Am I an Ideal Teacher?
Zainab Al Balushy, Oman
Zainab Al Balushi is a Senior Language Instructor at the Language Center, Sultan Qaboos University. She has been teaching English for 14 years. She holds a Master degree from University of Warwick, UK. Her areas are teaching methods and autonomy.
Findings and discussion
The issue of the ideal teacher is an ongoing topic. It has been addressed and talked about in the teaching/learning field for long. Ideas about this topic differ from one generation to the other and from one culture to another. We as teachers might even question ourselves about this sometimes and would want to know how ideal we are in the eyes of our students. Various factors determine the extent to which students as well as teachers identify certain qualities associated to the teaching profession. Some might consider the amount of knowledge as a basic characteristic for an ideal teacher. Others on the other hand might regard the techniques and methods used as the main arbitrator for such a judgment.
Eventually, there are some common characteristics associated with the notion of the ideal teacher through which the degrees of significance might be attributed differently depending on factors like background, culture, experience, requirements, beliefs and principles." Advocates for more attention to subject matter assume that good teaching depends largely on the teachers' ability to correctly present the content. Advocates for more attention to pedagogy assume that good teaching depends on the ability to keep students orderly and attentive." Kennedy (1997). So, some judge according to teaching skills and others depend on methods of dealing with students. However, a collection of both would be a more logical way.
The effectiveness of teachers is valued according to the kinds of experiences students encounter throughout their learning process, Walls, Nardi, von Minden, & Hoffman (2002). This is particularly true if we adhere to students' standards and what they believe is important to qualify to be an ideal teacher in their views. Students come across various experiences in schools and universities with different resulting assumptions about teachers' roles, abilities, methods and qualities. Some educationalists define an effective teacher as one who holds certain degrees and has the sufficient subject knowledge required for teaching. Others, however, give more importance to the emotional attachment and positive rapport that the teacher establishes with his or her students, Brown, Morehead, Smith (2008). The accountability of students' views is questionable however in some educationalists' opinions. Alsup (2006) determines that students are not totally aware of the long term qualities that qualify a teacher to be an ideal one. Their judgments are based on their expectations based on the experiences they had with their teachers. However, students' are examples of very good observant and their views could reveal some hidden aspects that teachers themselves are not conscious of.
The specific criteria for ideal teachers' characteristics are widely discussed in the literature. Researchers such as Reeves & Kazelskis (1985) claim that the perceptions of teachers and teaching detained by pre-service teachers pay more attention on affective (e.g., caring) than on cognitive issues. Others like Jacobs, Gregory, Hoppey, and Yendol-Hoppey (2009) categorize good teachers as those who use their knowledge and experience in their teaching and use such to enhance their teaching and benefit their students. They continue that good teachers make use of their experience and intuition, and their professional wisdom, to formulate changes either in materials at the curriculum applied or in their own teaching and assessment methods. Hence, such teachers without a glitch acclimatize instruction and arbitrate in classroom management situations and therefore frequently assess their students automatically and naturally whenever occurs an opportunity to do so. Other criteria include energetic, pleasant, articulated, concerned about students, committed, and responsible according to Cherland (1989). Some students' views of the characteristics that could be determined to judge over how ideal a teacher is could be specified as the following 25 qualities:
A teacher's creativity plays a vital role in establishing ideality in his/her teaching methods and therefore his/her students' performance. A creative teacher would always try different ways of instructional strategies to provide the useful information in an interesting scheme. This will definitely depend on their students' levels and interests.
The students expect the teacher to be a walking encyclopedia. They think a teacher is acquainted with a wide knowledge of everything. The ideal teacher in their views should be able to answer any question that comes to their minds. In that sense teachers do have adequate information in their fields and subjects and should always search for new ideas related to their teaching. It is not considered a positive point if teachers refuse to renew their strategies and methods. As Cherland (1989) states, some teachers believe that they have worked for so long on establishing their own ways and methods which they do not intend to change.
The looks do matter to students. It interferes with the idea they build about their teachers from the first encounter they have with them. This would indicate that teachers should take care of their appearance, their facial expressions and signals they transmit to their students in the various kinds of situations.
A caring teacher becomes very popularly loved among students. It is a very vital quality that shows how much a teacher values the humanity of their students and accordingly students feel comfortable having such a teacher. This would also imply the ease that students get in dealing with such a teacher and the contentment students feel with him or her. They can speak about their personal problems and private concerns freely and expect a special treatment.
An ideal teacher is also expected to understand students' needs and work towards making all the efforts to appreciate their circumstances and the reasons behind their actions or even their faults sometimes.
