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What Does It Mean To Be An Outstanding Teacher?

When you think back to your first year of teaching, what is the one word you would use to describe that first year? Some of the words that teachers have shared with me include: confusing, overwhelming, and intense.

An outstanding teacher implements many techniques and strategies to help cope with the different aspects of the classroom.

It’s not nice having that overwhelmed feeling and it can not only be stressful, but it can also lead to burnout.

I’m a believer that proactive teachers implement many preventative techniques and strategies to help cope with the different aspects of the classroom. This definitely helps with that overwhelmed feeling, and what I think is the difference between an outstanding teacher and one that is struggling.

Here are some of the qualities of what I think makes an outstanding teacher.

Outstanding teachers are clear and organized

Outstanding teachers have fully prepared lessons, with clear objectives that are also obvious to students. They are in the classroom early and ready to go with teaching by the time students arrive. They have thought about and considered all parts of the lesson; they are structured and cater for the different learning needs of their students.

Outstanding teachers use a repertoire of teaching strategies to engage students

The first 5 minutes of a lesson really counts and it usually sets the tone for how the rest of the lesson will go. Outstanding teachers use a variety of teaching strategies to entice their students in the first few minutes of the lesson. They change this up and consider the best strategy to match the content of the lesson. They are confident and enthusiastic and use their voice clearly to explain concepts and keep students on track during a lesson.

Outstanding teachers develop positive relationships with their students

Seeking mutual respect and trust is a goal of an outstanding teacher. They are warm, pleasant, approachable and tolerant of student differences. They are consistent and fair. They learn their student’s names quickly and get to know each of them. They help their students to feel good about themselves and continually work at developing a positive relationship with individuals and the class as a whole.

Outstanding teachers adapt their lessons for individual differences

Not all kids are the same or learn in the same way or in the same time, each and every one of them is unique. Outstanding teachers acknowledge this, have a clear picture of where each of their students is at and cater for this when planning lessons.

Outstanding teachers assess and evaluate student learning to identify what they learned and what they have not yet learned

Outstanding teachers ask themselves: what knowledge, skills, and values did my students learn? What am I going to do to help my students learn concepts if they didn’t, or extend those students that need it? Outstanding teachers constantly evaluate how their students are progressing and use this information to direct future learning experiences. They are also very clear why they assess and know the type of information they want to collect. They choose the best assessment techniques to match the intended outcome.

Outstanding teachers constantly develop their management skills

Preventing student management problems from occurring in the first place is the goal of an outstanding teacher. Outstanding teachers make their expectations very clear to students and can anticipate problems and if they do arise react accordingly to prevent further disruption. Outstanding teachers have many low-key techniques for responding to inappropriate behavior and will always try to use these as a first option. Outstanding teachers do not need to yell at their students!

Outstanding teachers are reflective teachers

Outstanding teachers want to improve to become a more effective teacher. They participate in professional development, they connect with other outstanding teachers, they seek feedback and advice and they self-evaluate for self-improvement.

“Remember, the perfect teacher does not exist, but we all can become better teachers. Continual improvement of our teaching skills is the essence of professionalism in our field” (Good & Brophy, 1991).

Summing up

What would you add to the list? What do you think makes an outstanding teacher?

If you’re a new teacher and you’ve also been feeling overwhelmed and stressed, then I’m here to help and support you.

I know what it’s like being a new teacher…..the excitement…..the trepidation…..the nerves…..and I also know the lack of support provided to new teachers.

Many new teachers are told to either sink or swim…..that was certainly the case for me!

But I don’t believe new teachers should be treated like this. New teachers should be nurtured and supported and provided with all of the opportunities to not only succeed but to THRIVE.

That’s why I created the New Teacher SUPPORT Program. It will help you take control of your classroom, provide you with tips and tricks to cope with the demands of teaching and give you access to a treasure trove of innovative teaching ideas and resources.

To find out when the New Teacher Support Program becomes available, sign up below. I will also be offering an incredible early bird special, but only if you sign up below.

