Last Saturday I had the opportunity to speak about leadership and teaching, 2 of my greatest passions at an academic, professional, and personal level. It has been in the framework of a pedagogical conference organized by the Institució Educativa Lleida (owners of the Terraferma and Arabell schools in Lleida). More than 60 professionals attended the conference with the objective of improving as teachers.
I love working with this group because, in my opinion, it is the second most important profession in the world (only after professions related to medicine). Furthermore, the influence of teachers has been found to be the second most important in the lives of students, right after the influence of parents. The great challenges that we have worldwide will require authentic ethical professionals who are well prepared to face great challenges, and this will only happen if we are capable of having great professionals in teaching; motivated and committed people to make a better world through training.
Now what makes a teacher a great teacher? Gallup, the American consulting firm, has researched for decades what distinguishes great teachers from the rest. One of the main discoveries in this regard has been that the great teachers are more different from each other than one might imagine. They have very different teaching styles and methodologies, they have totally different personalities and ways of being, but they have 2 common characteristics. The first is that they are professionals who know their own strengths and focus on them to carry out their work as teachers. The second is that they can discover and enhance the strengths of their students.
In addition, by thoroughly analyzing the great teachers, Gallup has discovered 5 behavior patterns that are very present in the best teachers. These are:
1) They earn respect and build positive relationships: Great teachers know that they must earn the respect of their students. One of the best ways is to respect them. The best teachers are committed to building positive relationships with their students, not hierarchical, superior, or punitive relationships. Along these lines, memorizing the names of the students and knowing their personal interests help to create these positive connections. They encourage participation and give them responsibility for their own learning process. All students need positive human relationships to have great results.
2) Set the right expectations: Gallup has found that great teachers are not the most demanding neither the ones who have the highest expectations. They are the ones who set the most appropriate expectations. And as far as possible, they do it in a personalized way for each student.
3) They offer recognition: great teachers love to watch how their students learn. Recognition is essential, as it is a great motivational element, especially if it is done in public. Great teachers celebrate each student’s specific successes, without going into comparisons with other students. Research shows that the greater the public recognition, the greater the involvement and the greater the results achieved by the students.
4) They understand that each student is different: they know perfectly well that not all methods work well for each student. Great teachers know that each student learns in a totally different way. As much as possible, they try to personalize their students’ learning experiences. They appreciate this diversity and instead of seeing it as a problem, they see it as an opportunity and as a challenge.
5) Express their emotions: great teachers can feel emotions when they are teaching. They care about their students and don’t mind being human by sharing their emotional states with their students. They can laugh, celebrate … even cry with their students. When students observe real emotions in their teachers, they perceive that they are human and the emotional connection with them increases.
In short, we need great teachers because, as Nelson Mandela said, “Education is the most powerful weapon to change the world.”