How do we know which students to pick?
Second in the series Raising Teachers
Ah, those eager, youthful faces that fill our classrooms . . . and perhaps those not so eager ones. Are any of them the faces of great future teachers? Which ones? Those with high grade point averages? Maybe the ones who have perfect attendance; they like school, right? Surely it must be the ones who always turn in their homework. Or maybe not. Maybe none of these indicators signal future success as an outstanding classroom teacher. If educators have the opportunity to hand select, cultivate, and nurture their future colleagues from the students they currently teach, which students should they pick?
The National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future widely cited research piece What Matters Most: Teaching for America’s Future, chaired by Stanford researcher Linda Darling-Hammond, reported that “literally hundreds of studies confirm that the best teachers know their subjects deeply; understand how people learn them, and have mastered a range of teaching methods.” This knowledge is helpful to principals and HR personnel who will hire teachers once they have earned their credentials, but what indicators could classroom teachers use to identify potentially great teachers from their high school students who haven’t even started down the education career path?
The good news is there are certain attributes many great teachers possess. These characteristics are not related to content knowledge, pedagogy, or advanced degrees. They cannot be learned or acquired through coursework and textbooks. Simply, they are the natural qualities of an individual’s personality.
The following is compiled from various researchers and is not considered an exclusive list, but certainly one that could guide us in identifying young people who may be “natural-born educators.”
Naturally great teachers are known to be:
- Flexible, tolerant, and democratic
- Caring and nurturing
- Encouraging and warm
- Task-oriented and self-motivated
- Fair and respectful
- Humorous and joyful
- Believe they can make a difference
- Listen and communicate well
- Overcome stereotypes
- Enjoy and respect people as individuals
- Have positive personal interactions with others
- Demonstrate “withitness” (i.e. the ability to “be in the moment” and able to react appropriately)
“Teaching is the only major occupation of man for which we have not yet developed tools that make an average person capable of competence and performance. In teaching we rely on the “naturals,” the ones who somehow know how to teach.” – Peter Drucker, 2007
Now look at those youthful faces again. See any natural-born teachers? Go tell them so and get them on the path to a classroom near you.
Previous post in this series: Picking Future Teachers