The traits of super teachers

There is no such thing as a super teacher. But if one did exist, what abilities would they exhibit? John Dabell looks at some of the traits of great teachers and urges all teachers to reject imposter syndrome and recognise their many talents…in SecEd

Teaching is technically, physically and mentally demanding. Although all the complex component skills can be studied, isolated, practised, and ultimately improved upon, the real teaching bit is hard to get right because our personalities get in the way.

Don’t you just hate “those” teachers. You know the ones I mean. Seemingly genetically blessed, they have that knack for teaching and make it look all so easy. Is there a special factory making these limited editions? They have the knack whereas most of us are just knackered and regularly burst into tears at the weekend.

Their job is their passion and their passion is their craft. These are the natural and sometimes charismatic souls that know their subjects inside out, have a gift for rapport and a talent for supporting and nurturing. They choreograph their classrooms, get the best out of everyone and manage to combine passion and energy with being low-key, laid-back and happy. They have presence. Nothing seems to faze them either – they are in control. They think rapidly and accurately, they have expert mental models, they spot patterns and they can deal with someone “kicking-off”.

Let’s consider some of the basic traits of a super teacher:

  • Organised and are always thinking ahead.
  • Prioritisers and do the important stuff first.
  • Accountable and take ownership of mistakes and short-comings.
  • Explainers and can clearly articulate their thoughts, ideas and explanations.
  • Patient and understand that learning is full of mistakes and something can’t be rushed or happen by “magic”.
  • Optimistic and believes that all students can learn and get better.
  • A listener and really tuned into what people are saying.
  • Creative and is able to produce memorable and exciting learning moments.
  • Versatile, flexible and always editing their feelings and responses.
  • Assertive and say “no” if they have to, not least in order to protect their wellbeing.
  • Networkers who surround themselves with successful people and role models.
  • Self-monitors who invest heavily in their own personal and professional development.
  • Risk-takers who spearhead new ways of working and battle classroom complacency
  • Believers who nurture themselves by being confident practitioners.

Does this person actually exist? The sociology and psychology of the super teacher is hard to pin down, but rest assured – no-one is a natural born teacher.

But look in the mirror and you will see that we all have the potential to be super teachers by super-sizing what we do.

I think it boils down to confidence. Every teacher has talent but they don’t always bring it out because they are cursed by self-doubts and insecurities as to whether they can do the job. It seems incongruous that teachers lack confidence given that we stand in front of a class full of learners everyday, but confidence is never a constant. Yes it can grow but it can also diminish, drain away rapidly and be extremely hard to replace. Feeling at ease and being confident in ourselves as competent teachers enable all the above qualities to come out of their hiding places, grow and blossom. 

Many teachers will say that they aren’t good enough and live in constant fear of being “exposed as a fraud”. Yet, they are good enough and more than competent. The problem is that one bad lesson can eat away at your personal identity and a crisis of confidence can soon set in, especially for young teachers. We must fight against this. We must fight against imposter syndrome.

Read the full article, learn how to give your confidence a boost and tell that imposter syndrome to get lost.   The traits of super teachers

Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~ Tamsin

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