There are approximately 85 million teachers and nearly 7 million nannies – together they outnumber the entire population of Germany! As luck might have it, these hordes of educators are spread out over a much larger area (planet earth), but it still begs the question: how do you stand out from this vast crowd? Regardless of whether you’re a long-serving veteran with all the knowledge in the world or a college graduate, fresh out of a TEFL course and driven by wanderlust, it’s worth looking at some ways you can increase your profile and leave a memorable impression on your employers and students.
Of course, there are qualities that all teachers should have: a good ability to explain things in simple and accessible ways and to organise lessons in a structured and logical manner. We should obviously have a good knowledge of the subject we are teaching, and the confidence to take charge of the situation and give students the impression that they are in good hands. These are great qualities, and they might make you a great teacher – but what makes you a teacher that students will really remember?
One way is to let your hobbies and interests shine through. Maybe you’re nuts about football, or you can play a Beethoven concerto on the piano. Perhaps you’re big into crochet and knitting – it doesn’t really matter how exciting or understated the hobby is- it’s something that colours your character in interesting ways and provides students with a medium by which to connect with you on a personal level, rather than a solely professional one. What’s more, these hobbies and interests can sometimes lead to new opportunities for teachers and students. Here are some examples:
It may seem typical for a good teacher to take their craft seriously and leave humour and fun at the door to the classroom. On the other hand, I don’t really remember any of my serious teachers from school – do you? I remember the ones who managed to unite fun and learning, the ones who goofed around a bit, or told funny jokes.
Of course, there are healthy limits to everything and we still have a job to do. “Fun learning” can very quickly escalate into “fun not-learning”, especially with younger learners. With some basic structure and discipline, however, there’s no reason why we all can’t enjoy ourselves in the classroom. Here are some ideas to add a flavour of fun:
One of the most adored teachers I know is not a particularly knowledgeable or intellectual man. He’s fairly calm and collected, goes nowhere in a hurry, and speaks carefully and gently. He doesn’t really have any interesting hobbies or passions (unless you count having a few beers in the pub) but he is absolutely adored by his students mainly because he praises them.
The trick here, of course, is sincerity. Compliments and praise must come across as authentic and bespoke if they are to have a lasting positive effect. Compare the following examples:
Anyone can say “you’re great”, but if you reference exactly what was great about it, it shows that you’ve listened and paid careful attention, which already makes people feel good. On top of that, it shows you care enough about this student and what they’ve done to respond with a thoughtful answer. It’s also something that can easily be overused. Choose a special moment to strike – an especially good moment is when the student has stepped out of their comfort zone or volunteered themselves into a project or task.
We are not only vendors of knowledge. We are also dealing doses of confidence to those who look up to us and respect our judgement, and as such, genuine praise is a great way to deliver the boost all students need.
A good teacher’s students leave the class with knowledge. A great teacher’s students take that teacher with them when they leave the classroom and carry them around for the rest of their lives. Inspired and motivated, these students are equipped to tackle whatever challenges life might throw at them next.