class, challenged learners, broken hearts, and downright meanness are day-to-day occurrences in most classes. Excellent teachers usually have the patience of Job.

Accessibility: A good teacher makes herself accessible to students and to parents. This might include individual after or before-school help, group study sessions, and staying in touch with parents.

Interest: A good teacher is interesting, and unfortunately, this is something that cannot be taught in any amount of years spent in education classes at a teacher’s college, although teaching resources can often help. Students are almost always much more interested in Wii games, MTV, and the opposite sex than they are in school. How do you make British Literature fascinating to a group of teenagers? I used a wide range of interesting lectures with interesting tidbits that weren’t in the textbook, along with videos, student-focused activities, and innovative methods of all kinds to pique the interest of my students. In addition, I always managed to inject a good dose of humor, which the students loved!

Approachability: A good teacher is viewed as approachable by her students. They should not be so intimidated that they are afraid to ask questions or to request extra help. Accomplish this by smiling and maintaining a friendly attitude. Be careful, however – be friendly but don’t become a pal.

Empathy and understanding: Good teachers learn that few things are black or white – there’s always a gray area. Educators have to take this into account and be flexible. If an assignment is due on Friday, for example, but John didn’t turn his in, which is very unusual behavior for him, find out what the problem is. He might have a good excuse. At least be willing to listen. I’m not saying that rules and deadlines should not be enforced – they should. But nothing should be “set in stone.”

Transference: This is probably the most critical element and the hardest to achieve or explain. I’m referring to the ability to somehow take what you know and be able to transfer that knowledge into the minds of your students. No matter how brilliant or knowledgeable an educator might be, if she can’t transfer that knowledge, she’s useless as a teacher. A few highly motivated, intelligent students will learn regardless of whether or not the teacher has transference skills. Most, however, will not.

Respect: Most teachers expect or demand respect, yet all do not use respect when dealing with their students. Respect is a two-way street. I always treated my students with respect, never “talking down” to them, embarrassing them, or berating them. In turn, I rarely had a student treat me with disrespect.

Concern: Good teachers display genuine concern for their students. Kids are smart, and they’re usually pretty hard to fool. They know which educators really care about them and which ones are there just to collect a paycheck and be off on major holidays. Let your students know that you care about them as individuals and not as just another name or number on your rosters.

Fairness: This is a very important element for effective teaching and classroom management. Your grading and discipline guidelines should be as objective as possible. Students can easily understand which ones are your favorites. It’s natural to like some students more than others, but this should never influence grades, rules, or classroom policies.

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Sarah Browne on December 05, 2014:

I agree with all of your article. I particularly liked you mentioning genuine concern for your students and accessibility. I find those to be most important and often overlooked.

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muhammad abdullah javed on September 19, 2014:

Excellent habee, thanks for the tips.

Ashutosh Tiwari from Lucknow, India on December 04, 2013:

@habee nice work ! Specially the organization of the text is wonderful. I have to written something on the qualities of teacher. If you wish to find some other aspect that might have missed please visit my hub.

Thanks and Regards

Ashutosh Tiwari

novice phaithoun on November 29, 2013:

new teacher should read all and hold it for do.

Labsonn on November 05, 2012:

African and Ugandan a teacher as I may be i am fascinated to see that I have most of the attributes mentioned in this hub. It's very satisfying to see clearly how one fits in well into the "good" teacher's Coat

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on August 19, 2012:

If you get the chance, check out my hub on Monday; there is a good chance that you are mentioned in it. :)

teethpro on May 09, 2012:

Teacher's approachability is very important for the students to feel easy and relax. I am also a tutor. I tend to play the role more as a friend to my students than as a strict and stiff teacher. By this way, we are more easily connected and in turn this results in better learning process.

freemarketingnow from California on March 17, 2012:

You title it as a "How To" piece but it is really a "What Qualities Do Good Teachers Possess" piece. While I agree that characteristics like patience are necessary, I didn't really feel like I learned how to be more patient. Have you taught in the worst schools in this country? I teach at one in south-central LA, and it is sometimes really hard to be patient. Telling myself to be patient isn't any more helpful than reading a book on how to play basketball is to me actually being a better basketball player. Also, I have feel like some of the characteristics that you list are so arbitrary. There are ones like "interesting." I don't believe that. Some students that I've taught didn't find the subject interesting. I just had to teach them until they were at a level of proficiency. They later discovered they liked it and they majored in it in college.

dayakthinker on March 17, 2012:

Great teachers are driven by their solid faith in God.

arizonataylor from Arizona on March 13, 2012:

You are absolutely right. I've seen so many technically-good teachers fail because of a lack of of good student rapport. That can't be achieved without the characteristics you've described. Good hub. I'm voting for your hub!

dkm27 from Chicago on February 28, 2012:

Excellent advice for teachers new and old. I just retired from teaching. It was a hoot! Having a mighty fine time now too. Great hub.

eyes on January 13, 2012:

It's great information about a good teacher.I need more information about managing learners??

