Albert Einstein once said, "It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge." And a supreme art it is, because teaching requires a delicate balance of skills and aptitude to be effective. Quality teacher education programs focus not only on pedagogy, but on helping teachers develop proficiency in areas that may not have a thing to do with mathematics, history or other content area.
In today's classrooms, the Charlie Brown model of teacher -- with her monotone voice and unobtrusive presence -- simply isn't effective. Teachers must have interpersonal skills that rival leadership guru John Maxwell, or they risk becoming overwhelmed by challenging interactions. Not only must a teacher have the ability to relate to parents, other educators and students, but being able to finesse sticky situations is a must. Excellent interpersonal skills also help educators establish a positive learning environment with 30 different personalities all crowded into a relatively small room.
Well-developed interpersonal skills help teachers manage behavioral problems in the classroom, but even the most socially savvy teacher can't establish an effective learning environment without classroom management skills. Teachers must be able to provide positive and negative incentives for students to behave and stay on-task, or the classroom is likely to resemble the TV show "The Price Is Right" more than a learning environment, according to the National Education Association. Organizational skills are a must because 150 students multiplied by three assignments each week can equal a mess, unless a teacher stays on top of grading and other paperwork.
Teachers must not only know the material they're teaching, but have the skills to apply their knowledge to the classroom environment. It's one thing to know how to solve a quadratic equation, and another to teach the steps to a classroom of minimally interested 15-year-olds. The same goes for classroom pedagogy. A teacher might be aware that best practices require her to tailor instruction to a student's individual needs, but finds she's unable to accomplish this in a classroom setting.
Committed teachers are life-long learners and must have the skills to conduct accurate self-assessment to determine if their teaching remains effective. Teachers might periodically videotape themselves teaching a class and look for ways to improve a presentation and student involvement. A teacher also needs the skills to assess student learning, as this is an excellent indication of how effective she is in the classroom. Since learning cannot always be determined by formal assessments, teachers must be able to decide if a student is struggling based on intangibles such as a lengthy response time to a question or difficulty contributing to a discussion.
- National Education Association: 6 Classroom Management Tips Every Teacher Can Use
- Scholastic: Weigh In -- What Makes a Great Teacher?
- Qualities of Effective Teachers; James H. Stronge
Elise Wile has been a writer since 2003. Holding a master's degree in curriculum and Instruction, she has written training materials for three school districts. Her expertise includes mentoring, serving at-risk students and corporate training.