What does it take to be a great teacher with good teacher personality traits? I always remember my favourite home economics teacher who taught from a wheelchair. Her best teacher friend died in a car accident and she was the driver, but she continued teaching. Her demeanour was always one of: creativity, reliability, empathy, agreeableness, timeliness, individuality, versatility, and enthusiasm, helping both students and teachers.
Mrs M was a very special person. Did I mention anything about academics or tests or scores? – No. Mrs M did the academics and the tests, they were important and woe betide you if you didn’t do them but she showed individual care even as she corrected.
Teacher personality is key to students retention of those skills we so much want them to get. Do you have creative teacher personality? Let’s use the acronym CREATIVE, to discuss the eight teacher personality traits I remembered in my best teacher.
Creativity is key to captivating a student and I don’t mean art lessons. 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 were having problems sewing in a straight line. Now, I know this is not rocket science having taught sewing myself now but to a young high school kid, it was like a light switched on. 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! That little instruction has stayed with me for years.
My best teacher, Mrs M met with a bad accident, where her best closest friend also a school teacher died in a car accident, in the car that Mrs M was driving at the time. It was very sad and left Mrs M 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.
A great teacher is sensitive to their students’ needs. 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 work as she knew I wasn’t in any fit state at the time to complete it. 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.
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. 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.
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, don’t you know. In England where keeping to 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 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?
Mrs M had rules but she didn’t berate you with them. The truth is there are ways to enforce rules without being bossy boots 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 you, 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.
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. I see so many teachers sitting, sitting, sitting at their desk [the throne for some] but not Mrs M. She may have been restricted to a wheel-chair but that didn’t prevent her from moving to all corners of the classroom.
Why should a student be excited about learning when their teacher is not excited about teaching? Think about it. Would you be excited 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 work day, 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 silently accept this kind of behaviour from their teacher. Please don’t let it be you. Bring out that enthusiasm even if you make some mistakes you can correct them tomorrow. Have a bit of fun! Bring in that teacher personality! To excite and inspire your students requires enthusiasm and a passion, in you. Let it become contagious.
You might like to read Kendra Cherry’s ‘Five Big Personality Traits’ and compare them with the CREATIVE eight above. Did you answer yes to each CREATIVE personality trait? Do you have what it takes to be a great teacher? I believe good teacher personality traits are key if you want to make a difference in a student’s life. What do you think?