Education is the key to building sustainable societies and individuals. In this essay I focus on identifying and describing the qualities of great teachers. If we understand the attributes of a great teacher we can develop instruments for measuring their skills. Then the instruments will make it possible to create a training program for turning out quality teachers. First I present my own experiences with great teachers and focus on examples of how great teachers have significantly impacted their students. Then I will identify the abilities of great teachers that we can measure in a university setting. In conclusion, I discuss how these can be developed into training to guide and inspire our teachers.
During my university studies, I came across many great teachers. Probably the most significant was my statistics professor. He was a very professional, determined and intelligent person. He had recently become a professor after having worked for more than thirty years for the Center of Military Aerospace, being in charge of the Psychology Department. Throughout his work experience, he had gained much insight into topics such as statistical analysis, psychological testing, assessment, training and people management. During class he was always concise and clear about the information he was trying to get across and was able to keep the students involved,. One of his greatest qualities was his passion for teaching: you could see his joy in explaining and discussing the different concepts. His ability fostered critical thinking and excitement and sparked changes in his students. All these characteristics plus charisma made him one of the greatest teachers I have had so far.
You can tell what a great teacher is like by the positive impact he has on his students. For example, once I started taking the statistics class and interacting with my professor, I noticed how much changed in the way I looked at psychological phenomena. I drifted away from snapshots and started understanding how often psychological concepts are interdependent in relationships like causalities and correlations. My critical thinking also improved and I think this was the most important skill I developed during that course. The fact that I was no longer accepting hypotheses as they were presented but started analyzing them and thinking about whether they made sense or not, helps me still in my everyday work.
When looking at the university setting, the characteristics of a great teacher can be organized into two main areas: soft-skills and hard-skills. Soft-skills refer to abilities that include leadership, time management, excellent communication abilities, strong work ethic and enthusiasm. Hard-skills on the other hand combine qualifications (certificates, degrees) with previous experience and computer and word processing knowledge.
Universities could use these characteristics to develop a training program to inspire teachers. By cultivating first of all awareness, teachers might become more critical and self-conscious. Triggering change in teachers may lead to change in students and therefore in society.