Doing things differently: The hallmark of a great teacher

Dr Karla

Sunday, December 09, 2018

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Teachers make a difference. In fact, their influence, stimulus, encouragement and inspiration can move mountains in their students' lives and goes a far way in their success. So the question is: If you are an educator, are you reaching your students? Are you inspiring them to reach their fullest potential?

As educators, we hold the lives of many young people in the palms of our hands and we therefore need to make the best of this opportunity for the benefit of our nation. There's no denying that teaching is hard work, and while there are numerous teachers doing an awesome job, there are still some who do the bare minimum, and very little else. This level of mediocrity is crippling our society.

To make a difference is to understand that our job is not only to help students reach their potential, but to surpass this would-be potential. To do this, we must do things differently.

We must work tirelessly to create a challenging and nurturing environment.


1. Maintain a positive attitude — We all have bad days, but this is never an excuse to scowl and be unpleasant to our students. Keep personal problems out of the classroom. They do not belong there. Maintain positivity, and smile. Smiling at your students make them feel that you care, so do it. You will also benefit in the long run. Always be warm, accessible, enthusiastic and caring.

2. Great expectations — In my classes, we talk about national and regional placements for CSEC and CAPE examinations. I set my bar high, but I do not belittle or depreciate my students. They know it's okay not to actually achieve placements, but they feel motivated to try. They like that I believe in them and they strive to do the best that they can do. What more can I ask for?

3. Communicate with parents — Collaboration between parents and teachers paves the road to students' success. Create an open door so that parents are comfortable to approach you with concerns. You should also do the same. Teachers and parents creating a united front will accelerate a child's success and confidence. Bear in mind that communication is not only to convey bad news. Make a special effort to connect when there is also good news to share.

4. Never stop learning — Be a master of your subject area and be knowledgeable about the methodology of teaching. Keep up-to-date with styles of teaching and utilise technology to add stimulus to the classroom.

5. Treat all students fairly – Be impartial to your students, irrespective of their behaviour. While there is certain to be variable personalities in your classroom, ensure that you offer respect to all. Teachers must show respect in order to earn respect. Listen to your students when they speak and address their issues. Come up with ideas to reach those students who may be more difficult whether it is lack of concentration or behavioural issues.

6. Be organised — Ensure that your lesson plan is done at least a day in advance. Do not be late for your class. Demonstrate time management skills to your students. Try to return test papers and assignments quickly.

7. Construct fair tests — Tests are used to gauge understanding and to evaluate learning. A test is never a competition between student and teacher. Therefore, they should be fairly composed based primarily on material that has been taught. Questions may be posed in a manner that requires critical thinking, but it should never be on the unknown.

Teaching is one of the most important and significant profession in today's society. Effective and respected teachers have an exceptional level of devotion to their students. They are passionate and inspire each student to learn despite their many differences.

It seems to me that great teaching has less to do with knowledge and skills and more to do with our attitude towards our students and subject. Attitude goes a long way. Teaching may come naturally for some people, but others may have to consciously work on this skill. The good news is that it can be done and should be done. The payoffs may not be monetary but the difference you make to the lives of others is immeasurable.

Dr Karla Hylton is the author of Yes! You Can Help Your Child Achieve Academic Success and Complete Chemistry for Caribbean High Schools . She operates Bio & Chem Tutoring, which specialises in secondary level biology and chemistry. Reach her at (876) 564-1347, or

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