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8 Top Personality Traits Effective Teachers Need

We had heard rumours. Had they died? Mrs M and Miss T? You could hear a pin drop in the Assembly Hall as we waited for the headmistress to address us. Miss Longbottom looked very sad as she strode to the podium; with her presence, the Hall got quieter, if that were even possible. 

She stood in front of the assembly and announced, “Boys and girls it is with a sad heart that I have to tell you that two of our loved teachers Mrs M and Miss T met with an accident last night. Mrs M is still in the hospital recovering, but Miss T died. We are all devastated by this loss. Please keep Mrs M in your hopes and prayers.”

They were our favourite teachers. Everyone loved them, especially Mrs M. I now know she had what is called great personality traits which made her such an effective teacher. I want to share with you eight top personality traits that effective teachers need – and Mrs M had.

My home economics teacher Mrs M taught from a wheelchair. Mrs M was the driver when her closest friend Miss T died in the car accident. Mrs M didn’t come back straight away, and she was very sad, we were told. 

The next term she was back, teaching in the same school but now, without her friend and colleague Miss T. Her demeanour was always one of creativity, reliability, empathy, agreeableness, timeliness, individual-care, versatility, and enthusiasm, helping both students and teachers. Her accident didn’t change how she behaved as a teacher, as a role model, and as a coworker. 

Mrs M was a very special person. Did I mention anything about academics or tests or scores? – No, but Mrs M did, they were important, and woe betide you if you didn’t do them, but she showed individual care even as she corrected.

Good teacher personality traits are key to student’s retention of the skills we so much want them to get. Let’s use the acronym C.R.E.A.T.I.V.E. to discuss the eight teacher personality traits I saw in my best teacher.

creativity trait

Creativity

Creativity is key to captivating a student, and I don’t mean art lessons. A teacher who has this personality trait uses their creativeness to create an inviting classroom environment. Lessons are engaging and individualised to meet each students needs. 

When I reflect on lessons with Mrs M, I remember a particular moment in the classroom that has stayed with me forever. It was home economics, and a number of us girls had problems sewing in a straight line. Now, I know this is not rocket science having taught textiles myself, but to a young high school kid, it was like a light switched on. 

“You see, look at this line,” she said, a small smile playing at the corner of her lips as she pointed at the place she wanted me to focus. It was not something that I had thought of doing – it was a simple yet creative tip that made sewing easier. She would wait patiently by our side until we got a hold of the trick, mastering it. 

“Look at that! You’ve got it all down pat,” she would say, encouraging every single one of us as we practised this handy trick. Mrs M quietly showed us how to line up the edge of the material to a marker on the sewing machine and not to watch the needle but the line. Perfection – every time! It was all thanks to Mrs M and her creative ways of teaching her lessons. 

That little instruction has stayed with me for years. I’m a tailor as well as a teacher, and I can cut and sew a tailored suit in a week. 

reliability trait

Reliability

Reliable teachers are seen as professional, and school leadership tend to ask them to help where there is a need. My best teacher Mrs M was very reliable and dependable.

It was very sad the day Mrs M had the accident, and it left her in a wheelchair. But Mrs M never gave up she exercised this teacher personality trait to its fullest. It’s easy to be enthusiastic about teaching when things are going well, but we occasionally have bad days. 

Mrs M had more than a bad day, but she faced it even if one of us was being disagreeable, she was reliable. Mrs M exercised great patience with all of us as we made our mistakes. She could be relied on never to lose her temper with us.

I recall one moment where a particular peer of mine had been acting out; it was unusual and unlike him to be acting in such a manner yet not one teacher had paid much attention to him; they all ignored it, except for Mrs M. 

While in our home economics class, he had made a snide comment at Mrs M, who was teaching. Rather than scream, punish, or belittle him, she smiled sweetly at him and took him aside; never once allowing her temper to get the best of her. 

“Is everything okay?” She asked him quietly, in a motherly tone. It was stern yet kind. Though I couldn’t hear his part of the story, I could tell that this act of kindness and patience was all that this student needed. As she resumed her class, she said, “I’m here to be my best for you all, please do the same for me. If there’s a problem you are facing, I’m here to help you. Not make it worse.” 

