If you’ve ever sat across the table from your child’s teacher at a parent-teacher meeting and just not been quite satisfied that this teacher was great at their job, you may well have been right.
Teachers come in all forms, and often different students respond differently to different teachers. So this isn’t about assuming one particular type of person will make a great teacher and the rest will not.
But there are some traits that all great teachers have, so if you’re wanting to figure out the quality of teachers at your child’s school, here’s what we suggest you look for.
Can anyone really be great at something without passion? Perhaps technical skills can take you a long way, but it’s passion that really sets apart a great teacher from a good one. Passionate teachers don’t just want to tick the boxes and deliver the curriculum, they are passionate about transferring knowledge to children, they love facilitating learning and they get that their engagement and enthusiasm for what they’re teaching is an important factor in their students’ level of interest in the subject.
Does the teacher seem to care about your child? Do they show real concern if your child is struggling or falling behind? Genuine care is a great indicator of teacher quality. It’s this care that will drive the teacher to try harder when a student requires extra attention or more time than others. It’s a caring teacher who will endeavour to garner your help or contribution to your child’s learning if it’s required. The teacher will genuinely want to see your child doing well.
In Australia, it’s mandatory for teachers to have a certain level of University education to become teachers, though the quality of that education can vary wildly. Some teachers will have scraped through their exams to get a Pass level in their degrees, others will have excelled and been awarded High Distinctions. They’ll both end up teachers. Some teachers will have excelled at in-class teaching skills, others will not have but may have excelled at their written exams. While, as a parent, you’re not in a position to assess a teacher’s qualifications, if you’re concerned about the quality of teachers at your child’s school, you may be entitled to a meeting with the Principal to question whether such criteria are considered when employing new teachers.
4. Experience, and How It Affects Them
We know every teacher must begin somewhere. No teacher starts out with years of experience. But experience does make a difference. Teachers who enjoy their jobs grow and learn from the years they spend doing it. They gain skills and become better and better at conveying information, engaging students and imparting knowledge. If your child has a young teacher, their willingness to learn from more experienced peers, seek further training and go above-and-beyond to gain more experience is key. On the other end of the spectrum, some teachers grow weary, cynical and disengaged over their years of teaching. Such teachers do a minimum of work and will not be at all concerned with engaging students or seeing your kids succeed. These are not quality teachers.
5. Competence in their Subject Matter
Teachers are often required to teach subjects, or levels of subjects, in which they have low levels of competency themselves. While they have a strict curriculum and can follow the teaching syllabus and class plans, if they don’t really grasp the subject well, it’s very difficult to teach it well. We understand that schools are pressured to make use of teacher hours and sometimes hiring a new teacher isn’t possible – existing teachers must be utilised. But we believe this should be accompanied by adequate further training in the necessary field of study. Knowing your school’s policies on this can help identify whether your child’s teacher is adequate.
While this isn’t always easy to identify, a teacher’s motivation can mean getting the best out of your child, or your child slipping through the cracks. Teachers who enter their career because they love teaching and want to make a difference in the lives of children are motivated to do their jobs well, to connect with children and help them learn, even when those kids aren’t naturally gifted in a subject. Such teachers will go above and beyond the basic requirements to help children thrive. Brilliant teachers like these are an amazing asset to schools and students and are sadly not as acknowledged in their careers as they should be.
When you recognise your child has a fantastic teacher, we recommend you let them know you see the effort and commitment they’re displaying and express your gratitude to them. Encourage this kind of teaching quality by letting the school know you’re impressed with the quality of that teacher. In this way, you’ll be doing your small part to encourage the school to seek out teachers of this calibre in future.