7 Traits of Effective Teachers

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What do you believe are the traits of an effective teacher?

Working with over 1,000 teachers over the past 20+ years, these are what I believe to be the 7 traits of an effective teacher. Definition of ‘trait’a distinguishing quality or characteristic, typically one belonging to a person.

1. Passion.

Primarily, teachers love teaching and are passionate about their students, their subject and teaching as a whole. An effective teacher is one who is passionate about education, but that doesn’t mean they will be on ‘cloud-nine’ all of the time. They are in tune with the classes they teach and the constraints and pressures they are working with; sometimes wearing their hearts on their sleeve! High or low, an effective teacher cannot hide their passion for teaching.

You know, kids don’t learn from people they don’t like.” (Rita Pierson)

The trait of an effective teacher knows that teaching is supposed to be tough. Who else has the responsibility to shape the minds of hundreds and hundreds of young lives?! Effective teachers know teaching children is meant to be a very enjoyable and rewarding career (although exhausting) but know hard work must be the main focus in their learning environment. They accept that students will want to have some fun at times, and that if they [the teacher] are not enjoying the teaching, their students will probably know it.

2. Planned and organised.

Effective teachers are always organised! So much so, they often know the diary of others and pre-empt potential problems. Lesson plans – whether lengthy or concise – are considered to meet the needs of all students; books are marked (smartly, considering their workload versus school policy) and their classrooms are an engine room. Classroom resources are organised in meticulous fashion, laid out carefully in trays, drawers, cups and pots. You name it, this teacher has it in their domain! Better still, you’ll never catch a student abusing any of their teacher’s well-thought resources: they wouldn’t dare!

3. Reflect and are open-minded.

The most effective teachers know they are constantly being evaluated by their headteacher, colleagues, parents and even students! And instead of feeling aggrieved about being held to account, they embrace the challenge of teaching and are open-minded when receiving feedback about how they can become even better! Effective teachers know, nobody is perfect and there is always room for improvement, but know that it is a necessity for teachers to reflect on their teaching to develop even further. They always think about what went well and what to do next time.

shutterstock_163777019 Drawing bulb light concept

Image: Shutterstock

Henry Ford said, if you keep doing what you’ve always done, you’ll keep getting what you’ve always got!”

4. Take risks and embraces change.

In teaching, lessons don’t always go according to plan, so there is a huge need to be flexible and ‘go with flow‘. An effective teacher knows they need to move with the times. They know they need to adapt to meet the needs of students and the requirements of curriculum and assessment. Therefore, what may have worked 2 or 3 years ago, may not be so effective today. They believe that they are a subject expert and must be at the forefront of their subject knowledge, skills and educational pedagogy.

5. Collaborate.

Effective teachers have a unique habit for bringing positive energy into the classroom every single day. They can also do this with most colleagues they work with across the school. They know we all have personal challenges in and out of school, but they leave all of it behind before they step into the classroom, sharing worldly experiences where applicable to the curriculum. Effective teachers never underestimate the expertise that lies within their school. They never forget the importance of sharing ideas with colleagues through simple discussions, sharing best practice or simply going for a little walk around school in search of good ideas.

6. Breaks down barriers.

Most teachers break down barriers day-to-day in their classrooms, but the trait of an effective teachers knows that literacy, language or social background is no barrier to learning. They accept no excuses of themselves, their colleagues or from the child. Effective teachers know that quality first teaching has the greatest effect a child can receive. Intervention is offered, and it usually is, but it is never offered as a substitute for low standards in the classroom.

7. Consistent.

Above all, effective teachers share one common trait. They are consistent in all that they do. They may be a maverick teacher, but they teach freely in-line with whole-school policy and never undermine their colleagues. There are no surprises, even if they do surprise they colleagues with unusual and maverick ideas. Their behaviour never raises an eyebrow, because their reputation and prior evidence speaks for itself. They always give 100% in everything they do. They are reliable and do what they do because they love teaching, not because they feel obligated to do it.

They create standards for themselves – often too high to meet – but never fail to disappoint.

What’s missing? What traits are evident in the effective teachers you know? Leave a comment below.

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@TeacherToolkit

In 2010, Ross Morrison McGill founded @TeacherToolkit from a simple Twitter account in which he rapidly became the 'most followed teacher on social media in the UK'. In 2015, he was nominated for '500 Most Influential People in Britain' in The Sunday Times as one of the most influential in the field of education - he remains the only classroom teacher to feature to this day ... Sharing online as @TeacherToolkit, he rebuilt this website (c2008) into what you are now reading, as one of the 'most influential blogs on education in the UK', winning the number one spot at the UK Blog Awards (2018). Today, he is currently a PGCE tutor and is researching 'social media and its influence on education policy' for his EdD at Cambridge University. In 1993, he started teaching and is an experienced school leader working in some of the toughest schools in London. He is also a former Teaching Awards winner for 'Teacher of the Year in a Secondary School, London' (2004) and has written several books on teaching (2013-2018). Read more...

13 thoughts on “7 Traits of Effective Teachers

  • 14th February 2016 at 1:35 pm
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    They don’t panic when things don’t go according to the lesson plan and appreciate that even excellent, outstanding teachers can have a slightly off day.

    Reply
  • 15th February 2016 at 10:36 am
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    I think that you place too much emphasis on the nature of organisation described here. Meticulous organisation is not a prerequisite to effective teaching like some of the other qualities listed here. In fact it can often be a barrier. Of course we need to be organised, but what we don’t need is to encourage OCD! Placing it above (amongst others) reflectiion is (in my view) a little regressive and unrealistic….

    Reply
    • 19th February 2016 at 2:52 pm
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      I agree with this comment.

      Reply
  • 15th February 2016 at 9:41 pm
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    They have a personal philosophy of education , not relying solely on fleeting political agendas. This sustains them in “making a difference” and seeing the worth of every pupil and colleague.

    Reply
  • 12th March 2016 at 10:05 pm
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    Effective teachers know their pupils as individuals; they personalise learning to motivate. They know a ‘challenging’ pupil’s individual circumstances and background and empathise / consider these to bring some positivity into that pupil’s life. They know how to motivate a talented pupil to achieve the next level. All within the same classroom at the same time.

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  • 13th March 2016 at 7:20 am
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    Effective teachers DO NOT shape minds. I am ok with everything you wrote, except for that statement.

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  • 1st November 2016 at 8:49 am
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    Planning is something archaic. This focus on planning (writing elaborate lesson plans and schemes) is a total waste of time, and doesn’t serve to aid the teacher at all. During my teacher training, it only served as a hindrance, rather than an aid. I haven’t planned a single lesson for several years now, because I simply “know” what I should throw into my next lesson, based on short and long term schemes. Maybe now everyone is as organised as I am but teacher training should endeavour to help people reach this ability, not overload them with pointless paperwork!

    Reply
  • Pingback:Podcast 44 - Is Education Representative of Diversity? | TeacherToolkit

  • 16th May 2019 at 9:29 am
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    I am a teacher and your this article taught me so many things about ‘being a good teacher’.

    Thanks for your awesome information.

    Reply

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