How to be an effective teacher

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What makes a good teacher?

Being a good teacher is not measured solely on experience.  Having an open mind for new ideas and teaching styles, and a willingness to listen and learn from others is crucial to further developing a teaching career.  "Remember that the mind is like a parachute - it works best when it is open" (Austswim the Australian Way, p. 26).


Relationship with the Pupil

The teacher should make a conscious effort to learn the names of all idividuals within the group to ensure pupils do not feel forgotten.  It is essential to build an atmosphere of trust and it is important for the teacher to continue to foster this trust.  Trust is necessary to encourage pupils to step out of their safety zones and reach their goals and potentials.


The teacher should be punctual and appear professional and responsible.  While being cheerful and confident are also important aspects of teaching, employers may undermine the ability to teach if a teacher appears too casual.  This includes wearing appropriate clothing and general personal hygiene to appear well presented.


Discipline is essential for class control and safety.  Threats that cannot or will not be enforced should be avoided, as students will soon realise these threats are not serious and respect for the teacher will be lost.  This does not mean that the teacher must be completely strict, however it is important to draw the line between having fun and doing something potentially dangerous.  It is here that experience allows a teacher to forsee any dangers that could arise.

Ability to inspire confidence in pupils

Many students often lack confidence when trying something for the first time.  It is important for the instructor to allow the students with enough confidence to ask questions and make mistakes without feeling stupid.  A cooperative working spirit needs to be established through the use of positive reinforcement and feedback.

A sense of humour

Being able to laugh in frustrating situations will help students to feel relaxed and confident.  A sense of humour is therefore an advantage in any teaching situation, and will assist in making learning a more enjoyable experience.


Although there may be occasions where it is difficult to remain enthusiastic, it is the teacher's responsibility to remain focused and be motivational.  Students who are positive and remain focused usually develop their attitudes based on the attitudes of their instructors. 


While lesson plans are significant teaching tools, it is equally important for a teacher to be organised in a way that allows flexibility.  The teacher must be prepared so that lessons can be adapted to unexpected circumstances that suit the dynamics of a class.  A good teacher will be organised so that plans can be calmly changed and/or altered efficiently.  Young students or students learning in higher risk environments should never be left unattended.

Keen powers of observation

Successful teachers are those who are able to assess the moods, attitudes, potentials and needs of individuals and groups.  A good teacher will recognise when a student needs to be pushed and how a student needs to improve.  Alternatively, observational teachers will realise when a student needs a break or requires something explained in a different way.    This is a key aspect that is crucial to the successful development of any skill.

Thorough knowledge of subject

Teachers should have a thorough knowledge or the specialist area they are teaching.  This is important in answering questions from students in a confident and reliable manner.  A thorough knowledge must be demonstrated in order to develop trust between the student and the teacher, and also to provide valuable feedback to individual students.

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