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on October 20, 2011:

dusy, I wish you the very best of luck!

Portia, sorry about that. I guess you give a whole new meaning to teaching resources.

Portia Patrice from Savannah, GA on August 11, 2011:

Thanks from fellow hubber and out of work teacher.

dusy7969 from San Diego, California on April 27, 2011:

I want to become a good teacher.I learnt lot of things in this hub.That was a good passion to teach the other.I like this profession and thanks for this hub.Thanks a lot habee

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on February 04, 2011:

I appreciate your feedback!

jacques.gim from Lancashire on January 25, 2011:

Very useful nice reading and a lot of good infos.

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on January 12, 2011:

Thoughtful, that's not corny - I know exactly how you feel!

ThoughtfulSpot from PA on January 08, 2011:

Habee - I actually came back to this article w/o realizing I had read it a year ago... Except now I have a new perspective as I have returned to school to acquire my teaching certification in elementary ed. It really is a wonderful article and some great advice. It might be corny, but I feel like teaching is what I am meant to do and I am so excited to put a lot of these tips into practice. Now if I can just read some equally great hubs on getting a teaching job... :P

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on November 19, 2010:

Matt, thanks for the info!

MattW on November 16, 2010:

Forest Trail Academy (an online school) has teachers who genuinely care about the students. They realize the importance of getting children educated and how learning in these younger years can help them throughout life. Anybody who is looking for an online school should take a look at FTA.

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on October 26, 2010:

I dunno, Steven. English is a crazy language sometimes! lol

Steven on October 12, 2010:

you are a salted hand teacher. Can you tell me why "ea" pronounce different in words" read and bread"?

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on September 24, 2010:

Thanks, Kotori! I'll check it out.

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on September 24, 2010:

That's great, Joy!

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on September 24, 2010:

Devin, that's soooo true!

Kotori from Chicagoland on September 22, 2010:

Good hub. I am a teacher, too. I just wrote a hub related to teaching that you might enjoy.

Joy56 on September 18, 2010:

i am pleased to tell you my son is a world history teacher in Florida. He has lots of the qualities you mentioned above, ha ha ha, well i am his mother.... great hub

DevinCo on September 14, 2010:

Every teacher can relate to your message. Teaching is an under-appreciated profession and more goes into it than anyone thinks. Thanks for your hub.

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on September 07, 2010:

Rich, teaching is a tough but VERY rewarding job!

richtwf on August 31, 2010:

Thanks for sharing that hub.. I really enjoyed reading that and it really does make you fully appreciate and aware of what it takes to be a teacher.

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on August 27, 2010:

I would certainly agree!!

isyan on August 27, 2010:

nice hub... I'm also a teacher here in the philippines and as my mentor put it: "Teaching is a Noble job" wouldn't you agree? hehehe..

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on July 05, 2010:

Muni, your appreciation for the teachers of the word is obvious, and we thank you! It's a difficult yet very rewarding career for the right people. Many thanks for reading and leaving such a thoughtful comment!

munirahmadmughal from Lahore, Pakistan. on July 05, 2010:

"How to be a good teacher" is an excellent hub.Experiences vary from teacher to teacher. A good teacher is he whom students declare a good teacher. It is the students who are learning from him the ins and out of the subject he is teaching. Students are of many levels in understanding the subject taught to them. A good teacher is expected to give attention to each student according as to his need and also have an ey on his psychic reflections. Teacher is to encourage the students and not to discourge them in their studies and learning. The role of the teacher is orgaic and not static. A teacher is preparing a gneration to come forward and take the responsibilities in the various fields of practical life. habit of questioning and answering must be developed in the manner that a confidence is created in the students to become leaders and excellers. The spirit of competition enhances the quality of education. A good teacher makes the boring subject an interessting one. It is the way of teaching that makes the atmosphere pleasant or tiring. Mere committing to memory without understanding the objective and reasons may be useful from getting through the test or examination but the usefulness is not attained. From easy to difficult and from difficult to easy, both manners have their own merits. I am teaching law at university level. Students are of mature mind. Even then I have experienced that class atmosphere can be made fresh and pleasant by teaching techniques. Thorough checking of the assignments also help in kowing what a student is need of to improve in his learning. Theory and practice should be given proper weight and attention. It is the application of law that is more important. Where a student is unable to present his case before the judge there is no use of his knowing many things. As to write a good judgment is important for a judge, to draft, present, argue the case is important for a practicing lawer and all this should be taught during the course of education. A teacher must possess all the qualites which declare a person a gentleman. Addedly he is to possess and show that he himslef knows the subject well and has a command over it and can deliver the goods to his students. A good teacher is honest within and honest without. The passing out students are his manifest record of career. How he moulded them and what they are able to do in their practical life is the continous name and fame a teacher earns. Honur and respect is for those who fear God and maintain a high standard of moral conduct. Parents and nation have reposed confidence in teachers to make them a useful and good citizens and the teachers have to maintain that confidence by their competence and integrity. The role is certaily sacred and requires much care and caution in all dimensions. A teacher in his teaching must be logical, reasonable, relevant, scientific, simple, truthful and moderate. He must advance the cause of education by every action an dshine the personality of his students by providing them sound knowledge. A good teacher is neither jealous to his colleagues nor makes anunder or over assesment of anyone. For every thing there is a standard set by the society at individual, national and international level. A teacher is to remain coscious of it and do everything that he can do to maintain that Standard. Education is to be sought from cradle to grave and by male and female without any discrimination. The knowledge a teacher has is a trust with him and he is to deliver it to the next generation via his students. The students, the parents, the state and the society must pay due respect to the teachers at all levels. Teachers are really a blessing God for every nation at all times. I pay my respect to the teachers of the whole world. May God Almighty bless them all.

