A good teacher will cultivate good writing and analysis skills, but an excellent teacher will cultivate these skills and foster an affinity for the subject in students who were not drawn to the class to begin with.
One of my favorite teachers throughout my four years of high school was my Honors English teacher. She was completely extolled by each of my classmates who had her and since our freshman year in Honors English 9, we have wanted no other teacher. I clearly remember my first day of class. A school wide assignment between eighth and freshman year had us read The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini so that we could analyze it in the first few weeks of school. The first assignment she gave us was a found poem exercise that we began working on in class during that first day. I sat in the class after she had given us the assignment and worked for thirty minutes in silence along with my classmates. Towards the end of the thirty minutes, I was amazed to realize that no one had shouted out or laughed for some unknown reason; that this was the only class I had had that day that was actually what I expected high school to be like.
Her class never disappointed me the rest of that year. The only thing I was worried about was that she preferred that we had binders.
1. A good teacher has a complete grasp on the subject she is teaching.
We have learned lessons from freshman year that stick with us even on the eve of graduation. At any point, she was able to answer any question that we threw her way. In some classes, it can be frustrating to know that even though your teacher knows more about the subject than you do, she is not an expert on the subject. Neither my classmates nor I ever felt as if she had a dearth of knowledge. We still trusted in her wisdom and comprehensive knowledge of the nuances of grammar, vocabulary, and writing. She has an extraordinary breadth of knowledge that benefited her students because as she taught us, “Ignorance is not a laughing matter.”
2. A good teacher has stable rules and practices.
When students know what to expect every day that they walk into class, there is no excuse for not being prepared to learn. My teacher set a few, unbending rules from the first day of English class freshman year, and she did not change them for most circumstances. There was no going to the restroom in the middle of class, nor were drinks permitted inside of the room. She never put the homework online, so we always knew to write it down before we left. As for our homework, she helped us cultivate proper writing and presentation skills for our ultimate use in college and our careers by giving us incentives to do neat work that we could take pride in and that she could understand when she read it. The incentives for us to do our work correctly were points off if we wrote on the back, if we decided not to use white out on our mistake, and if we turned in homework on bent or creased paper. (That was a point off for each crease!) Tests were always worth the same amount and always had the same format. Homework and essays, also, were worth five and ten points, respectively. This stability helped us to keep ourselves grounded in class. This was a great advantage we had over our classmates during our freshman and junior years, two years during which students have to adjust to a new environment and have more responsibilities than they are used to handling.
3. A good teacher keeps her students engaged.
Not one of us ever fell asleep or texted during the class. To keep their students engaged, multiple teachers I have had will tell either hackneyed or novel jokes relating to the subject matter. Either way, groans and laughs from students are sure to come. Students who listen for the next joke or chance to participate in class are more likely to stay awake and engaged the entire time. My English teacher, especially, would always say something that would elicit a few beats of contemplative silence from the class before each student understood the joke in her own time. We looked forward to these things.