Spotting a good teacher isn’t easy. Their best qualities are not posted on a sign outside their classroom, or easy to spot in an interview or a conversation over the snack bar at open house. You have to get in there and really see them at work.

  • The big green flag you are looking for is a teacher who speaks well of their students. Not just to the parents or to the principal, but to other teachers, to other students, to anyone who will listen. Good teachers know enough about their class that they see the variety of strengths among them and value that.
  • Close but not the same is a teacher who will advocate for their students. They will argue with parents who try to reduce their children’s culpability, because they know those students are capable of being responsible for themselves. Let one of these teachers hear a student call themselves stupid and they will dive in to help change that perception.
  • Good teachers are holistic. They see outside the subject they teach to how it moves throughout their students’ lives. They bring connections from the outside world into the classroom. They use art to teach lessons about math, and current events to explain the importance of science or history.
  • The good teacher’s lesson plan will not look like the table of contents of a textbook. Think more like a map. It has room to expand in directions that fire up their students, or to include information that didn’t make the book. It allows individual students to learn in their own best ways, while still keeping the whole class moving in the same direction.
  • They are still learning too, actively still learning. We’ve all had teachers who obviously had forgotten what it was like to be a student at all, and they were the worst. Good teachers examine how they, themselves learn and that makes them better at helping their students examine themselves. Good for everyone.

Truly good teachers are a pleasure to learn from. They make the workload easier, though not less, and they make their students work harder and better. But no harder or better than they work themselves.