What makes a good teacher?

I have been thinking about teaching a lot lately, as I adapt to the remote nature of learning, thrust upon everyone out of a desire to keep everyone safe. Once the hurdles of technology have been overcome, I suspect that those who were excellent teachers before will continue to be so, while those that lack the necessary skills will also continue to fall short. I have no idea where I fall on this continuum, but I at least have a theory on how to be better. Here goes:

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It’s a recipe with three ingredients:

Knowledge: This requires the person in question not only to know things, but also to seek out new forms of knowledge. Another important facet is knowing when one does not know things. Hard to admit, admittedly. But always better in the long run.

Clarity: Good teachers can distill complex ideas into simple, easy to convey messages. This doesn’t mean that everything is simple. It means that good teachers can distill. And in doing so, they teach others how to do that (and motivate them to do it on their own). It’s particularly helpful in this age of digital information overload, and also in areas like medicine where the volume of knowledge required is (frequently) overwhelming.

Humility: If the other two ingredients can be obtained with enough grit, this one I think would be hard to acquire through hard work. Most of the folks I know who have this in abundance seem to ooze it in every encounter, and people are drawn to them. And those that lack it completely are pretty hard to be around, let alone learn from. Most folks lie somewhere in the middle, but the most effective teachers I have enjoyed learning from seem to use this quality as a backbone for the other two ingredients, realizing that their knowledge is incomplete, and being able to empathize with those they are instructing well enough to remember what it is like not to be an expert.

It is the moments as a trainee where you fall short and your mentor or instructor lifts you back up and points you in the right direction that count the most. So as a teacher, I want to land in right at the tip of that arrow! Put on the good music, and let’s go get ‘em.

Natalie Banet's Blog @natalie

© Natalie Banet. Views expressed here are mine alone.

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