First: I sincerely believe that teachers are BORN, not made, meaning that Teaching is an innate gift/ talent that can be honed & trained but NOT instilled without pre-disposition. Either a person has the innate drive to communicate effectively with others, or they don’t. Either a person finds joy in the achievement of others, or they don’t. Either a person believes that people can grow (including themselves), or they don’t. I find these 3 characteristics to be the common attributes of all the successful teachers I have known. With these 3, all else is a matter of format, and format is always adjustable.
If a teacher is not driven to communicate effectively, the they will not go through the continual informal assessment that is needed to Teach. If the teacher is not worried about whether or not the learner is “picking up what they are laying down”, then they will not try new modalities of sharing (auditory/ visual/ kinesthetic), or try to use creative vocabulary, or seek the “window” through which the learner can interact with the information (like a topic of interest or culturally relative context). It is this drive that helps to create “user-friendly” manuals and instructions, that keeps a teacher up at night trying to “figure out” a “hard kid”, or makes us think of how we could have said something “better”. It is the desire to communicate effectively that makes us listen effectively, that helps us realize that what we say is not what the hearer hears many times, and that we need to find the differences between the two and “clear it up”. This is the part of a Teacher that brings him/her to the student.
If a teacher does not find joy in the achievement of others, then they will not put themselves into a position to Teach. If the teacher is not seeking that “ah-ha” moment, then they are not going to connect the information to the learner. When a Teacher feels that sense of contentment, of completeness, in the moment a learner masters a skill or conquers a fear or earns recognition from peers he/she will be driven to keep sharing and connecting with others. To be clear, I am not talking about that sense of joy that comes from putting a laurel in your own cap because you were the “boost up”, because the learner’s success reflected on you. What I am talking about is that kind of loving satisfaction you get from knowing that you’ve taught a starving man to fish, knowing that you have tossed the unnamed stone whose ripples will resonate through time, knowing that years from now people will depend on that student because they have mastery, and that student will depend on themselves. Finding joy in the achievement of others means the Teacher is seeking to instill confidence in the learner of the learner’s own abilities. This is the part of a Teacher that drives them to be the verb Teach.
These two attributes I have seen lauded and described with other vocabulary in the years I have been a teacher. What I think is often overlooked is this 3rd attribute: that a Teacher believe people can grow, get bigger. Ultimately this is a place of belief about the most basic nature of mankind. This is not describing that belief that 1st graders will live long enough to be 5th graders, or that athletes will age into retirement. It’s not about ability, believing that every human being can learn new behaviors. It’s beyond the proven adaptability of biological evolution. This is the belief that every person’s heart/ soul/ whatever you call it seeks to be “better”, “bigger”, to love more. And it’s not just about that love God asks of us, to treat our neighbors as ourselves, to take care of each other. It’s also about that love God gives us, that place where we know that God created us, and everyone else, for His divine purpose and we are “big” because of it. This is about the release of fear from what we fail to be and the embrace of elation for what we are. On one level this is how Teachers stay Learners, how they remain connected with information, keep faith in themselves. When a Teacher embraces this tenet deeply, this is what brings the students to the Teacher, because the students see that the teacher has faith in them.
I have taught in many environments, with many measurements of successful outcome. Ultimately, a Teacher who has these 3 characteristics is valued because they Teach, and they find ways to measure the students accurately.
And do not make the mistake of thinking I am referring to only Teachers in a classroom. Look at your own life experience: where did you find the Teacher that made your world bigger? A boss? A coach? The friend that knows you too well? The committed spouse? Your children who reflect you?
The Lord works in mysterious ways….