“Great teachers become great.” -Mary Kooy

Below lies a blog post I wrote for my education course this term. I found it to be a thought-provoking assignment, and am curious what others think.

What do you think are important characteristics/traits of educators and why?
Empathy is an important trait that educators should have. Encompassed in empathy is genuine care and warmth, and I firmly believe that all educators need to possess this. This is something that can be learned, but that some people inherently have. Empathy is a skill that pushes an educator to see the student in the back of the room struggling to maintain his focus, because maybe lecturing is not how he best learns. It is what causes them to reach out to the student and say, “How can I make this material manageable for you? What can I change about my teaching to be more relatable for you?”

In relation to empathy, I believe educators are malleable, and able to bend to meet the needs of the student. They understand that there are different types of learners and that not everyone will succeed in the same way. In fact, success may look extremely different for learner A than for learner B. Educators recognize this and are able to congratulate and encourage learners to continue their work in the way that best suits them, while providing a platform for help and resources for those who need it. Educators understand that the real success is in the journey of learning, rather than the outcome on the exam.

What do you think are important types of skills/abilities/talents educators possess and why?

As stated above, malleability, or flexibility, is a key ability that educators have in their toolbox. They reach out to the students who are goofing off in class and recognize that whatever they are doing is not enough to capture their attention, so they need to find a way to be more interesting than the gossip. This may mean digging up new material, or rethinking old material. Either way, the educator should be able to meet the needs of the students by engaging their senses and finding ways for the process of learning to be better entertainment than the drama.

I also think that educators hold the ability to lighten any topic. Say a student fails an exam and is feeling down about it. The educator, rather than scolding the student, should look at them and say, “What can I do better? How can I help you get the results you want?” Again, this is where the flexibility comes in- results look different for every individual. Some students want to see an A+ on their exam. Others want to raise their grade a few percentage points. And some may benefit more from writing an essay about their learning rather than taking a multiple choice test.

Are there any important rewards of being an educator?

Definitely, and I believe my experience tutoring and mentoring freshman in high school have shown me those rewards. I firmly feel that service, which is truly what being an educator is, is the most enlightening way to find your own true potential. Students challenge you. They say, “Miss, why do I have to learn this? Miss, I don’t wanna do this right now.” It is your role to challenge them back.

Walking into a classroom everyday should inspire you to learn just as much as the students will that day, if not more. Seeing your students should brighten your day, and I have found that for me, it does. Watching my students go from not understanding how to solve an expression to completing it the next day with ease in the new way I taught them is completely indescribable. I take zero credit for their success- it is their dedication to learning and asking questions that gets them to where they are today. That is the most rewarding thing.

What knowledge is necessary to be an educator and why?
To be an educator is to be a learner for life. You are always changing, evolving your course to meet the needs of today’s world. Everyday there are new innovations and discoveries in every field imaginable. Therefore, to be an educator, you must first be an ever-eager learner.

You should be a master of your craft, if you can be. It is essential to be challenged by the students. They should strive to pass you in knowledge- you must not let them, but let them think they can. You should know how to keep them vigorous, even when the stakes seem low.

Lastly, to be an educator you must believe in the individual. You must understand the complexities of the mind, and imagine what it is like to walk in someone else’s shoes for a not just a day, but a lifetime. You must know your students. Of course this takes time- but an educator hits the ground running. To expect students to be vulnerable, you must be vulnerable yourself. An educator finds a way to incorporate the lives on their students into their work.

What are your thoughts? What are the qualities of a great teacher?