Guest Post: What Makes A Good Teacher?

Written by Antonia Shevlin.


It occurred to me the other day how much we as students take our teachers for granted. As an Education and Psychology university student I see the differences in teaching styles and it got me wondering ‘why do I like one teacher more than other – is it the lesson or is it the teacher?’. We’ve all had a teacher/lesson we hated but we will all have one that we couldn’t have done without. I know I have and I hope they know that I appreciate them.

Leadership and Coaching theory has become a growing interest over the last few decades, especially in Sports and Education. We all have that one teacher that motivates us to achieve, to lead us to success and coach us through the difficult times. Take a minute, think about those who have led us to where we are today. What was it about them? What made them different?

If your experience was/is anything like mine, it’s because they cared, because you have a relationship with them, a connection. They want you to do well. Often in institutions relationship is down played when actually it is a significant part of creating the right environment towards success. McGregor’s theory Y suggests that if the conditions are right people will strive towards the goals that they are committed to (Heil et al., 2000).

Attachment Theory

What makes my teachers great is that they are themselves. Where best to start than good old Bowlby (1973)and his attachment theory; his work led to the development of the Authentic Leadership Model. He believed that having a secure attachment meant that you will have confidence, curiosity, openness, and can form and build trusting and rewarding relationships. A secure attachment basically means that from a young age they are able to form an unbroken, attachment, which is usually through a strong emotional bond with a parent or guardian. By the age of 10 months old babies are capable of forming seven attachments, this continues throughout our lives and in my experience, being able to create an attachment to people has tremendous benefits; such as emotional development, access to opportunities, and mental well-being. It also can be quite an emotional journey (but that’s for another time). These are what make leaders great, this is what makes you a great coach, teacher and mentor. Knowledge of a subject is great but without the connection, passion and enthusiasm behind it, knowledge is just words conveyed to another. Without the relationship what is there? Ask yourself is your favourite teacher the one who knows it all like the back of their hands or is it the one who knows the subject but conveys it with such enthusiasm and passion that gets you hooked in?

Consider this, would rather have a know it all tutor who is stiff as a board or who wants a teacher who has the interpersonal skills to make the most dense topic seem like an adventure, who is willing to spend time and effort making it enjoyable, relatable and easy to understand?

Now everyone has their own style, people like different things but for me my favourite teachers (plural because I have great teachers-doing two subjects) are the ones who I can connect with, they listen to me, they make every lesson fly by (even when they are 3 hours long at 9am!). They understand me, how I work, if I don’t understand something they can explain it to me in a different way. They are quirky, funny, I can have a laugh with them, talk to them about what the weekend was like, but best of all they smile when they talk to you, if you see them walking down the hall they reach out to say hello. There’s nothing more comforting when you’re having a bad day than your favourite teacher walking past and saying hello with a big smile!

Emotional Intelligence

A common element to the effectiveness of being a good leader or a good coach is Emotional Intelligence. Part of Emotional Intelligence is ‘the perception, appraisal and expression of emotion, to facilitate thinking, understand and analyse emotions, and reflect and promote emotional and intellectual growth’ (Mayer and Salovey, 1997; Gordon, 2007). But what does this actually mean? Well it means that you are able to reflect on their own emotions, see what other people are feeling, showing empathy and using it to encourage those around you.

Goleman’s Theory (1999)

Goleman suggested that there are five components to Emotional Intelligence

  • Self-awareness: which is the ability to recognize and understand your moods, emotions, and drives as well as their effect on others. Being self-confident, reflecting on self-development and depreciating sense of humour.
  • Self-regulation: The ability to control or redirect disruptive impulses and moods, suspend judgment, and think before acting. Being trustworthy, and upholding integrity, comfortable with ambiguity and openness to change.
  • Motivation: The ability to pursue goals with energy and persistence, for reasons that go beyond money or status. Having a strong drive to achieve, to be optimistic even in the face of failure.
  • Empathy: The ability to understand people’s emotional makeup
  • Social skill: The ability to manage relationships, build networks, and find common ground

My favourite teachers are the ones who know me for me. I am not just a name on a register or a face in the classroom. There is open communication, we talk to each other, they know how to work with me, instil me with the skills to be the best person I can be even when I don’t see it myself.

According to Goleman, Emotionally Intelligent individuals are aware of their feelings and manage them in order to positively communicate with others in a supportive and appropriate way. They listen to them, are sensitive to the opinion and viewpoints of others and are able to understand and effectively cope with other people’s feelings. Thus it is no surprise that researchers have found that those with higher levels of Emotional Intelligence have a strong correlation in their effectiveness of being both a good leader and coach(Grant, 2007; Mills and Rouse, 2009; Krishnakumar et al, 2016).

So take a minute and test how emotional intelligent you are:

Knowing that you can talk to someone, trust them, laugh with them is something that not everyone can do. Let’s not take for granted those that strive for you to do well. Let’s celebrate the teachers who give their lives to developing young minds, inspiring the next generation of business men and women, politicians, teachers, parents. Let’s be honest how many of us could put up with a class of 25-30 versions of our younger selves in a class. Oh the flashbacks! Hats off to my teachers.

Antonia is a third-year combined honours student at Manchester Metropolitan University studying Psychology and Education studies; where her interests lie in Leadership and Coaching, Bullying, Special Educational Needs, Mental Health, Forensic Psychology, and Community Psychology.  Her dissertation focused on how school age bullying affects adult life. She hopes to be an Educational Psychologist working in schools in collaboration with SEN departments in order to help every individual strive to be the best they can be no matter their circumstances. Antonia is thinking of creating her own blog hoping to bring awareness to some key areas of both Education and Psychology in a simple way to provide reflection and self-development – so keep your eyes peeled!

6 thoughts on “Guest Post: What Makes A Good Teacher?

  1. Its an extremely well researched post. Kudos! I fully agree with you on this that, a good teacher is one who knows me for me, and a person who we can have an open conversation with. This is what I keep telling teachers who tell me that their students hate them..

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Great stuff. Well written and researched, and this made me think. I like the way you interweave personal experience and theory.
    I completely agree about caring, and although Nel Noddings and I might not agree on everything, she is right when she says that a pedagogy of caring is what it is all about.
    Favourite Noddings quotes…
    ‘My contention is, first, that we should want more from our educational efforts than adequate academic achievement and, second, that we will not achieve even that meager success unless our children believe that they themselves are cared for and learn to care for others.
    The student is infinitely more important than the subject matter.
    Nel Noddings (1984). “Caring, a Feminine Approach to Ethics & Moral Education”, California; Univ of California Press


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