8 Traits of Highly Effective Teachers
I’m over 30. Still, whenever my elementary school teacher Mrs. Rumana addresses me as beta (meaning son or child), I feel like a fifth-grader in her class.
Being congratulated by her for every achievement, cheered by her for my endeavors still feel just as good — although we haven’t seen each other in nearly two decades.
The teacher that I am today is in constant pursuit of reincarnating within myself the qualities I found among teachers like her whom I’ve had the privilege to be mentored by.
And that includes my own parents — my eternal educators — who are teachers by profession too.
After having spent most of my life as a student, and about a third of it as a teacher, these are the traits I’ve found among the very best of my mentors and colleagues — who keep having significant positive impacts on the lives of their hundreds, if not thousands of students, in and beyond classrooms.
They learn constantly, and from everyone.
One of my favorite teachers once said the difference between teachers who see their work as a way of life and teachers who simply see it as ‘just another job’ is that the latter plays the role of a parrot.
They just repeat what they have read — every week, every month, every year. And they never feel the need to grow out of it.
Good teachers never stop learning. They understand that knowledge evolves, times change, ideas emerge and there’s no such thing as being stagnant. Either you’re moving with the expansion of knowledge or you’re moving against it.
They also never consider anyone too ignorant to learn from. Not only are they always keen to learn from their students, they learn from people from all walks of life.
They recognize they may become role models.
The best teachers are aware of this every time they walk into a classroom, at every instance they give advice, talk about their subject or life in general.
Students, especially young and adolescent ones, find role models among teachers they like. Especially in academia, students who aspire to be educators follow footsteps of their own out of respect and faith.
Knowing this, the best teachers don’t take lightly the role that inevitably comes as part of the package. As human as they are, they try to set the best possible examples for their students to follow.
They take a genuine interest in their students’ lives.
Instead of a clockwork loop of arrive ➵ teach ➵ leave ➵ repeat, they pay attention to the unique characteristics of their students. They try their best to suit their support to the students’ needs.
Some of my dearest teachers gave me life, career, and relationship advice to depths that nobody else could reach. Sometimes they knew more about my concerns than my parents or friends did.
Yet, instead of being invasive or overly inquisitive, they just put their views on my table so that I can accept or reject them at my own discretion.
More often than not, I listened to them. And I have yet to regret it.
They don’t act entitled to respect. They earn it.
I’m sure we’ve all met plenty of teachers who demanded to be respected — and used strictness, fear, and condescending behavior to squeeze it out of students.
I’m also sure, deep down many of them know that they were simply trying to cover up their own insecurities and limitations by coercing others to show respect.
Teachers who are genuinely respected earn it — with intellect, wisdom, empathy, compassion, and charisma. They earn it through a lifetime of acquiring knowledge to reach their intellectual altitudes.
But they never demand it.
They focus on strength and potential, not weakness.
The best teachers don’t classify between good students and bad students, or brilliant students and dull students.
They classify students as those who perform well and those who can perform just as well, if not better, with the proper assistance.
I’m recalling all the times I’ve seen my parents put all their faith and effort into students whom their own parents have stopped seeing a future for.
The patience and love they offered to these kids — who, proverbially speaking, seemed paralyzed — to ensure they can eventually run academic marathons — set an example for this profession.
They make it about the students, not themselves.
I don’t want to make it sound as though I’ve been thoroughly fortunate with my teachers. And it’s in part because many of my teachers gave me the impression that I owe them something.
It’s understandable that sometimes a sense of authority is needed, especially when the students are very young. But at no point should a teacher behave as though the students are bound to ‘serve’, in manners of attention, attention, and non-contradiction.
The best teachers I’ve come across always go out of their ways to remind students that it's their job to be the guide and the students are welcome to extract as much as they can from the opportunity.
Instead of standing like an obelisk of authority, they stretch their arms out like sources of guidance and nurturing — like a place of trust and growth.
They prepare students for the world ‘out there’
A classroom may be a great place for learning, but it’s a bubble, away from the practicalities of the world.
Teachers make a big impact on their students’ capacity to succeed when they constantly come up with questions, experiments, simulations, and projects that provide an opportunity to apply and test what they learned in books or classrooms.
Good teachers are always cautious to remind students of the limitations of learning without applying and the dangers of learning without questioning.
They assume secondary/alternative parenthood.
I have had the privilege to see a good number of teachers act as my ad hoc parents when I needed them —even well into my adulthood.
When students struggle to discuss serious, life-changing issues with their parents, either because the ‘stakes are too high’ in confiding in them, the most dedicated teachers come forward trying their best to untangle the crises to the best of their abilities.
Even in situations where parents are involved in and supportive of students’ concerns, the best teachers join hand-in-hand with them to aid growth and well-being.
I’d like to take this opportunity to remember and express gratitude
To the teachers who have had an everlasting impact on my life, made me feel privileged to have learned from, be inspired by, and even to simply have met them.
If I were given infinite reincarnations, in every life I would walk back into your classrooms.
Thank you, in order of your appearance in my life —
Abbu & Ammu (my parents), Chowdhury Rumana Beg, Bhowmik Sir, Anis Reza, Tasveer Hossain, Masrufa Ayesha Nusrat, Iftekharul Huq, Asif Hossain, Ehsanul Haque, Ekhtekharul Islam, Hossain Ishrath Adib, A K Enamul Haque, Ranjula Bali Swain, Thomas Marmefelt and Johan Stennek.