Those working in education know the official requirements of the job: a University degree, QTS or similar certifications, legal background checks, the right to work in the country where you are employed and regular refresher training. However, there is no official guidance for becoming a successful educator.
With an ever-growing teacher shortage and around 50% of all NQTs leaving the profession completely in the first five years of their career, many young professionals may be wondering if they are really cut out for the job. The differences between an average and an exceptional educator are largely based on personality, attitude and ability to grow and change – which can all be continually adapted to create the best possible learning experience.
Here are five qualities that make the best education professionals.
What Makes a Great Teacher?
Dedication is demonstrated by going above and beyond the job, time and again. Whilst high workloads and stacks of marking can affect the time needed for planning and ideas generation, the best teaching professionals ensure every lesson is stimulating, challenging and beneficial for each student. Rather than simply following the curriculum, gifted educators aim to spark discussion in their classes, enabling students to explore new possibilities and develop personally as well as Academically.
The Covid-19 pandemic thrust the importance of key workers in health, social care and education into the spotlight. Many school staff remained at work during lockdown to educate children of keyworkers and took a core role in the pastoral care of children with SEND (Special Education Needs or Disabilities) and vulnerable children at risk from poverty, abuse and neglect. Some staff continued to work over half-terms and holidays to provide intervention and catch-up classes, and all during an incredibly difficult time where colleagues were forced to self-isolate, reducing low staff numbers further, and often without additional resources. The challenges of 2020 have evidenced the critical importance of the unpaid aspects of a job in education to young people across the country, and the vital role of a dedicated teacher to each child and family.
A sense of purpose means being able to see beyond the difficulties and roadblocks of the current day, and keep a longer-term view that takes into account the full picture of every child and their situation. Caring professionals will be truly invested in their duties and see their roles as more than just a day job, but as making a difference to hundreds of young lives, both in educating them through their school careers and preparing them for a positive, happy life experience.
Communication is key in every job in every sector, but even more vital when interacting with children and young people. The ability to listen as well as talk, and learn as well as instruct, form the basis for successful classroom learning and support each individual child. Proactive praise, encouragement in the face of difficulties and anticipating challenges ahead of new situations can transform a withdrawn and underachieving child into an engaged and successful student.
Teacher reads with student. Displaying qualities of a good teacher, including care.
A positive mental attitude to proactive learning and developing your own skill set is the cornerstone of adaptability. Whilst support from Heads and Principals is crucial, the most successful professionals are those who can continue to improve without continuous direct feedback from superiors. Resilience during a period of insufficient support, and positivity in the face of a lacklustre response to a creative lesson plan, ensure educators learn from their own experiences and take prompt action.
Adaptable professionals welcome change in the classroom, and use every new experience as a chance to develop their tools and ideas. Successful educators take time to reflect on their methods and the impact on their classes, to uncover and confront weaknesses that can be improved.
Adapting extends to tailoring attainments standards for each child: setting high expectations for those who are able, still encouraging those who struggle and ensuring no student is left unchallenged. Positive responses to unplanned for and difficult situations are the mark of a flexible and competent educator: the ability to quickly change a schedule, provide urgent support and calm a sudden crisis will best help children and young people when they need it most.
Adaptable adults are strong role models for children across demographics, but particularly looked-after children and those who belong to minority groups. Your students will see how you respond to setbacks and will use this to inform their own responses to setbacks in their education and lives. Transparency around failure sets a precedent for positive responses to challenges, and strengthens communication between teachers and pupils.
An organised approach to lesson planning can improve time management, education quality and pupil attainment. Written SMART objectives inform clear goals and measurements for teachers and classes. Students will understand not only what they need to learn, the structure of each lesson and how they will be graded, but exactly why they need to learn it. Pupils who are more aware of the value their learning delivers will be more invested in each class and more likely to build and develop new skills. Physical classroom environments can also be considered and adapted to minimise distractions and provide the most engaging atmosphere for learning.
Organised lesson plans help professionals to prepare effectively for each day, improving teaching quality and reducing stress levels which in turn facilitate the necessary calm and patient attitude. Ownership of the Academic year and a professional’s own career path can drive motivation and success in teachers and students.
5. Passion & Enthusiasm
Whilst subject knowledge is vital to any education position, a true passion for the subject you are teaching is one of the most important characteristics in a great teacher. Genuine enthusiasm can’t help but shine through, helping to inspire intrigue and excitement in students for English, Maths, Science and across all school subjects.
Education professionals who keep up to date with trends and new knowledge developments will have the ability to be much more creative when lesson planning. An excellent knowledge bank will satisfy the curiosity of even the most advanced students, who can not only receive answers to their questions and problems, but can also be challenged to further question and learn beyond the curriculum.
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