I am not a teacher nor will I probably ever be one. It takes a certain skillset and personality type to be in education and an even greater one to be a good teacher.
And while I may never know what it is like to be a teacher, I do have an idea as to what it takes to be a good one. How, you ask? Because I have the opportunity to review hundreds of nominations each year for our LifeChanger of the Year program. I get to see what America’s teachers and school employees are doing to make a positive difference on our youth. And it’s clear that the educators that stand out among their peers share a common set of characteristics.
1. They are life-long learners. “A great teacher is not afraid to learn right alongside their students,” – Julie Ahearn, LifeChanger of the Year nominee, Illinois
2. They are not afraid to ask for help. And they are happy to offer it up, too. Good teachers live by the African proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child.”
“My professional learning network motivates me daily. This network includes teachers from all over the world that share ideas and tools to be a successful and confident teacher. Even as a veteran teacher, I am always looking for new and exciting ways to teach my content.” Jessie Beth Miller, LifeChanger of the Year nominee, Tennessee
3. They are resourceful. Today’s teacher really doesn’t have any other choice. With a lack of funding and hours in the day, and teachers often being asked to take on even more, good teachers need to be creative in order to be effective.
4. They have extraordinary vision. I’m not sure but I think teachers must have some special invisible goggles they all wear that allow them to see things most people can’t.
“Remember that students who are hardest to reach often have the most potential. You just have to get creative to reach them. Let them be the teacher.” – Kristi Kicklighter, 2014-15 LifeChanger of the Year finalist, North Carolina
5. They advocate. A good teacher champions their students. Each and every one of them. Not only will they advocate for a student at each and every turn, but they will also teach students how to advocate for themselves.
6. They listen. To be a good teacher you must be able to connect with your students, which means you must be able to listen to them.
“Listen more than you talk…observe while you talk…sometimes being that ear is worth all the advice you might want to spout.” Kathy Bosiak, 2014-15 LifeChanger , North Carolina
7. They find balance. No, I’m not talking about yoga. I’m talking about their ability to mix tried-and-true approaches with modern, fresh ideas. Good teachers know what works but, by the same token are not afraid to take risks.
“Be willing to try new ideas, but don’t throw out what works.” – Staynnye Meads, LifeChanger of the Year nominee, Wisonsin
8. They persevere. “Teaching is the hardest, most rewarding job there is. It is also often a thankless job. My advice to fellow teachers is to never give up and surround yourself with positive influences and people.” Amy Doolin, LifeChanger of the Year nominee, New Hampshire
Jenny Granger, one of our 2014-15 LifeChanger of the Year winners who has been an educator for 21 years has some great advice, too: “When it seems like every corner you turn has a ‘no’ blocking the way, see what you can do to turn it into a ‘not yet’.”
9. They have a good sense of humor. They understand the importance of laughter. As one of our nominee’s says, “It’s important to laugh every day. I teach middle school, which can be challenging, so those silly moments keep you going.” – Judy Bremner, LifeChanger of the Year nominee, Florida
10. They have passion. They are passionate about educating and they love their children. Kristi Kicklighter, 2014-15 LifeChanger of the Year finalist said it well, “Kids don’t care what you know until they know how much you care.”