Teachers are memorable. They shape our growing minds, guide us, and walk with us through the learning process. If you asked me my favorite science teacher I’ve ever had, I could tell you right away that it was my 11th grade anatomy teacher, Mrs. Glass. But I also vividly remember my 8th grade algebra 1 teacher being one of my least favorite teachers.
So, what makes a teacher stand out among the rest in all our years of formal education? As future teachers, how do we strive to be exemplary inside and outside of the classroom?
Exemplary Teachers are…
- Effective Communicators – Teachers need to communicate clear expectations with their students but also have open communication with their parents and families, as learning happens at home too. Exemplary teachers are goal-oriented and have dialogue with individual students to help them succeed.
- Challenging but Realistic – Memorable teachers push students to go beyond what they know what they can do by creating challenging projects, activities, or assessments for their students. Students should feel stretched academically; even though it can be uncomfortable, it leads to growth and a stronger sense of self-worth.
- Empathetic & Relational – Students should feel seen and known by their teacher, not just in the classroom, but also outside of it. When students know their teacher cares, they will be more motivated and invested in their learning and can lean on their teacher for support. More on empathy in the classroom, check out this article.
- Good Listeners – It is important that students know that their teacher wants to hear their voice and input! Teachers should listen intently to their questions and their individual experiences, as listening is a simple way of showing students that you care.
- Flexible – Exemplary teachers should be accommodating to the individual needs of the students and able to adapt as the semester progresses. Teachers can help students succeed by working with them when they are struggling outside of class and be available.
While there is no formula to exemplary teaching, there are some important features to include in the classroom that can increase the positive impact on students’ overall learning experience.
1. Experiential Learning & Real World Application
Whether it is a chemistry, biology, anatomy, or physics classroom, hands-on, interactive experiences can increase student engagement. When emotions are connected to learning experiences, knowledge is better stored and retrieved in long-term memory. In an anatomy class, taking students who are interest in a medical career to an orthopedic lab to observe and perform surgeries on real cadavers would connect their real world interests to class content. Experiential learning could be lab experiments, nature walks, scavenger hunts, and tactile activities and could be applied in a range of subjects.
2. Cooperative Learning
Learning becomes memorable students engage not only with the content, but with each other. Collaboration is key when incorporating group activities and projects into lesson plans. To facilitate effective cooperative learning, provide students with specific roles, leave space for discussing their questions, and emphasize the importance of using everyone’s different strengths.
3. Inquiry-Based Activities
Inquiry teaching in science is crucial because it encompasses the scientific method, critical thinking, scientific problem solving, and scientific reasoning. Encourage students to make observations, analyze and interpret data, and develop answers to questions they have about content. Throughout the inquiry process, students will develop skills that can be transformative in understanding and applying science, but also in making real world decisions.
Check out this Target Inquiry link to learn more about inquiry and explore useful, inquiry-based teaching materials in various science subjects.
Being an exemplary teacher takes time, effort, and practice! Continue implementing these key ideas into your classroom and you can leave an impact on your students that they will remember forever.