What Makes A Good Teacher Become A Great Teacher


What Makes A Good Teacher Become A Great Teacher

by Chris Burley

“The teacher who is indeed wise does not bid you to enter the house of his wisdom but rather leads you to the threshold of your mind.” -Kahlil Gibran

A Tornado In The Classroom

The ruler slammed quickly down onto my teenage hands. This wasn’t the 1950′s but apparently this teacher didn’t know the times had changed. It was 1995, I was in 7th grade, and my Math teacher wasn’t as excited as I was about the imminent tornados outside and the warning sirens across town. See, for me I was excited to hear the wind change, to see the leaves fly to and fro, often being ripped single-handedly by the force of the wind. It was a fascinating, I was still young. Too young to understand the consequences of a tornado on the livelihoods of my midwest town.

At this point, you’re probably thinking this teacher could use an upgrade. That they needed a cultural software update into the 21st century of school discipline and child motivation techniques. The truth is that you’re probably right, but this teacher had bigger challenges to overcome. The sirens were blaring, students were already shuffling and the students needed to be protected, and this teacher was in no position to step into a professional development seminar in order to take care of business.

We had practiced the drills, this wasn’t anything new, but for some reason I was more fascinated with the outdoors than the indoors. After he gained my attention, he said to me in a calm but firm voice, “Chris, I know you are excited. Your fingers hurt right now, but you and many other students might get hurt much worse if you stay in the class.” Then he raised his voice and said “WE HAVE TO GET TO THE LOWER LEVEL NOW!”

5 Different Insights into What Makes a Great Teacher

  1. Cultivating Inspiration – find out what inspires each student and speak to that part of their person …

    “The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.” – William Arthur Ward

  2. Listening – We were born with two ears and one mouth for a reason. Think about it. This doesn’t mean you have to be a quiet mouse, but it does encourage you as a teacher to spent at least as much time listening and actually hearing what students are asking for. Each interaction is an opportunity to create a stronger connection and greater trust with your student. The stronger that connection the deeper the learning will be.
  3. Creativity – You have heard it time and time again … “You are only limited by your imagination.” The honest to good reality is that … it’s true. Our creativity, particularly our ability to imagine solutions to whatever is before is is one of the single deciding factors as to whether we can make something work out or not.
  4. Validated Teaching – When we are on stage, we often feel like we can command the entire classrooms attention. This is easier said than done. In fact, I challenge anyone to keep the attention of any set of middle schoolers for longer than 4 minutes. Go! The point I’m trying to make is that testing your techniques is essential to improving your teaching abilities. It’s not necessary to give your students surveys but try to seek consistent feedback, to scrap something you were told worked last year for a new methodology this year. The key is to never ASSUME what you’re doing is effective, but to VALIDATE it.
  5. Questioning – Igniting the answer inside someone is much more powerful and enduring than telling them the answer. Many people know this already, but a bigger challenge is getting the students to figure out the questions they themselves need to ask in order to figure out the answers. Questioning directs our energy towards information and answers. A well formed question can ignite imagination, and can solidify the truth. Questions can direct students away from problems and towards finding solutions.

What do you think makes a good teacher a great teacher? What actions have you seen expand your impact in (and out of) the classroom?


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