What lies in the heart of a great teacher?

If kids come to us from strong, healthy functioning families, it makes our job easier. If they do not come to us from strong, healthy, functioning families, it makes our job more important.

Barbara Coloroso


I never wanted to be a teacher. I was always repeating to myself and friends around me that I will not spend 5 years studying and afterwards “deal with other people's children”. Ironically my life decided to write a different story. I have been a teacher since 9 years now.

Teaching chose me. The beginnings were not easy though. I hated my place of work. I didn’t want to wake up in the morning and go there – to the building full of little (and older) mean monsters who were doing everything to make my life difficult. At that time I was 22 and my oldest students 16. At the same time I was doing my MA degree. So working from Monday till Friday afternoon at school and from Friday late afternoon till Sunday lectures at the university. It was a great challenge for me to continue and to not give up. Trust me, it was an everyday struggle to not quit my job.

It took me around 3 months to realize that teaching is actually what I want to do. Something which gives me happiness and the sense of self-fulfillment. I understood that I am there for the students and not the other way round. And without any doubt calling them mean monsters was wrong. The nature of children and youngsters is to check the teachers. Students want to know how much they can do and how far they can go during the lessons. It is the role of a teacher to master the lesson, to get students involved and make them ask for even more knowledge.

So what lies in the heart of a great teacher? After 9 years expierience of working with students of different ages (also adults), I know what lies in my teaching success. And for sure being a great teacher is much more than credentials, experience and intelligence. Here are some advice (my subjective list) for teachers-to-be:

Teacher is honest.

Never lie. Never pretend somebody you are not. Honesty is the most crucial value you can give to another person no matter if it is your student, a family member or a friend. Pupils immediately feel fake people and dishonesty. Don’t teach them how to lie and pretend. Teach them how to be honest and be yourself.

Teacher is just normal.

Show kindness to your students, cooworkers, parents and those around you because “Kindness makes the world go around”. It truly influences the environment in the classroom. It helps students feel welcomed, cared for and loved. The feelings of understanding and showing others you are concerned about lets them feel needed and exceptional. Be positive even though it is not easy. Looking on the bright side always seems to help your pupils make things better. Good teacher also knows that sometimes he needs to stop and be silly for a while.

Teacher is a builder.

You always look to make things better and improve everything what is happening in and outside your classroom. You are the person who bridges gaps and builds relationships, friendships, and a community. Building a small community in the classroom helps your students to be a part of school community and prepares them for life.

Teacher is like a farmer.

You are like a farmer who spends every moment thinking about what you need to do today, tomorrow, next week, next month - all in service to some future event - the harvest. Ground preparation and care, ploughing, sowing seed, watering, constantly scanning the environment for pests and be ready to react according to the situation. You as a teacher do the very same thing, yet you might never see the ultimate results of your work… You see students grow and move on, but rarely do you witness the ultimate outcome of your efforts.

Teacher is ready to change.

Be open, be ready to look at some issues from a different perspective, a fresh perspective! Don’t be afraid to educate not only your pupils but also yourself. As John Dewey said: “If we teach today’s students as we taught yesterday’s, we rob them of tommorow”.

Teacher believes and inspires.

You respect your students and you believe that each of them has something special hidden inside and it is your task to find it and evoke it. Only a great teacher uncovers hidden magic in those young hearts.




Beata Jaranowska - a teacher

The pictures were drawn by 4th grade students from Primary School in Rychliki, Poland