It was a vital moment in all of our lives – a teacher is meant to teach you not only life lessons but how to maintain patience and keep a cool head, never to be rude or lose our temper. 

empathy trait

Empathy

An effective teacher is sensitive to their students’ needs. Empathy enables a teacher to relate to his or her students. Teachers who have this personality trait recognise that some students have a difficult home life. They try to work out ways to help them. 

Mrs M spent time talking with us and getting to know each of us, students. When I was upset with my family breaking up, Mrs M didn’t push me to get my work done in class. She would make time for me to be able to come back at lunchtimes to complete the task as she knew I wasn’t in any fit state at the time to complete it. 

“If you can’t finish this right now, we can always work something out,” she would say, as she sat next to me. During this time, my nerves were high, but she provided a nice respite away from the problems that I was facing. Her empathy was soothing; she never pushed me too hard. 

“I can do this right now,” I would say every lunchtime. Rather than say anything or make me feel guilty, Mrs M would smile and nod. 

“Everything at your own pace,” she would respond. “If you need help, I’m here for that. Please feel free to reach out.” 

I never really thought about how much time she was giving up for me at the time – students can be very unthankful, but love conquers all.

agreeableness trait

Agreeableness

Developing good teacher personality traits should not be difficult, especially this one. Perhaps if you were born with the opposite disposition, you might. Mrs M was a very agreeable person full of warmth and kindness even when stuck in a wheelchair after the death of her closest friend. 

Naturally, there were moments that Mrs M was human and not this perfect teacher – she had moments where her moods were low, or she was grumpy. I could recall one morning, where this may have occurred. 

“Good morning,” she said in a snappish tone. We were all surprised by this behaviour; it wasn’t something that she often portrayed. But within a few minutes, she would fix those manners and be back to her usual warm and kind presence. 

“I’m sorry about that. Let’s restart, shall we? Good morning,” she said, this time her voice was cool and sweet as it usually was. We all knew that this was a random occurrence and never held it against her – she was generally very agreeable. 

It is known that the more agreeable someone is, the more likely they are to be trusting, helpful and compassionate. Students are drawn to teachers who have this personality trait.

You might say you don’t have it, but you can choose to stop being disagreeable because of something that happened earlier in the day and change your mind not to be sulky. Just stop and think – ‘Is that the way I would like someone to behave towards me?’ No? – Then don’t do it.

timeliness trait

Timeliness

I lived and worked for fifteen years on a Pacific island where people do not live by the clock. If you’re on time, you’re considered to be rather early. If you’re 3 to 5 hours late, you’re on time. If you arrive the next day, you just got held up – no worries. It’s called ‘Solomon time’. 

At first, I found it frustrating, especially in trying to run a school and teach at the same time. Gradually, after living there fifteen years I found I had so adapted, I had taken on this cultural trait. It’s taken quite a lot of time to get this out of my system. Occasionally, I fall back into it – crazy!

In England, where keeping time is essential, Mrs M was always in class well before we had to be there. She never made the wheelchair an excuse for lateness, and though it was never asked of us students to be on time, we just were. Perhaps it was because of her example. 

Mrs M would always be waiting in the classroom, patiently waiting for us. All of us would file into class early or on the dot, and as each person walked into the room, she would greet us with a smile and a refreshing, “Good morning.” 

Mrs M always knew the right time to intervene and help you. She didn’t just budge in and do everything for you. She’d let you make the mistakes and unpick them yourself, so that soon made you learn not to make those mistakes. 

The timeliness of her instructions was perfected to just when you needed them, and there she’d be at your elbow. I wonder how much practice she had to put into that or if it just happened?

individual-care trait

Individual care

Teachers who show individual respect can tell when students are struggling with learning new concepts. This personality trait enables teachers to adapt a lesson so that all students can understand. 

