What Great Teachers Have in Common

February 05, 2014

What Great Teachers Have in Common

I recently came across an excerpt from a forthcoming book that gave me pause. I must have read it at least four times and still could not for the life of me figure out what the person was trying to say.

It was grammatically well written but it was so infused with elevated language and insider imagery that I spent more time parsing each phrase instead of enjoying what the author was trying to convey.

It reminded me of the time I was taking business classes at university and had the misfortune of taking a class with a professor with two PhD's and not an ounce of ability to teach. (Don't know who ever came up with the idea that just because you had a doctorate it meant you could teach)?

He made it his personal mission to demonstrate his academic agility without any concern for the student's ability to grasp what he was teaching. Can't remember the last time I wasted good money like that. To add insult to injury, he used his own textbook which he would re-edit each year so you couldn't even down sell your copy to the next semester of victims.

I took the book and ceremoniously burned it in protest. Don't get me wrong, I love academia. I've spent many years in that context as an academic myself. But without a doubt, over the years, the teachers and professors who have impacted me were able to do something magical.

Whether in a classroom, on video, or even through podcasts, those who affected me the most all shared common traits that set them apart. Here are the characteristics that I've noticed in each.

1. They Can Take What is Complex and Make it Understandable

This is the real genius of great teachers. Anyone can blather on and on to show off their intellect, but the communicators who make the lasting impact are the ones who can take complex concepts and synthesize them into understandable ones.

2. They Not Only Instruct, But Also Inspire

Anyone can transfer information but few are able to inspire. In my mind, just because you can dump data into the minds of others doesn't mean you are making a difference, or even helping them learn for that matter. Inspiration is not always easy to explain but there is no doubt when you are experiencing it.

3. They Have the Ability to Make You Care About What You're Learning

Great teachers not only transfer information in an inspirational way, but they do so with passion. Learning becomes exciting. What's more, you come away feeling that what you've learned is important and meaningful. They have a way of making you care about the subject or material.

4. Its a Calling Not Just a Job

Under their teaching you sense that they were born to do it. Their gift is evident and natural. Nothing seems contrived or without purpose. It ends up creating an environment that is conducive to learning. You can always tell the ones who have become bored by the job versus those who see it as a vital part of making the world a better place.

5. They Teach Like Jesus

The end goal is to initiate life change and no one demonstrated this better than Jesus. He used stories, illustrations, parables, wisdom sayings, you name it. He utilized every means possible to make the message he was communicating not only understandable, but compelling and inviting.

When people heard him, they were compelled to make a decision. To reject what he taught had serious implications. If you in any way have a role in transferring information, as a teacher, professor, preacher, mentor, whatever; I hope these will inspire you to communicate more effectively for the sake of your hearers.

What are your thoughts on the teachers, professors, or preachers who have made a difference in your life and why. Send me your comments and insights, would love to hear them.

Photo by JJ Thompson on Unsplash

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