Transforming teaching and learning for the 21st Century

What makes a good teacher (and a good manager!)

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ACE teacherAnyone who has read my post Blogging and the art of procrastination will know that, among other things, it took me a while to find a name for this blog.  It eventually came from my online teaching venture ACEnglish with the “teacher” bit added to differentiate the blog from the business.
Why ACE?  What can I say, I’m an 80’s kid…
Everything that’s “awesome” now, was “ace” in the 80’s and it’s one of my all-time favourite words.  Synonyms are; excellent, outstanding, first-class, first-rate, brilliant, expert… So, am I an ace English teacher? No.  Do I aspire to be an ace English teacher? Always.
After I came up with the name, I started to think about what makes an ace teacher. At about the same time, an unassuming Leicester City defied all odds (all 5000-1 of them!) and won the Premier League title in England.  What do Leicester City have to do with what makes an ace English teacher I hear you ask! Well…

At the beginning of the season no one predicted that underdogs Leicester City would finish top of the league after only just avoiding relegation last season.   The club’s motto is “Foxes Never Quit,” which seems to be true. Threatened with relegation, Leicester City showed a gritty determination to win seven of their remaining nine games and drag themselves from the bottom of the table to finish 14th.  It’s impossible to understate what the team has gone on to achieve since then.  So where did it go so very right for this modest club from the Midlands?

There has been much talk of the secret of their success, however, the same words keep being reiterated; consistency, hard work, determination, hunger, ambition, self-belief, teamwork, team spirit…  

“There is not one star, two stars, three stars – we play and work for each other,”  Riyad Mahrez (Leicester City midfielder)

This much talked about team spirit and camaraderie between players at Leicester City has a lot to do with their manager Claudio Ranieri. Knowledgeable, enthusiastic, passionate, humorous and self-deprecating are among some of the adjectives which have been used to describe him.

His warm, infectious personality and sense of humour (supporters now chant his famous dilly ding dilly dong wake up call from training sessions, on the terraces) has helped him to forge a strong bond with his players and endeared him to fans and the media alike.  

His expectations were clear and realistic.  As the club progressed, the team’s goals (excuse the pun) changed from getting 40 points, to qualifying for Europe, then getting a place in the champions league group stage and finally the unimaginable, winning the league title.He has believed in his team every step of the way and managed to exploit their full potential.

Ranieri has instilled a strong work ethic in his team  We do not dream. We simply work hard.” and demonstrated how hard work is rewarded, be it by winning the Premier League title or being taken out for pizza: Famously he promised his players pizza if they kept a clean sheet.  When they did, he took them to a pizzeria where he had arranged for them to mix and throw their own dough “You have to work for everything. You work for your pizza, too. We will make our own.” Ranieri   A clever team-building exercise to foster that indomitable team spirit that Leicester City have displayed this season?

The club’s success “shows what can be achieved by togetherness, hard work and professionalism” Ian Wright (Former professional footballer)

Leicester City achieve success

Leicester City-Champions by Phil McIver is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

After following Leicester City’s success story it occurred to me that Ranieri and what he is doing at Leicester City isn’t so different from a good teacher and what they are doing in the classroom every day.

Just like Claudio, good teachers…

Are approachable, personable but always professional

Neither mates nor ogres, good teachers find the balance between showing their students they care but demanding respect at the same time.

Are enthusiastic and passionate about their job

Enthusiasm is contagious, it’s a fact. It wins people over, grabs their attention and engages them.  If you aren’t enjoying what you’re doing it will be very difficult to get your students enthusiastic about it.  Think about the teachers you remember from your school days: they are most likely the ones who were enthusiastic and engaging (or the ogres who were passionate about being ogres!)

Establish a good rapport with students (earn their trust and respect)

Good teachers find ways to give their students a voice in the classroom.  They listen to their opinions, let them know they care about what they have to say. They show interest (even if they have to fake it!) and provide their students with choices.  

Have a sense of humour.  

They don’t take themselves too seriously and aren’t afraid to laugh at themselves.  Using humour effectively can contribute to creating a positive classroom atmosphere.  It can reduce stress levels, increase student engagement and help retention of information (equally, if not used effectively it can fall flat on its face!).

Make their expectations clear

Setting expectations makes students feel comfortable, safe and more confident. Things will run more smoothly, there will be less misunderstandings and confusion when students understand what behaviour is expected of them and what their learning objectives are. A good teacher is consistent and maintains expectations.

Set realistic, attainable objectives

Students who cannot achieve their objectives will feel frustrated, demotivated and will consequently underachieve. Realistic, attainable goals will generally improve students’ self-confidence, motivation and academic performance.

Praise or reward achievement (not necessarily with a pizza!) and the effort involved in getting there.  

Who doesn’t like recognition for their efforts?

Foster a strong work ethic

Promote integrity, responsibility, discipline, dedication, determination, accountability, humility… all traits and behaviours our students need to succeed.

Encourage cooperation and collaboration

Good teachers create a community of learners who work together and learn together in (relative!) harmony towards a common goal. A technique which is becoming more and more popular to encourage teamwork in the classroom is cooperative learning (but that’s another blog post…)

Believe in their students (even through the darkest days, let’s face it we all have them!)

So, that’s what Leicester City has got to do with what makes a good teacher.  If we want our students to be motivated, hard-working, determined, ambitious and ultimately successful, then a little bit of Claudio in the classroom won’t go amiss.  Following his example, we too can be “ace” and help our students on their way to finding a bit of that indefatigable fighting spirit Leicester City have shown this season to prove that the seemingly impossible is possible…

Looking for some inspiration?

Check out the late Rita Pierson’s funny and inspiring Ted Talk Every Kid needs a champion about believing in your students.

What really makes a good teacher? by Barnaby Lenon, The Telegraph.

And from the other side: Show us that you care: a student’s view on what makes a perfect teacher.



Author: lisajwood

I am an English language coach and Neurolanguage Coach® I current teach adolescents and adults. My areas of interest include brain-friendly learning, flipped learning, student-centred learning and promoting lifelong learning skills. I am also a keen advocate of using new technologies to facilitate the learning process.

One thought on “What makes a good teacher (and a good manager!)

  1. Pingback: Padlet, versatile and simple. | ACEnglishteacher

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