What do a Music teacher from Bradford, a Physics teacher from London and an assistant headteacher from Birmingham all have in common? Well, it was recently confirmed that these UK teachers have all been shortlisted for the “world’s best teacher” award, part of the Varkey Foundation Global Teacher Prize, now running for its fifth year. The winner will be awarded £800,000. But what does a successful teacher look like? And what qualities make a truly great teacher? Here are my top five:
The teacher that recognises those who are struggling, those who are not as privileged as others, and chooses to become their champion. They encourage them, build their self-esteem and belief in their abilities. They go out of their way to recognise their talents and make sure they feel equal; in a world that often hasn’t been fair or kind to the student.
A teacher who believes in the potential of every student and looks to bring out this potential in their work and teachings. This means adapting teaching style to accommodate and nurture the potential of the student; be it artistic, scientific, mathematical or otherwise.
Great teaching should be an outpouring of expression for the love of a subject set on fire, a drive to share knowledge. If this passion is well directed, teaching should be animated, inspiring and addictive; think Dr Brian Cox. His work a great example of an academic whose passion and knowledge is truly brought to life.
Studying can bring equal measures of stress as well as reward for students. Teachers who bring humour to learning and understand that it should be a fun process are best placed to make learning a true pleasure. The path of learning should be filled with inspiration and stories which amuse, uplift and inspire. We remember the teachers who shared their unique stories, illuminated a subject’s path and took us on the journey with them. And made us smile.
Some students are strong at theory, some at practice. The best teacher knows that learning needs to be fluid and adaptable to get the best from students of all abilities. This can mean looking to incorporate different teaching styles. For example, Kodály’s collaborative approach to music education is based on teaching, learning and understanding music through the experience of singing, focusing on expressive and creative skills.
Teaching is a labour of love which touches the lives of students. Beyond an excellent knowledge of a subject, a great teacher possesses passion, the ability to recognise and nurture ability, understanding, adaptability, open- mindedness and creativity.