As a head of school for fifteen years, I have worked with many classroom teachers, from the experienced veteran to the new and eager rookie. Part of my role as a school leader is to hire classroom teachers and welcome them to the faculty – much like a coach would bring new players in to the fold of a team. Like a good team, a strong faculty is made up of a collection of individuals who have different skills, styles, and experience. However, in my view, all great teachers share three qualities – and these are the things I suggest parents look for when they visit schools.
1. They Connect with Students.
A master teacher knows his/her students – who they are as people. These are the teachers who talk to kids before or after class, not about class necessarily – but about life. Teachers who connect with their students go to their games and concerts. In their classrooms there is an air of mutual respect that is both intentional and subtle. Students rise to the occasion and meet or beat expectations because of their high regard for their teachers.
2. They Use Varied And Multiple Teaching Strategies.
The best teachers have their students up and moving and doing during class time. (Has listening to a teacher's lecture ever changed a student’s life?) Students in these classes read often, write constantly and think during every single class. Teachers are always thinking of new and novel ways that might help students learn material and inspire new discovery.
3. They Are Content Experts.
The best teachers know their stuff, and they love it. These teachers are always expanding their own knowledge of the course material because it is their passion. As learners, they then freely share with students how their views have grown or changed–sending the clear message to students that learning is a never-ending, glorious journey that all of us are lucky to be on.
At my school, Sanford School, a Preschool–12 college preparatory school, we are fortunate to have teachers who display these traits and strategies. Sanford students have the opportunity to work with teachers who are content experts, classroom specialists, and raving fans of kids. When a school is made up of a powerful team of teachers, it makes for an exceptional learning environment.
Mark Anderson is the Head of Sanford School. Mark and his family moved to Delaware in 2011 when he assumed the headship at Sanford. He received his bachelor's in Elementary Education from the University of Missouri and earned his M.A. in Educational Leadership from Maryville University.