What makes a great teacher?

what makes a great teacher

In our latest post, we look at what makes a great teacher and examine some of the qualities and characteristics that ‘great' teachers often share.

Being an outstanding teacher every minute of every day is both unrealistic and unsustainable. You’ll know because you’re there doing it, and it's utterly exhausting.

Giving ourselves permission to be real teachers that are kind, honest and hard-working is the most we can do.

Lists of what ‘good' teachers do can never be definitive, and the number of qualities and personal characteristics can stretch from Swansea to Shanghai and back. There does seem to be some things effective teachers do ‘do’.


Characteristics of great teachers

Here is a list of some things great teachers might be, in no particular order. You can move them up and down and mesh them together if you like. Take a look and see just how many of them you are.

1. Child-centred – know their children, what makes them tick and want the best for them.

2. Organised – prepare like ninjas and are efficient and organised classroom managers.

3. Empathetic – listen to children, really listen.

4. Aware – use their observations to understand what children know and can do.

5. Optimistic – face daily challenges with optimism and a positive attitude.

6. Energetic – maintain enthusiasm and keep children eager to learn.

7. Flexible – responsive to change and can go with the flow.

8. Collaborative – work efficiently alongside colleagues and share a teamwork mentality.

9. Imaginative – seek out unusual ideas, new ways of working and scintillating strategies.

10. Sensible – make wise choices about ‘new initiatives’ and know when to adapt them or not.

11. Reflective – evaluate their performance critically and take feedback on the chin, knowing there is always room for improvement.

12. Consistent – reliable and unswerving in their pursuit of high standards.

13. Brave – take risks and lead children to discover their passions, not through the ordinary but the extraordinary.

14. Curious – arouse children's curiosity by asking searching questions that encourage divergent thinking and creativity.

15. Kind – show empathy and understanding for all children regardless of ability or circumstance.

16. Knowledgeable – willing to learn more and to keep their knowledge and skills as up-to-date as possible.

17. Fun – not afraid to make a fool of themselves.

18. Flawed – recognise that they cannot and will not ever be fault free and that failure is an inevitable part of any working week.


Children's perspective

Of course the people we need to ask about what makes an effective teacher are the children themselves. Their instinctive responses include someone who is gentle, kind and caring, who will push them and encourage them to ‘think for themselves’ as well as help them ‘when they get stuck’. They like teachers who smile and who are funny but sometimes serious, teachers who treat everyone the same, laugh, forgive, and make a difference. They don’t like teachers who shout.

If you're all or even some of the things on the list then don't be so hard on yourself. You're great. Heck, you’re wonderful!

But if you feel you need a little inspiration, help with planning, assessment or a tricky resource, then give one of our Schools Consultants a call.

For an overview of the Teachers’ Standards Guidance for school leaders, school staff and governing bodies, click here.

Published by

Melanie Moore

Mel is Curriculum Director and the author of the Cornerstones Curriculum. She writes, edits and oversees all curriculum materials and leads our creative team. Mel has over 20 years of primary teaching experience, including as a deputy headteacher. She has also been a teacher adviser and a local authority strategy adviser.

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