14 September 2009 04:11 PM

Qualities of a Good Teacher

by Dr. Rick

As the new school year was gearing up recently, a reporter asked me what qualities I thought were necessary for a successful teaching career.  Any suggestions for new teachers?  As a forty-year teacher of 10th, 11th, and 12th grade students, I can attest to a few traits that can serve teachers well.

  1. A love of kids.  Most days, anyway.  Some days you’ll love them more, some days less, but if you don't like spending your days with young people, teaching them, learning from them, and affecting their lives in ways you'll never suspect, then you're in the wrong profession.

  2. Patience.  Yes, your patience is tested every day, so you'll need to have an abundance of it.  Most of this patience-testing will be frustrating while it's occurring, but it'll make you smile later.

  3. Persistence.  You can't give up.  What's more important, and therefore deserving of persistence, than helping kids learn new information and skills?

  4. A sense of humor.  Every day you'll have a funny story to tell.  Guaranteed.  Over the years, I’ve accumulated so many funny stories I could write a book.  So could every teacher.

  5. A sense of urgency.  What you do is vital.  Kids, especially high schoolers, live their lives urgently, at fever pitch, and they need adults to guide, support, encourage, listen to, and occasionally nag them.  Be that special teacher who "reaches" a student and affects her life forever.

  6. A love of a particular subject matter.  My subject happens to be English, but it doesn't matter what your particular academic passion is.  Share your love for music, math, science, history, technology, the arts, or sports.  Kids love to learn new things, so introduce them to the things that make your life worthwhile.  Leave a legacy of learning.

  7. A feeling that what you do is a "mission."  If "affecting the future" doesn't count as a mission, I don't know what does.  The best, most successful teachers I’ve known over the years have that feeling, that special calling -- it's almost religious.  No, actually it is religious.

  8. A love of lifelong learning.  Help kids recognize that lifelong learning is as important to the mind as lifelong healthy habits are to the body.

  9. A love of challenge.  You'll have plenty of challenges, intellectual, physical, social, and interpersonal.  You’ll go to bed exhausted every night.  But you’ll have a sense of reward for a difficult job well done, making it easier to get up in the mornings, ready to face the next challenge.

  10. Job security, plus summers, too.  There will always be a need for good, dedicated teachers, especially in difficult areas with needy students and in certain academic disciplines like math, technology, foreign languages, and special education.  Plus, let’s face it, summer vacations are a main draw.  This is a great time to study, read up on your subject, re-charge your batteries, discover new talents and interests, or spend high-quality time with your own vacationing children.  You won't be paid, so you'll learn another important life skill -- budgeting during the year so you can enjoy summers!

For some more thoughts on this topic, see my blog post, The Most Important Profession.


And if you have special teachers you’d like to thank, reminisce about, or celebrate, share them with us.  Click on “Comments” below.


Add comment


  • Comment
  • Preview

Blog Posting Rules

This blog is for the good of education - for students, for teachers and for parents. I very much value a two-way communication with you and welcome and encourage your comments and feedback. However, to facilitate a constructive conversation that is beneficial to everyone in this online community, I expect the same respect in your comments that I present in my blog.

Read the full Dr. Rick Blog Posting Rules.