What makes a good teacher?

I’ve written a lot about inspirational teachers in the past few weeks. I suppose the reason is a mix of my kids having excellent teachers this year and thinking back (a lot) over the past few years, my choices, adventures and changes I’ve made and how, when it all comes together, my education truly did make a difference in whom I’ve become. So, today, I ask, “what makes a good teacher?”

{This is a sponsored post to share the REAL CHANGE program at Office Depot and tomorrow night’s show on CBS on April 23, 2013}

justin beiber, miley cyrus, office depot, real change show, real change tv

Reading back over those past posts and looking at relationships that I’ve had and my kids have with their most effective teachers, I notice a few common threads.

What makes a good teacher?

Connection

Relationships are all about connections, so says Dr. Laura Markham in her parenting advice. The same goes for relationships between students and teachers. When teachers and students have something in common, they’re more likely to connect in the classroom. Making a connection isn’t difficult… but taking time to figure out what that connection is… that’s what’s difficult.

As students get to older grades, making a connection is easier. They begin to select courses that interest them, using their interest as an instant connection to the teacher. It’s no wonder that in last week’s post, I mentioned connections to a number of my English and reading teachers–I’m a writer. That connection developed in my youth. Even as I think back to memories of elementary school, it was the teachers who gave us opportunity to write with creative means that I connected with most.

Understanding

It doesn’t always happen this way, but when a teacher understands a student, and a student understands a teacher, they’ll likely have an effective relationship. Sometimes this connection makes us uncomfortable, for example, the teacher who’s student reminds her so much of herself, or her own child that she pushes the student to do more, or be more, or be something else as she wishes she had been pushed. Oftentimes, when this happens, students (and teachers) feel resentment. But looking back, it’s those relationships that make a difference. Pushing is good. High expectations are necessary for a strong education.

Respect

It’s all about respect, isn’t it? Teachers who respect the learning process, learning differences and many learning opportunities in their surroundings open up worlds of opportunities for their students.

Honesty

Sometimes we don’t want to hear the truth, but when teachers can be respectfully honest with their students (and the parents of their students) will lead students into the proper ways for them to learn. And by honesty, I’m not suggesting they tell students “you suck at math and you’ll never be good” but I mean the teachers who will say to students and parents “you are (or your child is) having a bit of difficulty with multiplication. You need to spend extra time learning it because the next step of math is going to be even harder.” For the older kids, being honest sometimes works in the form of questioning students. If a teacher asks students honest questions, forcing them to consider and reconsider choices, ideas and concepts, they’ll learn more about themselves (and, usually, make better choice, idea, understand a concept stronger and connect more with the teacher.)

Willingness to learn and change

Teachers know a lot. They study the concepts they’re teaching day after day, year after year. But things change. They evolve. Educational strategies change as does technology. When teachers are willing to learn and change, they’ll encourage students to continue learning and enjoy learning.

Artists for Education

Tomorrow night (April 23, 2013), join Office Depot (presenting sponsor and retail partner) and CBS for a star-studded event, Artists for Education. Check your local listings or watch it online to see too musical stars such as Miley Cyrus, Justin Bieber and Pitbull highlight the heroic role of education and teachers. Watch the trailer: (tissue warning!)

Support your teachers to make a change

Office Depot is a retailer that gets school – that cares about teachers and their challenges and understands what they need to
thrive. You can support teachers as they change lives. Learn how.

I am an Office Depot REAL Change blog ambassador. This post is part of a campaign where I was compensated for my time. To learn more about REAL Change, visit their website.

mom of 3 and wife living in the Philadelphia suburbs, Julie is a former elementary school teacher and a Public Relations manager. She is the owner/editor of Julieverse, a merchandiser with Chloe + Isabel (jewelryverse.com) and founder VlogMom and Splash Creative Media. A marketing strategist and freelance education and parenting writer by trade, Julie attempts to carve out time to enjoy playing with her kids, PTO, cooking and exercise.

© 2013, Julie Meyers Pron. All rights reserved.

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