A teacher is regarded as a parent who has a huge amount of patience for their students. They will need that patience in their every day dealings with students and their troubles. If teachers are short tempered , the students will create negative associations which might lead to some kind of reluctance to act freely and naturally with them and would therefore make a huge barrier between them.
Controlling students is not an easy task added to the burden on teachers. Applying the proper techniques at the appropriate situations is a significant tip. Dealing with a variety of personalities is dazzling and requires a great knowledge in psychology particularly of children and adolescents. Failing to do so might result in chaos in the classroom and hence time and energy lost.
Teachers' qualifications provide them with enough confidence regarding their subject knowledge and put them in a position of trust and conviction among their students. That would also formulate positive students' believes towards their teachers and the quality of education they are getting.
Motivation is an essential factor for both teachers and students. The teacher should be motivated enough to teach properly and deal with the students accordingly. That enthusiasm should be transmitted to students through the methods and procedures the teachers use.
Appearance plays a role with students. It distinguishes the teachers' personalities and wellbeing. Students regard the way a teachers dresses as an inspiring dynamic for their own styles and looks. The teacher is a role model for them who they follow and try to imitate.
This is one of the qualities that we as teachers want to implant in our students. That could be done through the teachers' approaches they utilize with their students. It depends on how reliable the teacher is to allow for copying by students later on.
Students look up at their teachers. They are for them equivalent to their parents and close relatives. That should happen in cases where teachers are well viewed and respected by the students. This kind of view comes from the general vision that teachers gain within the community at large and the way they deal with the students particularly.
Flexibility is a major issue among students which affects largely on their views towards their teachers. They suppose that the extent to which a teacher is flexible designates how good that teacher is with them. If the teacher is flexible, he/she will be moderately lenient with the students and will give room for some reasonable get away.
Fairness is required from teachers in their dealings with students and between sexes as well. In mixed classes of boys and girls, each sex normally complains of teachers' discrimination between either sex. Sometimes also teachers might categorize students according to their level and treat them differently favoring good ones to the others who could be weaker.
A teacher needs to commit himself/herself to the teaching profession. This would comprise taking the responsibility of their job and working on developing the aspects that regulate around it. Their presence and engagement is vital to enhance it and improve the quality of their own teaching methods and techniques.
- Good communicator
Communication is a vital aspect between students and teachers. It represents the core element in the teaching and learning processes. If communication is clear and productive between them then positive results shall be expected. Teachers need to communicate their instructions and deliver the information clearly so that students would react logically and rationally.
As teachers are role models for their students, an ideal teacher should stick to being on time so that his/her students would follow the same path. They need to be taught and shown punctuality regarding their assignments and other duties similarly.
Students prefer the fun type of teachers who try to create a relaxing atmosphere in the classroom. At the same time, however, they expect that kind of fun teacher to balance the time of fun and the time of seriousness. This kind of balance establishes an immune trust from students to teacher that no time is going to be lost on account of their benefits as recipients of information.
The kind of help that students anticipate from their ideal teacher is expanded among the responsibilities that the teacher needs to handle in and out of class. This could take the form of realizing the individual differences between the students and trying to treat them accordingly whenever there is a need for help in its different forms.
An ideal teacher should show the students his/her abilities and skills in the area of their subject. This will clearly appear in the sequence of the lesson plans and how smoothly they move between the points being taught. They should be ready to handle any sudden situation regarding the lesson and would fulfill the aims of the lesson successfully and ultimately.
- Hard working
Teaching is a demanding profession and to be an ideal teacher is a challenge that requires hard work and numerous efforts. Such efforts represent the teacher's willingness to perform at their utmost level of production and attainment in doing their tasks and activities which will reflect positively on their students.
- Problem solver
Students are at a delicate age where they suffer some personal, social, and educational problems. They expect their teacher to have the abilities to solve their problems and suggest the suitable solutions. If the teacher succeeds in doing this then the students will consider him/her an ideal teacher.
Intelligence is a quality that matters a lot to students. They consider it a crucial part of the whole educational process. In their views, an ideal teacher is an intelligent human being who can make them intelligent beings as well. They also assume that their ongoing learning route is supposed to enhance their skills and advance their level of cleverness.
- Clear voiced
The way the teacher speaks and the clarity of his speech are important components of the information delivery procedure. An ideal teacher is supposed to have a clear understandable way of speech to enable the students to get the information at an adequate level.
A teacher's organization could take the form of well-sequenced lessons, tidy handouts, good use of class board, good time management for the class activities, as well as availability of all his/her teaching resources and tools.
