When people talk about churches one of the things they typically remember most are the people who made the subject come to life for them in a Bible class. They made it real and relevant and like it was the most important thing they could have been doing at the moment. There are a couple of things that I believe make a teacher exceptional:
1 – They make the complex understandable: There are people who can take the most simple things and somehow make it complex and incomprehensible. That is not a good quality in a teacher. The best teachers are able to take the most complex things and break them down and present them in a way that is on the level of the audience. That takes skill but it also takes a knowledge of the audience and what they can and cannot handle.
2 – They know their class: A good teacher is able to weave the comments and questions of the class together into a coherent whole that accomplishes the purpose of the class, covers the materials, and helps the class members to feel a part of the learning process. A good teacher knows how to point back to what members of the class have said in the past and give them credit for the ideas helping that student to take ownership of the information and be a productive part of the ongoing conversation in weeks to come.
3 – They have a passion for the material: You can tell when a teacher thinks the material is boring or if they believe it is interesting and relevant. How can you make something applicable that you yourself do not believe is relevant? This comes across through tone/inflection – it is hard to drone on and on about something you are passionate about. It also comes across through generating energy that is passed on to the class members.
4 – They know how to ask good questions that allow the class to come up with the material they might otherwise have lectured on: A good teacher knows which parts of the material the class cannot come up with on their own. (and lectures that part) and the parts of the material the class could come up with on their own (through class readings, etc – and asks questions to generate that part of the material).
5 – They communicate to the class outside the time constraints of the classroom: We need our teachers to move our classes beyond the old come to class for an hour and come back next for another hour. Our classes can accomplish so much more and our teachers are integral in bringing in communication and a leadership structure to the class that will go beyond the walls and beyond 60 minutes into the rest of the week to really impact our communities. This takes a teacher who is dedicated to doing more than just presenting good ideas or even the Gospel – but who wants to move on to something more and bigger and have more application than just asking an application question. These teachers know how to move thoughts into action and model it from the top down and delegate responsibilities to the members of the class.
What might you add to the list of characteristics of a good teacher?