Mrs M had rules, but she didn’t continuously scold you with them. The truth is there are ways to enforce rules without being bossyboots or sending shivers down a student’s back. Yes, it’s very important to establish rules, but we must have the trust and respect of our students to gain respect so that students work with us, to have a structured and organised classroom that runs well. 

Mrs M made you feel special like you were the only student in the class taking her lesson. She made time to talk with you individually and explain or demonstrate instructions. I suppose I remember Mrs M because she cared for me.

“How was your weekend?” She would ask as she rolled to my desk; she would do this every week, asking us all individually how our weekend was, making sure we were all well taken care of, or if we needed anything. 

“It was okay,” I would respond. If something were exciting that had gone on, I would fill Mrs M in as she listened attentively. Now, as I sit here and think about it, she created a safe place for all of us while also maintaining rules and organisation in her classroom. 

versatility trait

Versatility

The effective teacher is very versatile. Those who have this personality trait can handle any sudden changes. They are effective in minimising distractions when the lesson does not go as planned.

Mrs M was a versatile teacher who had great, imagination and was always encouraging us to try new things. 

Mrs M was very versatile when it came to moving around the classroom. The wheelchair didn’t prevent her. I see so many teachers sitting, sitting, sitting at their desk [the throne for some] but not Mrs M.

“Can anyone explain to me what the task is?” She would ask as she moved around the floor of the classroom, looking at all of our faces. “Anyone?” 

If no one volunteered to answer her, she would tap on someone’s desk as she rolled around. It was always a random person – or the person that was nearest her. I could swear that used up the entire classroom, using up every space to move around; she never allowed her wheelchair to hinder her. 

enthusiasm trait

Enthusiasm

Why should a student be excited about learning when their teacher is not enthusiastic about teaching? Think about it. Would you be keen to sit in the same seat in the same position in the same drab room doing the same drab worksheet after worksheet or textbook, every workday, every week, all year long? 

Be truthful. How many teachers complain at one-hour staff meetings or one-hour PDs where the speaker is droning on. No, You wouldn’t last a week! But, many students are expected to accept this kind of behaviour from their teacher silently. 

Please don’t let it be you. Bring out that enthusiasm even if you make some mistakes you can correct them tomorrow. Think outside the box and be creative in your approach. To excite and inspire your students requires enthusiasm and a passion, in you. Let it become contagious.

“Isn’t this exciting?” Mrs M would ask every class after her lesson; she always had a smile on her face as she taught us what we needed to know. She would laugh with us as we cracked jokes and made the class enjoyable. One could tell that Mrs M was enthusiastic and passionate about her students learning. 

Not only did her lessons in class teach me something valuable, but so did her personality traits. 

Effective Teachers

Effective Teacher Personality Traits

You might like to read Kendra Cherry’s ‘Five Big Personality Traits’ and compare them with the CREATIVE eight above. Do you have what it takes to be an effective teacher? 

“How is everyone doing?” Mrs M rolled into her first class since her accident. Her usual bright smile was plastered on her face as her warmth filled the room. We all stared in shock as we saw her in the classroom; none of us was expecting for her to be back that day. But as the realisation settled in, we smiled happily and greeted her with eagerness. 

“We’re doing good!” We would say. Though, what we meant was ‘we’re doing good now that you’re back’. 

“I’m so glad to hear that!” She had said that first day back. Mrs M held herself in a manner that always exuded happiness and kindness; it was as if the terrible accident happened. “Let’s get back to work, yes?” 

“Yes!” 

As a class, we were all relieved when our beloved teacher had come back to school. We were all grateful for her as a teacher; she was someone we could all look up to and hope to emulate her.

Spread the word . . .  .

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About the author: 5000 Credits 10000 Credits 15000 Credits PRO Badge sylvias Visit My Stall
I am a K-12 Australian Teacher, with 25+ years of teaching experience. My Honours research investigated how teachers succeed in teaching English in a TEFL context. Originally from the UK, I lived and worked for 15 years in the Pacific Islands. During that time I was Principal of a school for 5 years, training teachers, teaching a class, and building a school from the ground up. I'm now back in Australia teaching and having fun!
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