“The job of an educator is to teach students to see the vitality in themselves.” – Joseph Campbell

What great teachers are made of

The quality of resources, equipment, curriculum and school environment mean very little if the teacher is not effective. Fiona Walker, Principal of Schools & CEO of Julia Gabriel Education shares with us the 5 C’s of a great teacher.

#1 Caring

Teaching is not a profession where you can just wing it on autopilot – ever. A good teacher is never just going through the motions but instead genuinely cares about their students and the quality of experience they are providing. They must care whether or not the children are happy, developing skills and making progress. They care about them as individuals and see them beyond the walls of the school.

#2 Calm

Chiltern House ClassroomPhoto credit: Julia Gabriel Education

Teachers should remain calm in the face of what may seem like chaos. It is by projecting an air of calm that classroom dynamics remain stable. Children feel much more comfortable with teachers who are cool, calm and collected and not a bundle of frustrated nerves. Teachers who are calm are able to be present and be aware of what is happening in the classroom, to understand the nuances of children’s behaviour. If a teacher is not calm they can be missing much of what is actually happening.

#3 Courageous

Teachers need to be able to tackle big issues. For example, it takes courage to explain to parents that you have a concern about something. By being courageous in your convictions you can stand up for what you believe is right and ensure the children in your care get all the support and understanding they need. Sometimes teachers need the courage to make changes to set curriculum and individualise the lessons and learning for each child.

#4 Connected

I believe a teacher must be able to make many connections. The first is between a child’s home experience and their learning in school. This shows the teacher’s respect for the family and culture the child is from. Within the classroom, the teacher can create a sense of belonging and community by encouraging children to make connections with each other.

Second, a teacher needs to be able to connect her students and the community they live in, this can be done through field trips, inviting members of the community. Teachers of young children must constantly be making connections between the learning in the classroom and their previous experience. We all learn by building on our experience and making connections between past experiences and new knowledge. Good teachers are constantly pointing out connections so that children are better able to grasp the understanding and learning moves from being abstract to being more concrete.

#5 Communicative

Julia Gabriel Education Centre TeachersPhoto credit: Julia Gabriel Education

A good teacher must be an effective communicator. They must be able to communicate positively and understand how important this is. Children respond so much more positively to praise and encouragement than to criticism and negativity. People with positive, strong communications skills are also able to better manage a classroom of children, to be able to better explain ideas to their audience, or classroom in this case, and make better leaders.

A good preschool teacher needs to be able to communicate in a way that young children will respond and at the same time be able to communicate effectively with their parents, exuding the confidence and knowledge they have. It is teachers with strong communication skills that are seen as professionals and not simply caregivers.

A big part of communication is listening and a great teacher is always a great listener. They listen to the concern in a parent’s voice, the stress in a child’s cry and the joy in their laughter. By listening well they are able to understand the needs of their students and plan their lessons accordingly. Children must be heard. By being listened to they develop a sense of their own self-worth and there is nothing more valuable a teacher can give a child.

By Fiona Walker, Principal Of Schools / CEO, Julia Gabriel Education.

Fiona Walker joined Julia Gabriel Centre in 1991 as a teacher and is now the Principal of Schools / CEO of Julia Gabriel Education. She holds a Masters in Early Childhood Education and is a qualified Montessori teacher with more than 20 years of experience in providing quality education for young children. She is committed to the ongoing development of teachers and curriculum in Julia Gabriel Education.

This article was first published in The New Age Parents e-magazine.

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