Sunday, January 11, 2015

Good vs. Great Teachers

What separates the good teachers from the great teachers? Is it that the great teachers know more about their subject area? Is it that they are funnier, better joke or story tellers, or better communicators?

In my 20+ years of experience, I think what separates the good from the great is the willingness to learn. The good teacher must not only be willing to learn about their subject area and effective ways to teach it, they must also be willing to learn about themselves and their learners, increase self-awareness, and be willing to act on the information they learn.

Former superintendent of Tacoma (WA) Public Schools, Dr. Art Jarvis, stated this about what makes a great teacher:
"Much of what makes a great teacher today is the same as it has always been. It's a passion for a subject, an inherently caring attitude, the ability to trigger receptiveness to learning in children, and a knack for coaching kids in fun ways. But today, that's no longer enough. In education we are facing a sea of change in high technology and higher expectations." 
The only constant in education, as in life, is change. Especially now, with the rapid changes in technology and their applications in education, a teacher must be willing to change, and to do that requires an ability and desire to learn. 

The Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership produced the following animation: 

Dr. Maryellen Weimer, author of "Learner-Centered Teaching: Five Key Changes to Practice," writes for The Teaching Professor Blog, and wrote an article titled, "Seven Characteristics of Good Learners."

Here are the seven characteristics that she identifies, which are applicable to students as well as teachers: (see her blog post for more information about each characteristic.)

1. Good learners are curious
2. Good learners pursue understanding diligently
3. Good learners recognize that a lot of learning isn’t fun
4. Failure frightens good learners, but they know it’s beneficial 
5. Good learners make knowledge their own 
6. Good learners never run out of questions 
7. Good learners share what they’ve learned

Teachers, are these the characteristics that you possess or are working on? Would you add any to this list?

Administrators, are these the characteristics  you look for in prospective teachers? How do you foster growth in these characteristics in your current teachers? Would you add any to this list?


  1. Spot on! Curiosity and collaborators is essential among the many things you mention. I am a big fan of Todd Whitaker and his work. You share many of the same perspectives. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Jennifer you hit the nail on the head. We must continue to learn or be left behind. We also need to surround ourselves with lifelong learners to help us keep up. Twitter and blogging have helped to keep me fresh and as current as possible. Thank you for reminding us what is important.