What makes a good teacher? I ask myself this every day since this is not only my profession but also my calling. Is it having a strong curriculum or tough rules? Is it being caring and understanding? Is it knowing your content area so well that you can teach with your mind almost shut off? I think it’s a bit of all of these things and more, so much more than any average person can understand.
I am new to the teaching game, but I think I have a perspective on what makes a good teacher because I’ve seen some great ones as well as a few terrible ones. As a student, I learned the best from teachers who showed a joy for their subject, who didn’t seem to be there because it was their job. These teachers loved their subject and they loved us too.
As a teacher, the same still applies. Kids respond to teachers who have passion not only for their subjects but for seeing kids learn and succeed and gain new skills that they struggled to learn. My kids love me because I love them. I want them to grow into not just functional adults but inspired adults, the kind of people who can see the problems of the world and who strive to fix them, to change the wrongs and create paths to right.
A teacher should not just worry about imparting knowledge about English or history or science. We should worry about making our students into productive humans, into good people. We have a poster in every classroom at my school that says “All professions begin with a teacher.” That’s not it exactly, but you get the idea. Without good teachers, great teachers, we wouldn’t have amazing surgeons or inspired artists. We wouldn’t have counselors or firefighters or lawyers. Teachers hold the future in their hands and we can make or break that future.
My kids know I care about them, know that my world revolves around them. Teachers work tirelessly to provide their students with the best education possible. We take time away from our own lives, families, hobbies, rest, so that our students can feel successful and loved and worthy. So many parents today don’t see the beauty in their own children’s faces. They don’t see the pain behind their children’s eyes. Teachers see this every day. We watch as kids enter our rooms with their broken hearts and their dirty clothes. We see them struggle to stay awake because their parents kept them up all night caring more about parties than their child’s needed rest. I watch as my kids’ stomachs growl and churn because they didn’t eat since the school-provided lunch that they ate yesterday. Yet, these resilient kids stay focused and smile when they see that A or B on their papers.
A good teacher, a great teacher sacrifices for her kids so that they can succeed. She stays up late grading papers, making positive comments on each one so that her students can feel joy in their struggle to learn. A good teacher cares about her students. Truly cares and often more about them than she does about herself. A good teacher sacrifices for her kids and devotes her life to watching them grow. A good teacher is not proud of her accomplishments but of those her students make. She loves them unconditionally even when they argue or yell or swear or cry in frustration. She persists even when they fight against her. She doesn’t turn away when things get difficult and she shows her students that hard work is the best reward. She teaches them that nothing is impossible.
Perhaps some may say that a good teacher makes sure her students have A’s or are well mannered, but I believe a good teacher truly cares about her kids and shows them with every move she makes. I have picked kids up when they didn’t have rides, stayed for game after game to cheer them on, slept few hours so that I could hand back grades that they so wanted to see, listened for hours about traumas they have suffered, sat in meetings to make sure they don’t harm themselves, taken classes to improve my own skills, and cried when they tell me of their heartbreak and struggles. To me, all of this is what truly makes a teacher great. Nothing less and always more.