More and more, teachers are becoming a major influence in children’s lives; in some cases they’re probably the only emotionally healthy adult children routinely encounter. Thus, teachers must do more than teach subject matter. In a sense, they must often function as mentors, advocates, therapists, parent substitutes, and more.
Therefore, it’s reasonable to assume that a teacher’s personality and teaching style will profoundly affect some children’s academic performance and general development. If you agree, you may want to step back and evaluate how you define yourself as a teacher, your goals in teaching, and the manner in which you present yourself to students. You may want to focus on this question: Does your teaching style create an environment in which children’s confidence is strengthened or weakened?
No single aspect of a teacher’s personality is responsible for strengthening or weakening a student’s confidence. For example, a strict teacher who is fair, kind, genuine, logical, and nurturing can help to strengthen children’s self-confidence, despite her strictness. Conversely, a teacher who is funny but unstructured and disorganized may weaken children’s self-confidence. His chaotic class fails to provide them with a critical ingredient for strengthening self-confidence: lots of real-life success experiences.
So, what are the characteristics of teachers who help children to strengthen their self-confidence? Below are many positive teaching characteristics. You might use these to reflect on your behavior and decide if you want to make some changes.
Genuineness—Teachers who are genuine:
create a student-centered classroom environment.
go beyond what is expected of them to promote student’ well being.
are easily approachable.
are honest and up-front with students.
follow through on what they say.
are consistent in their methods.
are not fake or hypocritical.
Fairness—Teachers who are fair:
admit to making a mistake.
give assignments that reflect the student’s needs and levels of ability.
give assignments that are reasonable in length.
give moderately challenging assignments that are structured for success.
give tests that stick to what’s been taught.
take a commonsense approach to grading homework and essays.
give task-oriented comments that tell and show students how to improve.
give students advance notice of quizzes and tests.
avoid unfairly difficult assignments and tests.
apply the same rules to everyone.
Organization—Teachers who are well-organized:
maintain order and routine.
provide students with structure and logical rules.
teach student to organize their materials, desks, and lockers.
have well-planned lessons with logical presentations and relevant follow-up assignments.
return tests, essays, and classwork in reasonable time.
Logic and Common Sense—Teachers who use logic and common sense:
recognize that students, like adults, have good and bad days.
understand that forces outside the classroom may affect a student’s performance.
know the classroom is not the center of the universe.
know the difference between symptoms and problems and look for what’s causing the symptoms rather than negatively labeling the child.
know and believe that children want to succeed in school.
treat failure as a symptom that requires investigation.
Clear Boundaries—Teachers who set clear boundaries:
consistently promote fairness and enforce classroom rules, even if it makes them unpopular.
set and reinforce clear and fair boundaries for all students, including those out of control.
Sense of Humor or Lightheartedness—Teachers with a sense of humor or lightheartedness:
make important issues a priority and understand that “to err is human.”
allow students to explore their “child” side without admonishing them to grow up.
laugh at themselves, if appropriate to the situation, when they make a mistake.
understand the difference between telling jokes and making fun of or belittling students.
know that no child should be the focus of a joke.
Give Compliments—Teachers who give compliments:
spontaneously compliment students for their achievements and for making a good effort.
find legitimately positive things to tell students before suggesting improvements.
make constructive comments on tests and essays without devaluing students’ efforts.
provide students with small notes and cards recognizing a good job, a commonsense decision, assistance to another student, and so forth.
make sure that all compliments are deserved.
Admit Mistakes—Teachers who admit mistakes:
make sure that students see mistakes as a learning opportunity.
show students how to correct decisions that are obviously wrong.
focus on solutions and avoid blame.
Listen Attentively—Teachers who listen attentively:
devote time to students who want to speak to them.
understand that reaching out to adults is difficult for many students, especially those not listened to at home.
teach students that listening communicates concern and respect, not agreement.
Approachability—Teachers who are approachable:
help students feel at ease when they ask a question.
encourage students to approach them—for any reason.
convey warmth and comfort.
cultivate a sense of safety, not fear.
command respect without demanding it.
Although successful experiences are the most critical factor in building confidence, a positive teacher with a constructive teaching style can help students strengthen their self-confidence. Positive or negative, a teacher’s personality and teaching style can directly affect students for decades.
Dr. George A. Giuliani is the Executive Director of the National Association of Special Education Teachers (NASET) and is a full-time Associate Professor and Director of the Special Education Program at Hofstra University's Graduate School in the Department of Counseling, Research, Special Education, and Rehabilitation. In addition to holding a Juris Doctor from the City University of New York School of Law, he is a New York State licensed psychologist and certified school psychologist. He has an extensive private practice focusing on children with special needs.