What makes a great teacher?

How to be a great teacher

By Lara Tipper

“Teacher: a person who teaches, especially in a school.”

Under the dictionary definition, a teacher is simply a ‘person who teaches’, but I believe a teacher is much more than that, especially a great one.

Yes, teachers help us learn English, Maths and Science (let’s not list every subject), but they also teach us right from wrong, how to be kind, inclusive and most importantly, they can inspire us to be the person we want to be as we grow up.

A good teacher is seen to be one that can achieve results in exams and can reach the national standards of teaching in a classroom, but a great teacher goes beyond that to understand their pupil’s, allowing them to express themselves and discover who they want to be.

Not everyone succeeds academically, but even so, a school can be a place where a child explores their strengths to develop and use in the future. I was never an A* student, nor was I in the bottom sets at school. But I knew I was never going to be mathematician or historian. I was, however, good at sports and loved music. In primary school, I was given opportunities to play the flute in front of the whole school assembly, share my sporting victories on a Friday assembly and was chosen to help write the school song. During primary school, I was confident, loud and full of energy. I thought the world was at my feet and I couldn’t wait to move up into secondary school to see what I was capable of…

It was in secondary school where I really learnt what it meant to be a great teacher. My form tutor played a significant part in my adolescence. From the start, she always gave me time and encouraged me to sign me up for all sorts of extracurricular activities so I could represent the school. It was fun, but also a little annoying in my first 2 years. But, after returning to school after the worst summer of my life, I saw how incredible she was…

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I was struggling with a huge bereavement and grieving. I was still turning up to school, but I wasn’t completing my homework and I received 26 detentions that year. I had no real excuse for not doing them, apart from the fact I had no motivation and just didn’t care that much. But she didn’t get angry with me, she didn’t even just pity me. Every detention I received, she would stay after school hours, pull me out so I could sit in my classroom and complete my homework, with her sat there with me. She showed me the greatest kindness and taught me not to give up on myself. It may not sound like a lot, but she sacrificed time with her family to sit with me, she sacrificed her own work to help me with mine. That is something special.

She also continued to encourage me to take part in extracurricular activities and always listened to what I had to say, valuing my opinion and making me feel heard.

It has been 9 years since I left school and I still have the letter she wrote me that summer and the note she gave me as I was leaving for college – “Try and keep up your busy life – but don’t forget the work. Be Happy Lara”. In my opinion, it is these qualities that help young people become confident in themselves and ambitious for what their future has in store for them.

Although people say these teachers are rare, I believe that all teachers can inspire their pupils. I was interested to find out if my colleagues at The Supply Room had a particular teacher who had a positive impact in their lives. Here’s what I found out…

“Miss Woods was my year 4 and 5 teacher and she honestly made such an impact on me. I remember her whacky skirts and red glasses and the way she would give each of us a hug at the start and end of the day, every day she would tell us something great we had done that we had to be proud of ourselves for. She was just generally a ray of sunshine, I remember the silly little songs she would sing and the custom prizes she would give us for achieving Star of the Week, the amount of effort she would put in to making our little lives brighter has stuck with me since. She made me want to be a Teacher when I grew up and even though I didn’t follow that path myself, I look for a bit of Miss Woods in every candidate I meet!” – Darcy Smith

“I had a teacher in grade 7 that was just brilliant. He told me loads about all the Iron Man competitions he had done, and it was him who sparked my interested in triathlon. I still to this day want to do an Iron man for myself, but also to tell him I finally did it!” – Jason Alborough

“At school, I was always someone who was more interested in playing football at lunchtime, messing about with my friends and playing more football at lunch. As you can imagine, this meant that I always found it quite hard to concentrate on other subjects. This was until I met my Maths teacher, Mr Hall. Meeting a teacher that was as football-mad as me not only helped with Maths but other subjects. He used football to solve problems in a way that I’d never thought of before and it meant that I started to use this in other subjects I hated (like Science). Thanks, Mr Hall!” – Ryan Bamsey

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“During my educational ladder, especially Secondary School, the one teacher was aspired to be like was my Physical Education Teacher, Mr Hastings. My passion for learning and especially for the one and only sport ‘Golf’ is inspirational and intriguing. Passion is infectious, as he inspired me to pursue subjects which I loved. His clear passion for his subject allowed him to pass on the desire to learn more and more. As I have grown in life, I see and believe in order to create a successful learning environment, the teacher needs to have the capability to build a bond with their students. Boy, he did good! It’s the teacher-student relationship we had. Today, as I walk and play the golf course, on a regular basis. I proudly can call Mr Hastings a friend.” – Ross Moore

“During my High School years, I started off at a new school where I was a very mediocre academic just trying to find my feet in a new environment. One of my teachers, Mr Webber, who took me for Geography, really had an impact and influence on my academic career when he recognised my potential in the subject. Through additional mentorship, support, and giving me enrichment tasks to complete on top of our set work, I slowly began to move into the upper quartile of my class. I eventually found myself one of the top three in the subject in my year, and with this success, began to then focus and apply myself to other areas of my learning, where I then became quite a studious individual with an ambition to be top of my class. I finished school with above 90% for Geography and came second in my class. This developed my passion and influence for the environment where I then went on to study a degree in Environmental Sciences. The sequence of these events stemmed from that very influence and impact that my teacher had on my learning and can only but praise the efforts that Teachers place on the young minds of future generations.” – Brandon Alborough

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