What Best Teachers Do and How to Be One

What do best teachers do? First, they aren’t afraid to dive right in. They meet trouble head-on. And they always act in their students’ best interests. These educators remain thoughtful – even when emotions flare.

Go ahead. Take a deep dive into the teaching profession. Truly accomplished teachers take risks and advocate for their students.

Ms. Sneed Wonders What the Best Teachers Do

As a new teacher, Ms. Sneed had heard about Mr. Dvorchek. Everyone said that he was the best teacher in the building. But when she walked past his classroom, he was just teaching like everyone else. What made Mr. Dvorchek so special?

One day, Ms. Sneed and her mentor sat and discussed the teacher evaluation system. “To get a high rating, you need to develop strong lesson plans that include differentiation,” said Mrs. Brown.

“Does Mr. Dvorchek differentiate a lot?” Ms. Sneed asked. “Everyone says he’s such a good teacher.”

“Hmmm, no, I wouldn’t say that he uses more differentiation in his class any more than the rest of us,” her mentor replied.

“Then why does everyone say he’s so good?”

What Special Attributes Do the Best Teachers Share?

Mrs. Brown sighed. “Well, you already know about ways a teacher can survive.”

“Sure, you’ve explained that we need to get organized, plan effectively, and maintain a good work-life balance.”

“And you know the ways to thrive too?”

“I remember the first two: get professional development and use effective teaching methods.”

Mrs. Brown nodded. “Good job. Yep, Mr. Dvorchek has all of that down pat. It’s the final step that differentiates him from other teachers.”

Again she sighed. Then for a few seconds she sat in thought. Finally, she leafed through the teacher evaluation form. “Let’s look at a different section of this document,” Mrs. Brown said. “Then I think you’ll understand.”

Ms. Sneed looked at the page. Under the title “Leadership,” five competencies were listed:

  • Contribute to school culture.
  • Collaborate with peers.
  • Seek professional skills and knowledge.
  • Advocate for student success.
  • Engage families in student learning.

“You will notice,” said Mrs. Brown, “this page on leadership doesn’t even mention leading others. Instead, these teachers lead by example. They lead by doing. They’re simply not afraid to dive in.”

The Best Teachers Work to Make the School a Better Place

As a new teacher, Ms. Sneed was eager to learn more. “Go on,” she said.

“As you may know, Mr. Dvorchek is the head of our school improvement committee. He’s always trying to make this place better. Actually, we’re lucky here. Many of our teachers are willing to pull together for this cause.” Mrs. Brown laughed a little. “And surprisingly, the flip side is true too. Thankful educators are willing to work a little harder.”

They Work Well with Others

Mrs. Brown continued, “But we are all stretched a little thin. Since we’re so busy, it’s hard to find time to help one another. Not Mr. Dvorchek, though, he will drop what he’s doing in an instant to help other teachers. He also listens well and thinks before speaking. Overall, he just works well with others.”

“That is a special gift,” responded Ms. Sneed, thinking that she needed to become a better listener herself.

Master Teachers Embrace the Struggle

“All teachers struggle. Even the best ones. But Mr. Dvorchek doesn’t just live with it. Instead, he embraces the teaching struggle. For him, it’s a welcome challenge.”

“As a matter of fact, Mr. Dvorchek pushes the envelope. You know what I mean. He extends the limits of his teaching. Nearly every week he tries something new. This is one of the things that makes Mr. Dvorchek such a great teacher.

“When faced with an exciting new opportunity for his class, he says, ‘Bring it on.’ It could be a project, program, contest, whatever. If it will benefit his students, he will do it.”

The Best Teachers Take Risks for Their Students

Mrs. Brown’s finger slipped down to the fourth bullet point on the list: Advocate for student success. She pointed across the page to the related criteria.

“Here’s a really good one,” said the mentor. She read aloud, “Teacher displays commitment to the education of all his/her students, attempts to remedy obstacles around student achievement, and acts as an advocate for each child.”

Ms. Sneed tried to digest what she heard. “Aren’t all teachers committed in this way?” she asked.

“One would hope,” replied Mrs. Brown. “However, I can see the depth of Mr. Dvorchek’s commitment. Every morning before he comes to work, he spends time reflecting on issues facing his students. This deep thinking – and how he acts on it – make Mr. Dvorchek better than most other teachers.”

Ms. Brown’s finger moved down a little farther. “Teacher may display commitment to the education of all the students in the school and/or make changes and take risks to advocate for each student,” she read.

“This,” said Mrs. Brown, “is the greatest difference between Mr. Dvorchek and the rest of us. Once he determines the best way to help a child, he will always follow his conscience. Sometimes this means he has to face difficult parents. Other times, it forces him to clash with the administration. I believe that Mr. Dvorcheck would gladly break a rule – or even risk his job – if it meant he could help a child.”

“That’s pretty impressive,” said Ms. Sneed. She shook her head in wonderment. Just the thought of risking her job for a student…

They Forge Partnerships with Parents

“Sometimes it’s easier to ignore parents,” Mrs. Brown continued. “I’ve heard Mrs. Price joke that she’d like to teach in a school full of orphans. Yep, parents can be difficult.

“Mr. Dvorchek has told me how much he dreads working with parents. But that doesn’t stop him. He communicates with a class website, emails, and the like. In that regard, he’s just like the rest of us. But if a student is experiencing difficulty, Mr. Dvorchek dives right in. He contacts the parents, holds meetings, and even sets up academic contracts. No, Mr. Dvorchek doesn’t sweep problems under the rug.”

“I think I understand why people say he’s the best teacher in the school now,” said Ms. Sneed. “He’s not afraid to stick his neck out for the good of others – and the good of all. Mr. Dvorchek takes full responsibility for student learning.”

“You’ll be interested to know that Mr. Dvorchek began just like all the other teachers. He was new; he struggled. Yes, Mr. Dvorcheck grew into this role. It took years of hard work and commitment. And it was based on a conscious decision.

“As teachers, we can choose. Are we willing to put in the extra effort to be great? Or is being a good teacher good enough?

“For me, hard work is worth it. It ensures that my students are safe, happy, and learning. And that brings me fulfillment as a teacher.

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