Teaching is a challenging profession — but it’s also one of the most important in society. Teachers have the responsibility of shaping each generation and thereby determining the future. What makes a teacher excellent? What makes a teacher rise above the rest and truly inspire students to grow, learn, and become the best they can? There are three things that define the excellent way to practice being a teacher: engagement, experience, and inquisitiveness.
Engage students as fellow human beings
Teachers who make a difference know how to connect with their students in meaningful ways. They look each student in the eye and call them by their names. They want to understand and appreciate each student’s uniqueness. Simple techniques such as greeting students at the door when they arrive can make a huge difference in creating a welcoming atmosphere in the classroom. Getting to know the interests and hobbies of the students will show them that you are genuinely concerned about them as individuals. These simple practices work because our brains are “wired” for empathy. Neuroscience (the study of the brain) has demonstrated the power of empathy in the classroom to unleash learning and creativity. When students believe that their teacher really cares about them, they lower their barriers of resistance and become open to learning.
Experience the world and be willing to share it
One of the best ways for teachers to sharpen their skills in the classroom is to leave the classroom! Without a doubt, travel is the single best education a person can ever have, and the teacher who ventures out into the world and explores new cultures will bring a deeper perspective to the classroom. One of the ways teachers can enrich their experience is by teaching overseas. There are many services that assist teachers who want to explore new places and teaching styles. For example, Teach Overseas – Point to Point Education is a clearinghouse of experts who are able to place teachers in positions around the world. Teaching abroad is one of the most effective ways to grow as both a teacher and a human being.
Never stop learning
More than anything, teachers need to model for their students that learning is a lifelong activity. The person who wants to live a productive and satisfying life needs to keep growing and trying new things. Psychologists refer to this as having a “growth mindset,” as opposed to a “fixed mindset.” Teachers who continue to cultivate an inquisitive mind will find that their curiosity is infectious. Their students will quickly see that their teacher is modeling for them not just a way to learn — but a way to live. How does a teacher do this? Once again, the simple things will make a difference. Talk with your students about what you’re reading. Describe for them new experiences you’ve had and what you learned from them. Express the joy of learning and demonstrate it through what you say and do.
What is the excellent way to practice being a teacher? It all comes down to being a genuine, authentic, and fully engaged human being. The excellent teacher will empathize with students as fellow human beings. The excellent teacher will have a broad and diverse perspective that includes the whole world. The excellent teacher will also keep on learning and will motivate others to do the same. This is the excellent way not just to be a teacher — but to shape future generations as well.