The research addressed 200 university students' getting their views on the characteristics that determine a teacher to be an ideal one. They replied to an online survey indicating the level of importance of 25 qualities provided by the researcher. The aim of the survey is to get an over view of the most important characteristics according to students so that teachers are aware of such and could use the results to check their own teaching experiences.
The students' level at the foundation program is organized as from level 2(elementary) to level 6(advanced). The distribution of the survey was equally sent online to all students. The huge variation in the number of respondents is due to less numbers of students at the low levels in the second semester. The majority of students occupy the high levels (5&6) as appears in the chart above.
More male students than females answered the survey as clear in the chart. That is related to students' access to computer labs. Male students tend to inhabit the computer labs more often than the females and hence access their emails easily and more occasionally.
Students responded to the quality of creativity as a very important one. Their views support the notion discussed previously and proof the researcher's assumptions at the same time.
Similarly to being creative, students agree that an ideal teacher has to be resourceful. They believe in the teacher's knowledge and expertise which should be ongoing and progressing constantly.
3. Good looking
The looks don't matter that much with students although some of them give it a significant value in their responses. That would depend on the students' gender as males would supposedly pay more attention to the looks than the females.
A caring teacher is a very required aspect among students. They prefer having him/her than a very serious inconsiderate person. To them a caring teacher would make them more interested and encouraged to listen and learn. A little percentage though thinks that caring in not a very important quality in a teacher and that he/she can still be ideal if they are not caring.
Like caring, being understanding is considered a very important characteristic of the ideal teacher. Of course it is a feature that most people regard as essential in any person let alone a teacher whom they interact with on almost daily basis.
Some students do not regard discipline as one of the teachers' responsibilities. One reason could be that they do not want to be counted on their deeds and they want to feel free in whatever they do. The bigger percentage of students however believes the opposite and finds it an important trait.
7. Well qualified
Qualification is vital in students' views and anticipates that it contributes to their own intake of knowledge and their success eventually. Their views are very positive about this quality apart from a few of them who might think that knowledge is not hindered by the kind of certificate a teacher has.
Patience is also appreciated by students and they value a tolerant teacher very much. They regard it as a helpful tool for them personally as it entitles them to a fair treatment and appreciation of their circumstances.
9. Well dressed
The way the teacher dresses as well as the way he/she looks is considered a personal matter by students who though it is not a very important quality for an ideal teacher. A good proportion of students however view it as an important one.
According to students, motivation is a significant side of teachers' personalities and it has a very positive influence on students' personalities consequently.
Similarly, a reliable teacher is viewed positively by most students. They value the concept that they can count on whatever the teacher decides and whatever kinds of activities he/she brings into their learning environment.
An ideal teacher should earn his/her students respect to hold a high position among them and therefore that would reflect on the way they deal with him/her. That would happen when the teacher deals with the students respectfully as well.
It is a very welcomed quality by students that the teacher is flexible and considers their circumstances and acts in view of that. A great number of students decided that this is a very important characteristic.
Some students commented that a fair teacher should not differentiate in the treatment between males and females. They feel that teachers may sometimes favor their own gender to the other or vice versa which creates sensitivity among students and reflects badly on their perception of the teacher. As apparent in the chart, however, some students do not perceive it as an important characteristic.
Some students thought that commitment is a personal issue and teachers manage that personally as long as it does not show negatively on the way they treat their students.
16. Good communicator
Communication between teachers and students is vital. A good communication style would ease the teaching/learning process and would have a fulfilling outcome.
Being on time is not always considered well by students. Some of them like the freedom of some wasted time before or after classes. However, the biggest number of respondents is with punctuality and values it as very important.
Again, the higher group is in favor of this quality and likes being in a comfortable atmosphere where a teacher gives them some relaxation moments and makes them laugh. A few of the sample, though do not consider it as a quality for an ideal teacher.
This is the second most valued characteristic that students consider very important for an ideal teacher. A helpful teacher takes so many different forms and it affects students' perceptions and reactions.
20. Well prepared
Preparation is also well looked upon by students. They benefit from such quality since it affects their learning and intake of knowledge.
21. Hard working
As students are required to work hard, they expect their teachers to do the same. Yet again, it will influence their learning process and enhance their competence levels. It will also encourage them to do the same.
22. Problem solver
Some students do not view this quality as very important as they could feel they are responsible of solving their own problems. Others however feel that an ideal teacher's responsibility is to be able to find them solutions and tries to apply such on their difficult encounters.
