Five Characteristics of a Good Teacher

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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?

0 Responses

  1. 6.) They have great cartoon-like voices along the lines of Frank Perretti & Randy Harris?


    BTW, I’d say that Selena’s point falls under #2 — knowing how to use visual aids, props, skits, et. al. in a way that serves the teaching enterprise for your given set of learners.

    That is an excellent list, Matthew. I would say that in my development as a minister, it was relatively easy to pick up preaching & A LOT more difficult to learn how to be an effective classroom-style teacher. If I could comment on each point in how I would re-rank this list:

    #4 — Asking Good Questions

    The best journalists are skilled question askers — they make their queries on the most important issues in a way that evokes the most interesting response. Not just any old question or line of questioning is good. There’s a saying that there is no such thing as a bad question; but I say that there is if you’re leading a classroom discussion. And what you said about knowing what to lecture about & what to let the audience speak about is KEY.

    #3 — Passionate about the Material

    Working through a series for the sake of working through a series can be detrimental. Rick Warren says that he believes its a sin to make the Bible boring. Teachers ought to regularly probe themselves about why they are teaching the material they are teaching. And if they get a poor answer back, they ought to be teaching something else. Also, as a corollary, it is important that teachers relate & communicate WHY the current series and current day’s lesson is so important for the learner’s everyday life. If the teacher doesn’t sell the learner on that premise, the learner tunes out & the classroom hour is wasted.

    2 — Knowing Your Class

    What are their Needs? Hurts? Interests? Where do they lean — liberal or conservative? That last question particularly interests me, because I work on the premise that Bible class hour is preeminently (#1) a time to educate and (#2) a time to challenge. It bothers me when I visit a liberal church and the teacher/preacher drones on about some liberal topic that the liberal learners already know about & agree with on all points. And vice versa — I’m disturbed when I enter a conservative church and the teacher/preacher drones on about some conservative topic that the conservative learners already know about & agree with on all counts. In both instances, there is no education happening & the audience is not being challenged.

    A good Bible teacher knows his audience — where they are, where they need to go, and wisely & delicately fails his classroom’s expectations at a rate they can handle.

    1 — Make the Complex Understandable

    One of my mentors emphasizes this, stressing that the simple people heard Jesus in simple language. And “simple” should not be confused with “simplistic.” Being simplistic is being lazy; but it takes a lot of effort to be heard in a simple way.

    5 — Outside the Walls

    I think in terms of my favorite Gene Stallings quote: “Never confuse activities with accomplishments: Results are what count.” Is our Bible class just passing time in a “holy” way? Or is it entering into & changing the life of the pupil?

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