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Sunday, July 31, 2011

Monday Morning Check In: Teacher Character Traits

Last week I introduced the subject of character and integrity as I thought it related to teaching. I spent the week thinking about the qualities of a teacher, both bad and good, and I would like to share my lists with you.

We can approach the defining of something in one of two ways. We can describe something in terms of what it is, and we can flesh out the other part by describing something in terms of what it is not. I struggled at first when I began compiling my list of teacher character traits because I wanted to frame every description in a positive manner. The truth is, however, that there are many negative teacher character traits as well as positive ones. In the end I made both lists. Please leave me a comment with your own contributions. We all have much we can learn from each other, so feel free to share your own opinions in the comment box that follows this blog post.

Here is my list of negative teacher traits:

  • arrogant
  • know-it-all
  • only the teacher's opinion is right or matters
  • proud
  • stubborn
  • inflexible
  • unreasonably strict
  • does not admit when they do not know something
  • does not acknowledge personal mistakes, but pretends otherwise
  • dishonest (not open and frank about problems)
  • dull, uncreative
  • expresses improper emotions
  • moody or grumpy
  • emotionally unstable
  • angry
  • complaining
  • critical without constructive suggestions
  • plays favorites
  • talks too much or interrupts
  • does not listen
  • slovenly appearance
  • undisciplined
  • unprepared
  • unorganized
  • disrespectful of the student or parent
  • disrespectful of the lesson time
  • sloppy practice habits
  • does not keep up with professional standards
  • does not model good performance or posture

Here is my list of positive teacher traits:

  • mindful of time
  • considerate of the next student's time and not holding over unreasonably
  • considerate of the start time of lessons, not tardy
  • patient
  • compassionate
  • respectful
  • cheerful, joyful, smiling
  • creative and interesting
  • encouraging
  • supportive
  • energetic
  • interesting
  • available, approachable
  • technologically savvy
  • can relate to students in the students' current techno language or media
  • high expectations, expects the best from students
  • has ability and willingness to picture what a student can ultimately do
  • inspiring
  • makes the student feel important
  • makes personal connections
  • interested in the student as a person outside of the learning environment
  • sense of humor
  • knowledgeable and passionate about the subject matter
  • good listener
  • organized
  • interacts with the students
  • good role model
  • disciplined
  • self-motivated
  • confident
  • problem solver
  • fair
  • prepared
  • high expectations
  • compassionate
  • good student and learner; always open to improvement

Ouch! These are very difficult lists, aren't they? Making these lists caused me to think long and hard about my own style of teaching and whether I need a "tune-up" in my attitude and teaching method. This is the time of year when I finally take a few days off alone on the coast of Oregon. I spend time thinking about the coming year, what goals I have, what areas I need to improve, and what my next game plan will be to put all of my thoughts into positive action.

In future discussions, I want to visit the issue of how to begin a new teaching season in a way that will bring success. My posts last week and today are designed to get us in the mode of thinking that is necessary before making any changes for the coming season.

Remember to leave me a comment about your own additions to the list of positive (and negative) teacher character traits.


  1. positive or negative traits.. hmm.. how about, how the teacher will take it when the student performs below average in annual recital? misbehave on stage? how would a good or not so good teacher react?

  2. Your comments are so thought provoking! I like my students to be ready for recital at least 1 month in advance, because I find that memorizing within a month of the recital date is too stressful for the student (and me!) and may not be successful. My pre-twinklers play as a group and do more of a skills demonstration than a performance. Age has much to do with how well students may perform. As a teacher, I prefer to take a "higher road" and acknowledge that the student's performance is not a reflection of my efforts. sometimes we have good days, sometimes bad. A very young student will be all over the place because of her age. We cannot expect toddlers to escape their natural developmental growth. When things happen, we just smile and applaud the effort. That's what I do. What about other teachers?

  3. I think a good teacher will smile and applaud the child's for their efforts just like you do. A good teacher always allow room to grow, and accept that things do happen sometimes.
    Negative trait- I think will be one that expect perfect, precision, all the time and bark orders when things didnt happen. Should be a military commander not a Suzuki violin teacher.

  4. I completely agree with you! The Suzuki way is to applaud effort and provide encouragement. There is always something to remark positively about. I heard a story about Dr. Suzuki, that a really terrible student played for him. The teachers observing the class could not imagine what good thing Dr. Suzuki would be able to say about the student who played so badly. At the end of the student's playing, Dr. Suzuki turned to him, smiled, and said, "Good, you can play." Then they proceeded to have a lesson.