It isn't just one thing that defines great teachers

We hear about this intangible "it" factor that celebrities have to make them stars. We ask business leaders what their key to success is and parents of amazing kids for a piece of advice on how to raise children. We are all seeking a magic bullet it would seem and in education, we are no different. We yearn for the definition of great teaching and what makes a great teacher. It's frustrating at times because "we know it when we see it" don't we? I think I have one key to unlocking this mystery and it is that there is no one thing. Now, I know this is no surprise to teachers whatsoever because they are experiencing new challenges and teaching new lessons every day. Naturally they do not rely on one skill or attribute. The quote I'm sharing today is a great one when it comes to articulating this reality.

The quote came to us through the research report Primary Sources: America's Teachers on Teaching in an Era of Change, a project of Scholastic and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. In the same report, we asked teachers about the characteristics a great teacher and, you guessed it, they reported a combination of talents as important rather than a singular item rising to the top. Managing the classroom effectively is cited by 100% of teachers as very or extremely important to being a great teacher but then 99% of teachers say the same about creating an environment where students feel safe making mistakes, delivering content clearly, maintaining high academic expectations, and anticipating and responding to student learning needs. Making the contest for the most important skill even tighter, the next three on the list are at 98% and we never go below 83% when looking at the complete list which you can find in the full report downloadable at And you'll see items that are not purely academic including being interested in students' lives inside and outside of school which is a reflection of the stat in which 99% of teachers tell us teaching is more than academics; it is about reinforcing good citizenship, resilience and social skills.

When you've experienced great teaching, how did you know? Teachers, how would you define a great teacher?