Teaching PLI: Great and Awful Teacher Traits

Last year we set out on a mission to answer this critical question...

What are the commonalities of great teachers and awful teachers?

We heard from students, teachers, administrators, vendors, etc. The following lists contain the most frequent answers we found among the hundreds of responses.

Best/Most Effective Teacher Traits
  • Organized
  • Passionate about seeing students succeed
  • Passionate about their subject
  • Holds high expectations for students; challenges them to succeed
  • Seeks out professional development
  • Avoids using negative weapons - embarrassment, guilt, fear
  • Invests in students beyond teaching the subject

Worst/Least Effective Teacher Traits
  • Doesn't teach for understanding; only teaches for testing
  • Does not understand subject
  • Does not have effective teaching techniques
  • Reads straight from textbook
  • Doesn't make an effort to get to know students
  • Talks down about other students not in the classroom
  • Is vocal about not liking their job, the school, the staff and/or the students

This project was both inspiring and discouraging.  Many of the traits from the bottom list came directly from students.  They don't like teachers who take it easy on them or who only make the classroom fun.  They want to enjoy school, but also learn what they need to learn.  The study was also discouraging because of all the clearly awful teachers these students have to be around and these administrators/teachers have to put up with.  It is so difficult to remove a teacher from a school, the awful ones stay in the system even though they are clearly not fit for the task of inspiring, motivating and educating.

If you are a teacher and/or have influence over one, please share this list.  At the 2009 TED conference, Bill Gates said there are two major global issues he believes are not getting enough attention and, if fixed, would significantly improve our quality of life.  Figuring out how to make teachers great was one of those.  I am excited to be playing a part in this inspiring task at school faculty/staff in-services this year.   Teaching educators how to be great is a challenging, yet rewarding mission.

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