Surprisingly, quite a good number of students think that intelligence is not a requirement for an ideal teacher. The biggest number, however and the dominant one view it as a very important quality.
24. Clear voiced
Voice clarity is vital and influential in students' views. It scored 95% of the entire sample for both important and very important scales.
Finally, organization plays a significant part of students' perceptions for an ideal teacher. It is required in teachers' performance and kinds of methods and strategies they apply in their teaching.
The students were asked in the final section of the survey to add their comments or other extra qualities not mentioned in the list provided. They indicated approval of the characteristics besides adding some considerable ones such as the following:
"Imaginative", "Using different methods when he\she teaches such as games", "Indulgent", "Skillful", "Non-junction between the male and female", "Honest", "friendly", "Kind", "To help students and not to laugh at them when they do mistakes", "Teachers must not punish or cut marks from students when they are absent or late", "Teachers must know that the students don't attend if the class is either boring or useless. ", "Take into account the circumstances of students", "Tolerant and Sympathetic", "As long as the teacher really wants to improve his/her student, that makes him/her the ideal teacher", "young", "The clear voice is a very, very important thing the teacher should have", "Also the speed of his\her speech should be suitable, not fast or slow", "always tries to improve the students' skills, and motivates them", "I think that teachers should never make fun of their students if they made any mistake", "The ideal teacher should know the individual differences between the students. She/he can control the class. She/he should respect students' opinion even if these opinions differ with his own believe", "talking with the students about things other than the book", "Ideal teacher should do strong classes for the weak students and deal kindly with this category", "The teacher must be a concerted and confident of himself and he must be concerned with his students", "friendly", "smiley", "has good methods to teach students", "respect our culture", "I think also the ideal teacher who makes the students as his\her friends", "must use device to teach students" , "help students and give them chance is also very important", "Use new ways to teach, take care for weak students, respect students and be quite when he deals with them", "they should be kind and respect students to respect them", "organize time in lecture", "polite, , can control the lecture and not considering the marks all the time", "honest, friendly, considerable", "they must not care of some exercises which are not important", "they must help students to improve their language", "serious", "comfortable", "It`s good to put himself/herself in our situation as a student to be more closely to us. For instance, look what we need to understand the idea", "tolerant", "be cool with students, and not care about their talking in Arabic", "I strongly believe that, if you help your students and respect them, they will respect you and they'll feel happy when see you anywhere", "I think that an ideal teacher should be eager to talk about others' concerns and understand his\her students opinion and not be fundamentalist. An ideal teacher also shouldn't be one-sided", "help us in exams", "funny in the class", "Confident".
As it appears in the discussion above, the most highly appreciated qualities of an ideal teacher from students' points of views are being respectful, good communicator, helpful, well prepared, organized, clear voiced, and hard working. These qualities are centered on the students' benefits and positive influence from teachers. Students basically want to tell us as teachers what they expect from us and specifically what would make them satisfied with the kinds of teachers they have. If teachers try to apply such qualities, they will notice promising improvements in their students' attitudes and perception levels. This will automatically have an effect on the students' performance and learning outcomes. Teacher education programs should stress such concepts and implant them in teachers to qualify them to be future ideal teachers.
Alsup, J. (2006). Teacher identity discourses: Negotiating personal and professional spaces. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Brown, N. Morehead, P. & Smith, J. (2008), But I Love Children: Changing Elementary Teacher Candidates’ Conceptions of the Qualities of Effective Teachers, Teacher education Quarterly.
Cherland , M. R. The Teacher Educator and the Teacher: When Theory and Practice Conflict, Journal of Reading, Vol. 32, No. 5 (Feb., 1989), pp. 409-413 , International Reading Association , Stable URL: www.jstor.org/stable/40031945
Jacobs, J., Gregory, A., Hoppey, D. (2009). Data literacy: Understanding teachers' data use in a context of accountability and response to intervention. Action in Teacher Education, 31(3), 41-55.
Kennedy, Mary M. March, (1997), Defining an Ideal Teacher Education Program1, Michigan State University, NCATE.wpd
Reeves, C.K., & Kazelskis, R. (1985). Concerns of Pre-service and In-service Teachers. Journal of Educational Research, 78, 267-271.
Walls, R. T., Nardi, A. H., Von Minden, A. M., & Hoffman, N. (2002). The Characteristics of Effective and Ineffective Teachers. Teacher Education Quarterly 29(1), 39-48.
Please check the How the Motivate your Students course at Pilgrims website.
Please check the Building Positive Group Dynamics course at Pilgrims website.
Please check the How to be a Teacher Trainer course at Pilgrims website.