What makes a good teacher great?

Recently my friend ‘had Ofsted’, and the usual stress ensued at her school.  My friend is a good teacher, in fact, a great teacher, and her school know it.  Listening to her talk about the stresses and strains of the event I was left to question what makes a great teacher.

I regularly speak with this friend about her classroom experiences. I enjoy hearing the developments, the successes, failures and everything in-between of her pupils.  But what makes her a great teacher is what she considers to be a success, and how she goes about drawing out this success in her pupils.

Listening empowers you as a teacher

She listens and listens deeply.  She’s never told me this, and I’ve never seen her teach, but I know it’s what she does.  I can tell because she knows exactly how to support the pupils to progress.  She can tell you all about what her children do in and out of school and the things they enjoy and are worried about.  This helps her teach excellent lessons.

Listening is a skill

Ever been with a friend for a coffee and left thinking, gosh all I did was talk about myself?  I’ve done it.  It’s a horrible feeling and makes you feel a bad friend and a little bit selfish.  The same thing is true in teaching, even though we have the best intentions.  We spend a lot of time talking and very little time listening.   We expect the children to do all the listening and then regurgitate the past hour on to paper or through demonstration.

Stop, Look, Listen

To listen we need to ask questions.  We need to create space to watch pupils on task to listen to their concerns or help them to solve their problems through trial and error.

PE is an outstanding opportunity to develop your listening skills as a teacher.  PE and after-school clubs can help you increase your observation of the pupils;

  • Stop – stop talking, let the pupils get on with it
  • Look – observe, take in all the angles, watch the pupils without intervening
  • Listen – to questions, to what is happening around you, to how the pupils are interacting

The simple stuff.  But it takes practice, maybe start with listening to your friend or colleague over that coffee, I know I shall!



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