A new school year is approaching, and among us are some new teachers who are filled with both excitement and anxiety. (Quick admission: Even experienced teachers have a bit of nervous energy on the first day of school or at the first lesson with a new student.)
Not long ago I posted tips for overcoming some common fears in the classroom. I’ve continued to receive requests for advice from first-year teachers, so I thought it would be helpful to start a discussion on the kinds of teachers students appreciate. Of course, cultural factors and personal preferences play a role, but overall, there are some common traits found among well-liked teachers. If we recall some of our own favorite teachers, perhaps reflection will lead to imitation and application. I encourage new teachers to find inspiration in the very teachers who inspired them as learners.
Here are two of my own top picks.
- I’ve been in the role of a student for the past year and a half at a local roller rink. In fact, I wrote about my first roller skating lesson back in early 2011. Since then, I graduated to the advanced class, and last winter and spring I had an amazing instructor. I loved how she came to know all of our strengths and weaknesses. She nicely allowed for whole group and small group work, depending on our needs. I appreciated how she put thought into structuring each lesson so we could all work on the skills we needed most. There was enough consistency to make drills familiar, but enough variety and challenge to keep lessons interesting. She had a gift for breaking steps down, modeling them, and giving creative explanations and corrections when certain skills proved hard for us to master. She was very supportive without flattery, and she gave praise when we earned it. She made me want to keep trying. I’ll truly miss having her as my instructor.
- Back in high school, I had another caring and dedicated teacher. His gift was his humor. He’d amuse us with all kinds of stories from his youth and about his family. Somehow he managed to get personal without losing his professionalism, and he entertained us without failing to teach us. Humor complemented his teaching and never replaced it. I can’t say the subject he taught was my favorite, but because he was so energetic and encouraged our participation, I was never bored.
Both teachers I mentioned loved their work and made me feel like they cared about our learning. With them in mind, here’s my parting thought. If I could give only one piece of advice to new teachers, I’d say, “Don’t lose your focus and teach from the heart.”
Want to share a reflection of your own? Please do!