All good teachers:
1. Genuinely like children and enjoy being around them. Just like parents with their own kids, they take pleasure and pride in their students’ growth and development.
2. Genuinely enjoy teaching, too. This is a critical factor because teaching is essentially a modeling process and students learn much more readily when their teachers exhibit joy in what they’re doing. And as a result, good teachers feel energized at the end of the day, not drained.
3. Are openhearted. They care about their students’ lives, present and future, and they address their students’ shortcomings and transgressions compassionately, not judgmentally.
4. Recognize that teaching isn’t something they do to or for children; rather it’s a reciprocal exchange of energy within a relationship. Good teachers also realize they are continually learning from their students too.
5. Trust in the innate wisdom of the learning process and in their students’ intrinsic desire to learn. They don’t try to force learning to happen by resorting to extrinsic motivators like rewards and punishments.
6. Are authoritative, not authoritarian. Authoritarian teachers are highly controlling,consider their authority non-negotiable, and maintain their control with punitive discipline. They feel threatened by a child’s expressions of independence and individuality. Authoritative adults set firm, consistent limits on out-of-bounds behavior, but don’t hem students in with restrictions. They maintain their natural adult authority while at the same time respecting the child’s point of view and encouraging verbal give and take. As their students grow more responsible, they extend them increasing levels of independence.
7. Understand the fundamental role that emotions play in a child’s complete development. They are emotionally self-aware and make sure the environment is welcoming and safe so that their students feel comfortable being themselves and don’t feel they have to hide their vulnerabilities.
8. Continue to work on their own personal and professional development, because as Joseph Chilton Pearce once said, “Teachers teach who they are.” Good teachers realize they can’t guide their students to places they haven’t already been themselves.
9. Are facilitators of learning, not taskmasters. “Facilitate” literally means “to make easier,” and the most fundamental purpose of teaching is to help the student learn how to learn with ease and efficiency.
10. Acknowledge the individuality of their students and don’t expect them all to be interested in the same things at the same time, or to learn in the same way.
11. Assume it’s their responsibility to present things in a way that every individual learner can understand, and not the learner’s job to adapt to the teacher’s methods. Good teachers continue to try different approaches until they find the key that unlocks the door to the learner’s understanding.
12. Are good communicators. They speak clearly, with honesty and respect; and they make sure that their criticism is constructive and always based on “I” messages. And then they listen carefully to what their students have to say, encourage them to speak freely, and value their opinions.
13. Understand that learning doesn’t happen under duress. They make sure that anxiety and stress have no place in the learning environment.
14. Are flexible. Aware that a lot of important learning is serendipitous and synchronistic, they are able to shift gears quickly in order to stay in synch with their students’ shifting moods and interests.
15. Know how important it is for children to take responsibility for their own education and their own actions, and so they share initiative, power, and control with them.
16. Respect a child’s inalienable right to say “no.” They don’t force their students to do things they aren’t ready or willing to do.
17. Build strong relationships with each and every student. They also facilitate students doing the same with one another.
18. Recognize the deep developmental value of play. They provide ample free play opportunities for their students, and they also make sure there’s enough play in their own lives because they know how much play re-energizes and restores them.
19. Understand that experience is the best teacher. They minimize the amount of instruction they do by creating a rich, resource-filled environment—with abundant connections to the outside world—that enables students to learn by doing and discovering.
20. Consider teaching to be a calling. They view their work as an authentic sharing of themselves and a way to make the world a better place, not a professional role that confers them status and a paycheck.
All good teachers: