Characteristics of Effective Teachers


Close your eyes for a moment and try to remember the most effective teachers you ever had. What made those teachers so great? Conversely, do you remember any teachers who made you more confused, who after listening to them, you actually understood less? It’s important to understand this if you are a homeschool parent, because you are the most important teacher for your children, often their only teacher while they live at home.

For me, my poetry professor in college was my favorite teacher of all time. To be honest, he sometimes would make loud sudden movements that would scare me half out of my wits. But he loved his subject. He savored those poems like a dripping, juicy steak. He made me want to read more, and his insights were fresh and personal, because he himself interacted with the material he was teaching. He was excited about it, and his enthusiasm was contagious.

I had a grammar teacher in college who was extremely confusing. I already understood and loved grammar, and I got 100% on all the exams. But everyone else in the class failed because her explanations were convoluted, unclear, and tedious. I think she must have been unprepared. Maybe she didn’t understand grammar. Her monotone voice was difficult to listen to, and she seemed angry. After being in her class, I began to dislike grammar.

Before I became a certified teacher, I listed what I loved about good teachers, and what I disliked about ineffective teachers. I decided that I would avoid the bad parts and become the best teacher I could, for the sake of bringing joy to my students. You can do the same thing as a homeschool mom. Why not bring joy to your children instead of exasperation? Every homeschool mom can be a great teacher.

Ineffective Teachers

  • didn’t care about what they were teaching
  • didn’t look at the subject ahead of time to see the most effective way to present something
  • impatient with students
  • talked down to students in an angry tone
  • vague, ambiguous, unclear
  • did not interact personally with the material

Effective Teachers

  • genuinely excited about the topic they were teaching
  • talked to my level instead of talking down to me
  • brought the subject to life, made me want to know more
  • attention to detail
  • creative
  • mentally stimulating
  • could spend hours with them, talking about one subject
  • time went by fast; wanted to stay longer to hear more

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8 Responses to “Characteristics of Effective Teachers”

  1. Beth says:

    One of the most effective, best teachers I’ve ever had was my 7th grade math teacher. He also happened to be my basketball coach. He infuriated me and inspired me at the same time in the classroom and on the court.

    He was both the nicest, most passionate, caring person and the meanest S.O.B. What made him so effective in math was that he assigned 25 problems every night for homework and the next day, he would randomly call on kids to solve the problems on the board AND explain them to the class. It was a great introduction to public speaking and being prepared. God forbid if a kid was unprepared, he humiliated you. I saw him throw chalk at a kid once. Seems abusive by today’s standards, and I don’t endorse that behavior, but we learned to be prepared very quickly. Math was never a struggle for me (unless I didn’t do my homework) after that.
    I have to admit, it’s a difficult thing to assign the kids 25 problems for practice in a homeschool setting. They really don’t get how valuable it is and when they are understanding the concept, it’s difficult to enforce. I think establishing that habit (even modified) early on would have gone a long way.
    My next most effective teacher in high school was a social studies teacher who served in Vietnam and told lots of compelling stories when we studied Southeast Asia. I’ll never forget how he came alive when we studied it.

    So, I guess a passion for the subject is a good way to be effective.

    • Susan says:

      A passion for the subject is contagious. When someone has a passion for a subject, they really understand that topic inside and out, and it’s easier to explain it and to teach another person.

  2. Melissa says:

    This is such a true and great list! I remember an English teacher in high school who was strict BUT she loved literature. She was passionate sharing the written word with others so she had high standards. I remember her best of all my high school teachers because I learned so much from her.

  3. Julie says:

    I think a teacher can encourage or inhibit a kid’s love for learning. Some of the best teachers from my past were approachable and welcoming, they cared that I learned the information.
    The bad teachers acted like it was just a job, not a passion and were angry and condescending!

  4. My favorite teacher was in college. She taught Women in History and she was so passionate about it that I grew a love for history that I hadn’t had prior. I will always remember her.

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