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on July 04, 2010:

I understand, HC! Been there. I taught 18-19-year-old kids, so I didn't have to deal with the little ones.

Holly from Lone Star State on June 30, 2010:

I give so much respect to all my teachers...Although I love guiding, challenging thoughts and bringing out the wonder in children...I am not sure I would be able to withstand doing it for a living. As much as I love my children and see so much in their eyes...Some days I go to work to be away from kids :) Great Hub!

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on June 27, 2010:

Swos, I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!!

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on June 27, 2010:

Mr. Daydream, thanks so much for that!

swosugrad09 from Oklahoma on June 26, 2010:

Great hub! I'm a new graduate waiting to get my start in the world of teaching. Thanks for the encouragement and advice.

mr. daydream on June 24, 2010:

Good advice. I recommended this hub as a link on my "What Makes a Good Teacher" hub.

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on June 05, 2010:

Definitely, Silverpoet - the patience of Job!

Silver Poet from the computer of a midwestern American writer on June 05, 2010:

You are right to warn potential teachers about the patience it is going to require!

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on May 06, 2010:

Marie, it has to be one of the hardest jobs in the world!

Marie Ryan from Andalusia, Spain on May 04, 2010:

Teaching is such a great responsibility,but i often feel that the general public consider it as 'glorified babysitting'. I don't think so many jobs have such an extensive job specification as you have set out here! I have been a teacher for many years,(semi-retired now) and find it exhausting, but so, so rewarding!

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on May 03, 2010:

Thanks, fangirl. There are several of us here!

Fangirl on May 02, 2010:

I've just started on this site...good to see teachers telling their stories.

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on March 18, 2010:

You're right, iTech - we have to be flexible and ready to adapt!

iTechTeacher on March 17, 2010:

Great list here. I think 'flexibility' is another one to add, though. Sometimes the unexpected happens in class and the best teachers are flexible enough to deal with it.

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on March 17, 2010:

Thanks, Edtechguru!

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on March 17, 2010:

Thanks, Edtechguru!

edtechguru from New York City on March 17, 2010:

Nice blog

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on March 14, 2010:

Thanks, Ryan! That's true - teaching must be adaptable to a specific group of students.

Ryan Clinton from on March 14, 2010:

I work in a school with some challenging students. The techniques I must employ to keep my classroom civil and as a learning environment would shock many but some rules are sacred. Mutual respect and insistence that school is for education and education is a precious right, these are ideas enforced. Thanks for your hub - Informative as always.

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on February 04, 2010:

Thanks, Lita. Teaching is amazingly rewarding, as you well know. I was offered a job making lots more money, but I chose teaching, and I've never regretted it!

Lita C. Malicdem from Philippines on February 03, 2010:


I'm a retired elementary school grades teacher. Down in my country, teachers are typecast as the "unsung heroes" of all times. Not because they represent the "stupid burnt-out professionals" but because they are the "least-paid" of public servants.

If you are young in the service and you want a raise, you have to go through more pains in pursuit of graduate studies. The majority don't and with less incentives for motivation they just stay until they become a doddering old one ripe for retirement.

This hub is very informative and inspiring for teachers with less to hold on to. The trust and respect they would have for themselves as teachers are essential, more than the pay. Thanks for sharing this.

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on January 19, 2010:

Thanks, Lewis! I'm adding your link to my hub now. Please link mine to yours!

