What should we look for in a good teacher?

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We often face questions from parents and colleagues about how we select teachers to work in our schools. With no single right answer to what makes a good teacher, I thought I would take this opportunity to share what I originally wrote here:

It is a difficult job selecting the most important qualities for a teacher to be considered a good teacher, opinions can differ widely. School leaders, parents, students and teachers themselves all have differing views on what constitutes a good teacher.

Should teachers be first and foremost caring and take pride in their work? If we have very caring teachers, then we can rest assured that our students will be looked after and given a safe classroom environment in which to learn. Those teachers who take a huge amount of pride in their work, perhaps will go that extra mile to help a student, or perhaps they are so diligent that they work so hard to avoid making error in their work.

Do we want teachers who are committed to working as part of a team to ensure student success, or are we content with a teacher that, while they may be competent, only works in isolation with their classes and does not share or work with others? If the teacher is great individually, is a school willing to accept the them perhaps not being a particularly great team player.

Should Secondary School teachers be masters of their subject content? What do the letters after a person’s name signify? What does the educational qualification we have, or the learning institution that we attended signify? If I attended Harvard, does this necessarily mean that I am going to be a good teacher?

What about teaching experience? Is a classroom practitioner of 20 years’ experience teaching the IB Diploma going to be better than a teacher with two years’ experience just starting to teach their first class of IB Diploma students?

What I can tell you is that care, concern and collaboration are far more important qualities to have in teachers than being a master of content or being highly experienced. Focusing on the latter two qualities, having experience does not make someone an expert, not, for that matter, does having a long list of letters after your name having attended a highly regarded educational institution. That is not to say that these two qualities are not important; they certainly help in providing good teaching.

Above all, what is most important is that teachers are learners. They are educators that constantly strive to improve their practice and this is why care, concern and collaboration are so important. If a teacher cares enough, has concern for their students’ learning and is willing to learn with their colleagues, then you can have a school with teachers that constantly seek to be great, not just individually, but collectively. That is what I believe our students need in a teacher and in a school.

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