What makes a teacher special?

Atualizado: 18 de ago. de 2020

“Everyone who remembers his own education remembers teachers, not methods and techniques. The teacher is the heart of the educational system.”

(Sidney Hook)

By Betina Jucá Cruz

I have been an EFL student for most of my life and it was as a student that the dream of becoming a teacher began. I had a lot of dear teachers during my learning experience, who demonstrated with a lot of dedication and love to the profession how meaningful being a teacher could be. In fact, this was such an enriching experience in my life that I later on chose teaching as a career. But what is it that makes a teacher special?

What studies say

Study after study shows the single most important factor determining the quality of the education a person receives is the quality of their teacher. However, teaching is one of the hardest professions there is. It demands extensive knowledge of subject matter, self-motivation, a caring attitude, knowledge of classroom management techniques and a desire to promote a meaningful motivating teaching practice to learners. With all these qualities required, it’s no wonder that it’s hard to find great teachers.

The KASA framework

Although there are some dimensions and elements that measure what quality teaching actually is, it is never that simple. Donald Freeman (1989) suggested The KASA framework, which is a framework for professional development that takes into account four areas of teaching:

1. Knowledge (what we know about the subject matter, our learners and the context of our teaching)

2. Awareness (our ability to perceive the impact of our actions and how effective we are as teachers)

3. Skills (actions that the teacher is able to carry out regarding classroom management dimensions divided into instructions, grouping and seating, authority, tools and techniques etc.)

4. Attitude (the way teachers think about their own profession, their learners and the learning process. It comprises aspects such as behaviour, perceptions and feelings).

Not that simple!

These elements measure teaching quality by analysing the learning process itself, the assessment, knowledge of subject matter, attitude, knowledge of teaching etc. But these are not clear-cut steps to a teaching recipe. What truly makes all the difference is how learners are dealt with in the educational process. As Schrieener said “Prepare thoroughly, but in class, teach the students, not the plan.” Being compassionate, empathetic, positive and inspiring with learners might make all the difference in their learning process.

Great teachers

Great teaching seems to have less to do with our knowledge and skills than with our attitude toward our students. But what are some characteristics of great teachers that may be considered essential? There are various ones, but here are seven that I rank the most important:

1. A great teacher respects students and creates a safe learning environment: Mutual

respect provides a supportive, collaborative environment.

2. A great teacher is accessible, motivated and caring. They are approachable and see their

students individual needs. They understand that each student is different and therefore learns in different ways.

3. A great teacher sets challenging but yet possible goals for students. They know that

their expectations towards students greatly affect their achievement and that students need

feasible and concrete outcomes.

4. A great teacher loves learning and inspires students with his passion for education. They

constantly seek professional development on their quest to provide students with the highest

quality of education possible.

5. A great teacher can is flexible. Changing a lesson when it is not working, rethinking

teaching practices and being critical and reflective upon their own practice is essential. They

constantly evaluate their teaching throughout the lessons and find new ways to make sure that every student is on the same page.

6. A great teacher fosters collaboration on an ongoing basis. They view collaboration as

learning and appreciate constructive criticism and advice as an opportunity to grow as an


7. A great teacher maintains professionalism: From personal appearance to organizational

skills and preparedness for each day.


SCRIVENER, Jim. Learning Teaching: The Essential Guide To English Language Teaching. England, Macmillan, 2011. 3rd edition. 414 p.

Freeman, D. Teacher training, development and decision making: a model of teaching and related strategies for language teacher education. TESOL Quearterly, 1989, vol 23, No 1.

FARYADI, Dr. Qais. A Guide to Effective Teaching and Effective Learning. Available at: https://www.researchgate.net/post/How_to_teach_What_are_the_qualities_that_should_be_present_in_a_teacher_lecturer_Please_share_your_own_experience_for_effective_teaching/5b3ec556e5d99e3b48426db5/citation/download. Accessed in August 17th, 2020.