Teachers are at the forefront of our students’ education: refining skills, knowledge, and ideas to help prepare them for success in life. To accomplish this mission, teachers use research-based instructional strategies and rigorous curricula in their classrooms. In addition to utilizing these strategies and curricula, there are a few traits that set teachers apart in their field and make them great teachers.
1. They Have Growth Mindsets
Stellar educators believe in never-ending growth, not only in their students, but in themselves. This belief guides teachers to continually improve their craft and ensure that their course content is relevant. After all, if we expect our students to embrace their learning as a perpetual effort - one that they will continue to work at throughout their schooling, professions, and lives - then we must hold ourselves to the same expectation.
The content we teach and the way in which we teach it must evolve over time if we are to be successful on our quest to provide an exceptional learning experience for our students. This is why professional development opportunities within the school building and at outside conferences are foundational to the growth of a great teacher. Having that sacred time to collaborate with peers around innovations in instruction and current industry trends in one’s content area allows teachers to grow as professionals.
In elective areas, these opportunities to collaborate with those teaching the same courses are often limited though, as these teachers are usually the only one teaching that class. The INCubatoredu program is a perfect example of a program where teachers provide a niche elective focus for their students, but INCubatoredu educators do not find themselves siloed. Innovative, relevant ongoing professional development and a collaborative educator community are key tenets of the INCubatoredu program, providing those nutrients great teachers rely on to nurture their growth mindsets.
2. They Facilitate Learning
The most powerful learning is through those classroom experiences that go beyond the textbook. Great teachers bring content to life through project-based learning where students apply the course content in a broader venture. They create student-centered classrooms where they allow students to find the answers to their questions and guide them in locating the resources they need to do so. They bring subject matter experts into the classroom who enhance the learning experience by infusing their knowledge from the field. In short, great teachers are facilitators of learning.
In project-based, student-centered classrooms, students learn by doing. Teachers exchange worksheets for experiences. Students swap rote memorization with authentic learning. Great teachers do not simply deliver content through slide decks and handouts, they provide students with opportunities to apply content through meaningful, open-ended activities. They move from the front to the middle of the room, allowing students to not only ask questions, but find the answers to them. They do not allow themselves to be the only content authorities in their classrooms, they bring in outside expertise. Great teachers don’t just teach, they facilitate learning by putting students in the middle of their learning, not just on the receiving end of it.
3. They Model Learning Through Failure
They say everyone makes mistakes and nobody’s perfect. But that’s difficult for students to take to heart if they don’t see this acceptance of failure modeled in their learning environments. Good teachers not only challenge themselves by trying new instructional strategies, for example, but when it doesn’t go perfectly, they reflect and learn from the experience. Great teachers find ways to make students part of the reflection and model how to embrace these failures as learning opportunities.
Historical figures and athletes can also be models for the growth that results from reflecting on mistakes and failed experiments. Use the stories of Henry Ford who said “Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently,” or notable martial artist, Morihei Ueshiba who said, “Failure is the key to success; each mistake teaches us something,” to discuss learning through failure. Each industry has its own iconic stories of failure that lead to success. Entrepreneurship teachers, for example, could fill libraries with the biographies of entrepreneurs that embraced failure, learned from it, and created success as a result of it.
Incorporating these iconic and personal stories of learning from failure, great teachers create a safe space for their students to take risks, experience failure, and most importantly, grow from it. Through their entrepreneurial ventures in the INCubatoredu program, teachers are guiding their students to do just that - embrace failure to write their own stories of success.
Practicing these habits to develop the qualities listed above will help teachers take their classroom to the next level and prepare their students for the real world. After all, one day they’ll all be entering the workforce and their belief in never-ending growth, resourcefulness in finding answers, and willingness to learn from failure starts with the great teachers who model the same traits.