Home › Forums › Why Don’t Students Like School? By Daniel T. Willingham › Chapter 3 › What makes a good teacher? › What Makes a Good Teacher?
I think that Willingham makes many characteristics that stand out for teachers. One of the characteristics that I did like that he talked about was being able to be approachable. I think that there is a fine line between being too approachable where students walk all over you and being unapproachable, where students are less likely to participate and trust you in the class. I do not think that all teachers need to be storytellers. I think that teachers should be interactive and caring but I think that being a storyteller is not the number one characteristic because it is not the only way that students are learning. Stories may not work for every child, so without other characteristics, this characteristic is not as meaningful.
Willingham states that a good teacher has a certain style about them, while simultaneously having a knack for getting students to think through meaning and application. He then points out that what it really boils down to though is that the teacher seems like a good person in some way or another, and that they organize the class effectively. I think that both of these statements are very true. All of my favorite teachers have been the ones that I felt I had some level of a bond with. My high school geometry teacher was not a great teacher of the subject, but he was one of my favorite high school teachers because he had a big personality. I think that in showing students your true personality, you become more interesting to the students. This interest in you as a teacher can facilitate more student motivation to learn from you. Organization is also a huge factor for all types of students. Type A students will be annoyed if you aren’t as organized as they are, and Type B students need the structure and organization to guide them.
I think the concept of story telling as a means to teach is very interesting, but kind of ideological in many senses. It could work effectively with younger children in a handful of subjects, but I didn’t quite gather the application to upper level algebra or sciences from reading the chapter. It certainly has a place in education as a tool, but I don’t think it is as key as Willingham seems to think it is.
I don’t necessarily agree with Willingham that teachers need to be approachable, I would argue they need to be authentic. This doesn’t necessarily mean you live your personal life as an open book to your students, but you have to show students you are human, do “normal” people things, and make mistakes too. Trying to maintain a dictator divide between teacher and student creates a barrier. You have to meet them at their level, but not make them feel ashamed that they are at that level.
I agree organization is a key component to good teaching. Structure, consistency, routine, and predictability are necessary. It helps students feel comfortable, know what to expect, and hopefully curb anxiety and fear. School becomes a safe place, because they know and understand the expectation.
I think the final thing a good teacher needs is nurturing. I don’t mean motherly kindergarten teachers who swoop in like a mother bird to protect her babies. I mean teachers who express encouragement into their students in a way that makes them believe they can achieve anything. If you have ever seen “Stand & Deliver,” Jaime Escalante does this. My AP US history teacher in high school did this too. I don’t know how to describe it and I don’t know if you can “teach” it to others. It is something special they had that worked. I think it becomes an element that “good” teacher can be made, but there are some that are just “born.”
Willingham says that a good teacher is both approachable and organized. For the most part I agree with both of these qualities. The majority of teachers that I thought were the “best” did have both of these. But, I’ve also had a few teachers that I was terrified of when in their class, but this was still very effective for me. They were more “strict” and less approachable, but they were still amazing teachers. Both typically yielded classes with very high test scores, and I came out of both feeling like I learned a lot. In terms of organization, I think that quality is a crucial one. A teacher and their classroom need to have both structure and consistency. This will help learners get into a “rhythm” and make the classroom environment more comfortable.
What other qualities do good teachers possess? I like Jared’s word of “nurturing” because I do think we learn from those we feel care about our learning. When I’m learning, if I feel the teacher does not care about my acquisition of the knowledge/skills, I’m super disengaged. I would add that knowledge is important although Courtney dispelled that a bit with her geometry teacher example. I am drawn to people who are very knowledgeable about things I want to learn about.
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