Proactive teachers implement many preventative techniques and strategies to help cope with the different aspects of the classroom. This definitely helps with that overwhelmed feeling, and what I think is the difference between an outstanding teacher and one that is struggling. Here are some of the qualities of what I think makes an outstanding teacher.

8 Responses to What Does It Mean To Be An Outstanding Teacher?

  1. Thanks for this post, Melinda. It feels good to be able to tick off all those things, this early in my career! I did a six month contract for my first full time teaching position and, after the first four weeks of holding my breath I felt like I was doing a good job. Then I changed schools and went back to where I had been an aide, and where my children attend/ed. I was so overwhelmed and stressed, for two big reasons:
    1. planning
    2. classroom management

    1. Because of a first great experience I knew I needed way more detail in my term planners. After implementing the same format I’d had at my previous school I felt so much more in control of my time and planning. This was so huge. I am a very organised person so a term planner with a list of topics and no more detail than that was just not cutting it. My term planners include learning goals, brief outline, links to resources and assessment strategies. This cuts my planning time down to something way more manageable.

    2. I knew I was implementing strong classroom management skills, but the students I had last year just weren’t so easily persuaded to curb their calling out and chatter. I spent the whole year working with the class and finding creative ways to help them make appropriate choices. The only way I knew it was improving was that CRTs were telling me how much more settled they were throughout the year. This year, I have some of the same kids and a whole bunch of new ones. None of those management issues are a problem, because they all respond to redirection almost instantly.

    • Hey thanks for your comment Tracy, and the great advice as well. I’m pleased to hear that you’ve been able to implement some changes to help you manage your new school/class.

  2. Good to find your website, you maybe interested in these books published to encourage and give recognition to outstanding teachers. The latest one, “Recognition vs Merit Pay for Our Best Teachers” was published in conjunction with the author, Dr Hans A Andrews a specialist in this field. Dr Andrews tirelessly encourages outstanding teachers to be given the recognition they deserve from their schools, districts and departments and has written seven books on the topic. They are featured here http://schooldaysmagazine.com/bookshop.html . We’ve also devoted a section within schooldaysmagazine for Awards & Recognition for Outstanding Teachers – originally started about 10 years ago. We’re happy to hear from you.

  3. Mel,

    Thank-you, I really needed to read this article. I’m in a constant state of uncertainty about what kind of teacher I am. This reassured me I am doing things right and convicted me of something else. I write my lesson plans in my plan book but those are my really good notes. The only time I sit down and right out a whole lesson plan is when I’m being evaluated because I tend to forget things when I’m under stress. After reading your list, I’m becoming more and more convinced I need to take the time to right out my lesson plans, even the ones that are already written out for me because I always change those. I made this decision after a rough week with parents. Special Education is my passion. I’m a former special education teacher that left to be a general education teacher because I heard we were much needed in the classroom. Every single one of my parents with a child on an IEP in my classroom has expressed disappointment in me this week and I have been modifying, accommodating and extending time on every single thing we do. It takes most of my weekend to grade and plan and I’m also typing up all the notes we do for the week. I was feeling very dejected last night with spending so much time and effort and then having parents so upset with me. After reading this I’ve decided I have to try writing my lesson plans out, the way I know how and see if that works. If it doesn’t, I know I need help. Thank-you!

    Bryn Abrahamsson
    3rd Grade Teacher
    Colorado Springs, Colorado

    • Hey Bryn,

      Thanks for stopping by and talking so honestly with us! I’m also sorry to read that you’ve had a ‘rough’ week with parents, but it sounds like you have a plan to move yourself forward. Remember, that you do also need some time for yourself, away from teaching. This will help you to re-energize, which will hopefully assist you with making the changes that you’ve identified you need to.

      All the best!
      Cheers
      Mel

      • I’m a Young Person And Find This Interesting I’m Doing My First Year In Varsity And I Want To Be An Outstanding Teacher I’ve learnt a lot from this page keep going admin THANK YOU!!

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