The makings of an effective teacher

Have you ever wondered if effective teachers are born or made? Have you ever asked the question: What makes an effective teacher and what do they do differently? How can teachers be made effective? Here are my reflections in an attempt to answer these questions. They are based on my observations in classrooms, interactions with teachers, teacher educators and also from my readings on teacher development.

Effective teachers are ones that not only contribute to academic excellence of students but also influence their attitudes and mindsets. They address the needs of different children and help them discover their self and innate abilities.

The 10 key mindsets, attitudes, skills and practices that make for effective teachers are:

1. High expectations: They believe that every child can learn and progress, and therefore have personalised goals for every child and the class.

2. Good classroom management practices: They set up processes, routines and use every minute of the time available in the class for creating productive learning atmosphere and reduce chaos. 

3. Balanced planning and execution: They are very clear of the objectives of the class and choose appropriate teaching strategies and create opportunities for practice for students.

4. Relationship building: They deal with misbehaviours sensitively, challenge and motivate students to give their best and set up a strong culture to promote a growth mindset. 

5. Content mastery: They have good conceptual knowledge, an understanding of the misconceptions students might develop in various content areas and how to address them.

6. Communication skills: Effective teachers are very creative in the way they present the content to students. They introduce ideas in ways that are simple for students to understand and learn.

7. Collecting and using students’ data: Effective teachers consider assessments as an important data reflecting their performance and hence plan for improvement.  

8. Critical reflection: They constantly reflect on what’s working well in class and what needs improvement. They come across as problem solvers.

9. Never-give-up attitude: They never give up on their students as they strongly feel that if they give up then the students give up on themselves.

10. Consistency is the key: They follow all the above-mentioned points with great consistency on a day-to-day basis.

In-service training

How can we make our teachers effective?

While we cannot undermine pre-service training and the efforts of individual teachers and their passion to get better every single day, there are still many things that school managements can do while they are in service. These include certain systems that need to be set up in schools and the school management should make sure that it employs competent individuals to run the systems effectively.

1. Regular and periodic classroom observations followed by coaching conversations. These conversations help teachers reflect on their strengths and identify areas of development. Closing the coaching conversation with clear actionable steps for future is an absolute must.

2. Skill-based training is necessary to improve a variety of teacher skills like classroom management, relationship building with students, lesson planning etc.

3. Data meetings are very important as they help teachers to understand the performance of students, identify what is going well, what needs improvement and plan for the future. Data meetings create a culture of using the data from FAs, SAs, student attendance etc to make informed decisions.

4. Acknowledge and appreciate teachers for their efforts to improve their skills. Acknowledgment makes teachers feel that they are getting better and are on the right track. Appreciation can motivate and inspire, and there are many ways of doing this — writing a note of appreciation, set up teacher appreciation walls displaying the good efforts of teachers, appreciation during the assembly, annual awards, so on.

5. Holding teachers accountable for implementing their learnings from coaching conversations, trainings and data meetings. Regular follow-up with teachers during classroom walk-through, feedback conversations and data meetings make teachers accountable for acting on the previous action steps.

At a time when the country is thinking of ways to improve students’ performance in schools, professional development of teachers, both pre-service and in-service, needs to be paid equal importance to so as to hone more effective teachers.

(The author is City Head (Hyderabad) at India School Leadership Institute)

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The makings of an effective teacher

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