What, then, makes a good teacher? That's the question the Carnegie Foundation asks annually. Every year, the Carnegie Foundation identifies a few college professors who are considered the best in their disciplines. Each of these teachers is invited to compete for the Carnegie Professor of the Year Program and is asked to submit an essay on what constitutes good teaching. This year, 20 of the essays were compiled into i book titled Inspiring Teaching: Carnegie Professors of the Year Speak. The essays are divided into four categories: teaching characteristics, teaching practices, teaching philosophies and teaching teachers. Two of the essays -- one by an English professor and the other by a professor of nursing -- have special meaning for radiologic science educators.
Peter Beidler is the Lucy G. Moses Professor of English at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania. His essay, titled "What Makes a Good Teacher?" lists 10 qualities Beidler believes are vital to success in the teaching profession.
I believe that my job as a teacher is to promote academic, social, and emotional development of all my students. I believe that my classroom should provide an environment that is safe and conducive for learning and teaching. I should help the students develop self-appreciation, encourage all different activities and talents, nurture curiosity, help utilize risk-taking skills and creativity, and most of all advocate achievement in all subjects. It is my responsibility as a professional teacher to be a positive role model and always promote learning in the most positive way possible, making sure that all of my student’s minds continually expand and grow.
I believe that it is important for me, as a teacher, to reflect on what went on in the classroom every evening. I need to be able to analyze my own teaching methods to make sure that I am doing everything to the best of my ability. Making sure that all of my students understand the lessons and are up to date with the information being presented in class is my main priority and because of this I need to be aware of how well I’m going about presenting the information. Not only do I need to reflect on my own teaching skills, but I need to also observe how well I’m students are doing with the material. Walking around the classroom and monitoring my students working first-hand will also help me mature as a teacher and as a person. Knowing what is going on in my own classroom is key to becoming a great teacher, and disregarding it could be very hazardous to me and to my students learning.
I believe that it is my duty as a teacher to treat all my students with the same respect and give all of them the same amount of chances to achieve. I need to be sure that not only do I treat everybody equally, but I need to be sure that my students treat each other equally also. They need to respect and treat one another the way they would want to be treated. I feel that as a teacher, to promote this type of behavior, I need to make sure that all of my students know each other and get equal chances to work with each other almost daily. By putting them together in different groups each time, they will learn to work and handle themselves in different situations in the classroom, and in the outside world. The bottom line is that favoring is not the way to go, however being sure that all my students are included and treated with same respect will promote a healthy classroom environment.
Eighth, good teachers try to motivate students by working within their own incentive system. Teachers who know their students' likes, dislikes, problems and personal issues are more likely to be able to "push the right button" and motivate students to learn. Every cohort wave of students has its own characteristics and unique incentive system. The good teacher stays aware of trends and uses this information to modify motivational techniques. According to Beidler, good teachers "try to understand what makes students tick these days, and then they build on that knowledge to make them tock."
At first reading, the ninth and 10th qualities of good teaching seem to contradict each other. The ninth quality, according to Beidler, is "don't trust student evaluations of your teaching," but the 10th quality is "listen to your students."
Seventh, a good teacher is able to keep his or her students off balance. Complacent students are bored students. Teachers encourage learning when they try new techniques and introduce risks.
Beidler makes an interesting distinction between the two. First, he notes that student evaluations can be deceiving. Good teachers tend not to believe the positive evaluations and agonize over the one or two mediocre ones, continually trying to improve their teaching. Mediocre teachers do the opposite -- they trust the good evaluations and brush off the negative ones. Beidler believes strongly that the best teachers are those who listen to what their students say about good teaching in general rather than about any one particular teacher. For example, in surveys, students almost universally state that the best teachers are those who are available, accessible, approachable and, most importantly, are excited about what they teach. A teacher who models his or her teaching style on the characteristics valued by students will be a successful educator.
Fifth, good teachers think of teaching as a form of parenting. Beidler says that teachers use principles of good parenting in many situations, including caring about their Students' welfare, knowing when to be firm and when to give in, and apologizing when necessary. Good teachers, like good parents, know their students' problems, insecurities and potential.
Sally Phillips is a professor of nursing at the University of Colorado Health Science Center. Her essay included in Inspiring Teaching: Carnegie Professors of the Year Speak is titled "Opportunities and Responsibilities: Competence, Creativity, Collaboration, and Caring."
In her essay, Phillips questions why students continue to attend colleges and universities at a time when most books and journals are available online; interactive data files provide text, voice and images; and almost any information is available to anyone anytime through archived sources, newsgroups or e-mail. Her answer? Students continue to enroll in universities because of the teachers.
Fourth, good teachers never have enough time and never finish their work, but they don't complain about the long hours because they love what they do.