The Ideal Teacher

I enjoy talking about education. Part of the appeal of becoming a connected educator has been the ability to meet and share with other individuals. It’s great to be able to learn what other educators think about certain topics within education.

Several months ago, I was intrigued by a survey I saw online. A person was reaching out to 100 people to come to a consensus about a particular subject. And so, I began my own 100 Person Project. I wanted to survey 100 other educators to learn about the characteristics that make up the ideal teacher. I started by creating a Google Form, and asking two questions:

1. If you were responsible for building the ideal teacher, what skills, attributes, or characteristics would you include?

2. Think of the great teachers that you have come in contact with. What words would you use to describe these great teachers?

I then shared the survey through my social networks. Many educators who are a part of my PLN responded. After several weeks of sharing the survey via email and Twitter, I reached my magic number, with 102 people contributing their answers to the questions. My goal was to learn something in the process. What could other educators teach me about what it means to be a great teacher?

Below are some of the things that I learned through the process:

  • The ideal teacher has many skills and attributes that make them a great teacher. However, three particular attributes were given repeatedly by survey respondents. Passion, empathy and flexibility are characteristics that many educators feel are necessary for success. Every educator must be passionate about their content, their students, and their practice. They also must be able to place themselves in their student’s shoes, understanding where their students are coming from, and truly empathizing in order to improve their relationships. Finally, teachers must be flexible, having the ability to adapt to any situation, to recognize a teachable moment, and to be able to drop everything to help a student.
  • Content and pedagogy are important, but establishing relationships based on trust and authenticity is more important. According to the survey results, being knowledgeable is an important characteristic for the ideal teacher. Engaging students in authentic relationships can be more important though. It is the responsibility of a teacher to build relationships with students based on trust. Through these relationships, students can see that their teachers truly care about them as human beings, rather than just students.
  • It is said so much that it almost becomes cliche, but a teacher must be a lifelong learner. The ideal teacher is committed to continuous learning, and improving their craft. Remaining stagnant in the classroom can hinder a teacher’s ability to connect with students. By continuing to stay relevant and continuing to learn, teachers are able to model what education should truly look like.
  • Risk-taking allows the ideal teacher to constantly improve by learning from failure. Teachers that take risks teach students who take risks. When students take risks, they are much more likely to learn than when they are afraid of risk-taking. The ideal teacher models risk-taking for students, showing them that it is OK to fail, and that, through failure, one can move forward and progress.
  • The ideal teacher is a connected educator, whether connecting online or Face to Face. Part of being a lifelong learner is being able to learn from others. Whether it is an online connection or a collaborative relationship with a colleague in school, the ideal teacher is willing to share with and learn from others. It might be a collaborative project, or a discussion in the lunchroom, connecting on Twitter for 10 minutes, or just sharing a morning coffee with a colleague as you prepare for your day. Whatever it is that allows you to connect to other educators, make sure you connect in order to improve.
  • Enthusiasm carries the day. Even on your worst day, you are still the best hope for some students. Make sure that you are enthusiastic about everything you do. On the days when you are not feeling a particular lesson, “fake it ‘til you make it.” Let kids know that you are excited about what you are teaching, and the exuberance will rub off on the students. Make sure that your enthusiasm comes through in all that you do. There is no better vocation than teaching students. Enjoy it!


Thank you to all those who took part in the 100 Person Project! Through your insight, I have continued to grow as an educator and learner.

Rich (@RACzyz)

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