There is no doubt that nearly all teachers are effective. The more important consideration is the ways teachers differ in their influence on students. What is it that makes some teachers more effective and influential than others?

Recall the teachers who truly made a difference to you when you were in school. Most of us think of 1-2 teachers. During your elementary, middle school and high school years you would have experienced between 40-60 teachers. That means only 4-6% of your teachers left their mark. What is unique about these teachers that sets them apart from all the others?

Research on the reasons we choose these teachers identifies teachers who:

  • Showed a genuine interest in us and our success;
  • Built positive relationships with us;
  • Used different and unique teaching strategies to help us learn;
  • Demonstrated a willingness to explain material and took time to help us with our work; and
  • Had high expectations of us to succeed.

The research confirms what many of us know and personally experienced. Teachers do contribute to the success and achievement of students. Research shows that teachers have the greatest influence when they:

  • Believe all students can learn and progress and achievement is possible for all;
  • Demonstrate to all students they care about them and their learning;
  • Set high expectations for all students to succeed; and
  • Use engaging teaching methods that involve all students in the learning process.

The teachers that most influenced us believed in us. They cared about us. They brought out the best in us. They made learning fun. And in return, we worked a little harder in their classroom. We did our best work for them. We wanted them to be proud of us. We believed we could succeed.

You have the power to influence every student you work with and help them achieve great things in their life. Follow the examples of the teachers who influenced you by listening, believing, caring, challenging and engaging your students. You can be one of those teachers who years later a student thinks about when asked, “Which teacher made a difference in your life?”



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