‘What is a teacher’s most important quality? Likeability’

This head says it is crucial for teachers to be liked by students, and to see themselves more as coaches than educators

Rod Grant

‘What is a teacher’s most important quality? Likeability’

When taking part in teacher-training days, I often pose the question, “What is the most important aspect of being a teacher?” That’s tricky to answer, because most will look for a professional, academic response, but, for me, the most important aspect of being a teacher is to be liked: not necessarily respected, certainly not feared, but rather being someone to whom a young person can relate.

Why do I think that? Well, if you are a teacher, do you believe you have a long-lasting impact on the lives of your students? What will your current students remember about your classes? Actually, what do you hope they will remember about your classes? In other words, are you interested in the notion of personal legacy?

This creates interesting conversations because often educators get bogged down by the minutiae of the job, ticking the boxes that our line managers, employers, government, inspectors, General Teaching Council for Scotland, Care Inspectorate, local authorities, quality improvement officers and others demand of us.

Building relationships with students

I would encourage all educators to see those demands as being of relatively little importance. What matters is the relationships we build with our students. Perhaps we need to see ourselves as “coaches” rather than teachers or instructors. That simple semantic change can often create a difference in our personal methodology. If we see our job as coaching, the relationship between ourselves and our students quickly becomes more collaborative and more conducive to a healthy working relationship.

So, I often remind teachers that when children like us, they will do anything to please us. They work harder, they become more readily inspired and they develop their own aspirations.

Teach with kindness, teach with energy, teach with passion, and enjoy the journey.

As for form-filling, development plans and pleasing those in power, place those in the correct context – children first, everyone and everything else a very distant second. And I mean so far in the distance that they are barely noticeable…

Rod Grant is headmaster at Clifton Hall School in Edinburgh. This article was originally published as a blog post on the school website

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Rod Grant

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