The Ideal Teacher

Spring marks the interviewing season – the time when schools replace retirees, and swap teachers and administrators.  Schools frantically pencil in the next year’s schedules, negotiate Handbook revisions, and compile summer maintenance lists.

But what if I wanted to start over from scratch?  What if I had an idea and some money, and wanted to hire a teacher?  What if State Certification didn’t mean anything, and I could hire anyone I wanted?  What would that ‘Ideal Teacher’ look like?

EDUCATION: How important is a teacher’s own education?  Do they need a Master’s? Bachelor’s? High School diploma?  Is my liberal arts education from a private college that much better than an engineering degree from a public University?  What about the all-important GPA?  Does it really matter?  My dad (also a teacher and principal) told me one time as we were driving that his best teachers were ‘C’ students because they knew what it was like to not understand everything on the first try.  I would posit that the ideal teacher’s education would be a bachelor’s degree, and should be in their subject area (grades 6 – 12), or in any subject area (grades pre-K – 5).  Education classes in college should be an introduction to education that explores current trends and a brief history so professionals have a sense of place, and then an intense series of practica with extensive online reflection, dialogue, and research.  An active professional Twitter account would be compulsory.

TRAITS: While their education creates the skeleton on which the rest of their pedagogy is built, I would argue that their personal learning habits are more important than their education.  A teacher should be curious and constantly learning.  Do they surf more than just their hobbies?  Do they listen to more than just hit radio?  Do they watch more than just network television?  A teacher should be open to new ideas – or at least to the possibility of new ideas.  They should be caring.  Their humor should not default to sarcasm.  They understand that the world is not just black and white, yes or no.  The successful teacher will have a strong sense of personal morality.  They will make friends easily.  This doesn’t mean that every teacher should be an extrovert; rather that they should smile easily and not be awkward at conversation, whether started by them or by another person.

It doesn’t matter what their personal background is – their age, religion, race, orientation, etc.  What matters at the bottom line is what they bring to the students.  Do they care and can they articulate what needs to be said?

The interview would be an unedited videotape of them teaching in an existing classroom over the course of several lessons.  After I watched the footage, they would come in for a debriefing of their reflection on the taped lessons and how they would progress if it were their class, or how they would do it over if given another chance.

I’m sure that in this rambling post that helped me, at least, define good teacher characteristics, I’ve forgotten something vital.  In the future, I’ll think out loud about the ideal facility, the ideal curriculum, and probably the ideal schedule.  Comment below and let me know what other characteristics make up a Successful Teacher.