The Ideal Teacher

What makes a teacher a “great” teacher? What are the characteristics of the “ideal teacher”? At the beginning of this academic year, I was asked to prepare a list of the attributes a 2015 “ideal” teacher should have, or embrace. All the changes the world and the profession have gone through in the last five, ten years are forcing teachers to reevaluate their practice and philosophy. At the top of my list is still emotional intelligence: the ability to make personal connections with the students so to make the learning process meaningful. If there is no sincere trust and empathy between teacher and student, chances are students will not invest themselves in learning.

Here is the list. Teachers and non-teachers alike (we are all learners anyway, and we all have been taught by good and mediocre teachers) feel free to chime in, if you believe you can refine the list:

1. Makes an emotional connection with his/her students, knows them personally well and is alert to non-academic issues, so that to make the learning process meaningful for each and all of them.

2. Thinks beyond the subject matter and establishes connections with other subjects.

3. Knows his subject matter thoroughly, and is passionate about it.

4. But understands content as a means to teach other “deeper” issues or themes: character, open-mindedness, citizenship values, social justice.

5. Always well prepared: “Preparation dictates performance.”

6. If teaching languages, approaches instruction as a means to understand culture, which is a means to understand the mind and lives of other people.

7. Confident, not afraid of taking risks, of being creative, of making mistakes.

8. Flexible and able to adapt if change of course is necessary.

9. Uses technology wisely and often, but basically as a means to achieve specific teaching/learning goals. (Technology is not an end by itself.)

10. Constant communication with his/her students; he/she is not afraid of getting feedback.

11. Prepares meaningful assignments, gives constant and on-time feedback to refine the students’ learning process.

12. Organized and thoughtful when planning curriculum and assessments; employs a different array of strategies (from traditional to more innovative, visual, etc.).

13. Expects and wants to keep his/her own learning process going on a daily basis: is curious and eager to learn–and so he/she makes her/his students lifelong learners.

14. Understands the motto “Teach Yourself”–she/he models behavior and intellectual qualities.

15. Supportive and collaborative of colleagues in all circumstances, but also critical if necessary.



  1. Very well written and meticulously explained. I wish teachers in the U.S. can teach 600 hours and spend the rest of time in professional development. At the moment, teachers in Finland have this opportunity, while in the U.S., teachers are in classroom 1,100 hours a year, with little time for feedback.


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