LewisSummer on January 19, 2010:

Nice job! It's obvious you know what it takes to be a good teacher. I've been teaching for 6 years, and it takes a lot out of you. If I could add one thing to the list, I'd add "communication skills", because of everyone you have to please - administration, parents, etc...

I'm new to hubpages, and just published a hub - how to teach a difficult student. Let me know if I could add my link and/or linkback with you. THANKS!

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on January 17, 2010:

Thanks, Petra! Glad you "get it."

Petra Vlah from Los Angeles on January 17, 2010:

Thank you for this great hub

Teachers have one of the most important job on this planet; a good teacher will bring out the best in a child, will prepare an entire generation to become good doctors, engineers, etc, but most importantly, will help them to become good people

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on January 14, 2010:

Lyns, you sound like a wonderful educator - you "get it"! Thanks for reading!

Lyns on January 14, 2010:

Well said! I teach but mostly individuals as I teach English as a foreign language and absolutely love it! It´s been a complete change of career for me but I find the hardest thing of all is saying "no" to a potential new student when I simply have no more time left in my timetable.... I would rate enthusiasm as one of the most important attributes and the satisfaction of seeing the light dawn on a student´s face is worth all the grief!

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on January 12, 2010:

That's true, Elf. I think those with humility are always open to learning more. thanks for reading!

elf_cash on January 12, 2010:

Great list Habee! To those I would add humility, an often overlooked characteristic of strong teachers. I think humility is critical because as a teacher you can ALWAYS get better and staying humble helps people see this more clearly. Too often teachers who are "good" neglect this and as times change can often lose touch with many students. Staying grounded makes sure this doesn't happen and helps teachers stay focused on what is really important.

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on January 12, 2010:

Hi, Jen! Yes, the students definitely know when the teacher is excited about a subject - it's catching! Thanks!

JenDobson27 on January 11, 2010:

Great Hub Habee! I think for me the most important one in the list is "knowledge and love of the subject." That could not be more true. I know for myself and even when I was in school and had to write a paper or do a presentation, if I wasn't really interested in the topic my work would reflect that. It's so apparent when someone truly loves what they do and it's just as apparent when they don't!

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on January 03, 2010:

Thanks, Cashmere, then you were a teacher, also! Now you'll be teaching your baby. Congrats!

cashmere from India on January 03, 2010:

Very well put. I was drawn to the topic as I am an HR Trainer by profession, although after the birth of my baby I have turned a freelance writer.

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on December 21, 2009:

Thanks, TS. If you do all that, you're a teacher!

ThoughtfulSpot from PA on December 19, 2009:

Great read... a lot of very useful advice. Although I am not a teacher by trade, I do train interns at my current position, and have taught in small doses and workshops in the past. The hub is both insightful and very useful! Thanks.

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on December 15, 2009:

LOL! Thanks, Deeanna! I think that's a wonderful idea!

The Rope from SE US on December 15, 2009:

What an insightful look at a difficult profession. Can we make this required reading for all students that say they are pursuing a teaching degree?!? Thanks, I'm emailing it right now.

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on December 09, 2009:

Hi, Kim. It might be even harder with your own kid! I taught my youngest daughter in senior English, and it was especially challenging. I found I was harder on her than on the other students.

kimbaustin from Sunny California on December 08, 2009:

Good teachers are invaluable! As a home schooling mom, I have a newly found appreciation for how difficult it is to do it well! Bravo. Great hub.

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on November 30, 2009:

Yes, Aprince. I think they apply to any sort of instruction. Thanks for reading and commenting!

Manpreet Prince Singh from Sacramento, CA on November 30, 2009:

Habee, I am a flight instructor and teach people how to fly. And all the things you mentioned here in this article are also applicable when teaching aviation. Nice job!

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on November 17, 2009:

Oh, I'll have to go read! Thanks for visiting!

abbyzeeble from Sheffield, United Kingdom on November 17, 2009:

Nice hub; I wrote a similar one a few days ago. I agree that it is definitely a vocation.

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on October 12, 2009:

So true! I love it when former students come back to visit and tell me I made a difference in their lives. No better reward for a teacher!

Vanne Way on October 12, 2009:

Well said!! I am also a teacher truly believe you are born to teach, it is your genes, your heart and soul. While there are many teachers who came to the profession with hopes of saving the world, there are some teachers who come into it with no idea what to expect. As expected they are the first to burn out. I think if someone could put your ideas into practice and prepare newcomers it may eliminate the burn out. We are now facing a huge loss of funds in teaching, class rooms are packed full, supply funds gone, and expectations higher than ever. It can be a daunting task to be a "Good" teacher, but many of us are able to continue. For those of us who stay in there will be many rewards. I have been fortunate to see many of my former students graduate college, and become successful adults. That, for me, is reward enough!

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