Educational Research (ISSN: 2141-5161) Vol. 2(5) pp. 1118-1123 May 2011
Available online@ http://www.interesjournals.org/ER
Copyright © 2011 International Research Journals
How To Be A Good Teacher?
**Patrick Kim Cheng Low and *Sik Liong Ang
**Universiti Brunei Darussalam; Associate, University of South Australia and *PH D Executive Candidate, Universiti
Accepted 02 June, 2011
Most corporate owners and leaders are successful teachers (also read as trainers) or coaches, and
they take certain steps in their own way to pass along what they have learned to their people or
employees. Teachers continue to learn. In this paper, the practitioner-researchers talk about how one
can be a good teacher; they are asking questions or raising issues to find out more on how to be a
good teacher. The various pointers, among other things, include: being an ever willing teacher,
applying different strokes for different folks and giving students carrots and incentives (or giving them
something to hold onto) as well as applying a variety of teaching methods.
Keywords: Good teacher, analogies, metaphors, pausing, being persuasive, orderliness, S. A. L. T.
The majority of corporate owners and leaders are good
teachers (also read as trainers), and they take certain
steps in their own way to pass along what they have
learned to their people or employees. Teachers continue
to learn. They indeed need to take positive actions to be
good or great in teaching and facilitating learning.
The purpose and objectives of this paper are to
examine what good teaching is all about, and how one
can be a good teacher.
Being Upright With Integrity
With regard to personal integrity, Albert Einstein (1879-
1955) said, “Morality is of the highest importance – but for
us, not for God”. Being an upright teacher with integrity is
not about being perfect as a teacher. It is about being
transparent, honest, faithful and committed as a teacher.
It also means doing what one say one would do, and with
this, earning the trust of others. A teacher must act in the
best interest of the students, not for personal gain; that is
to teach the students and to prepare them to be good
citizens for the nation. It means doing the right thing
even if it is difficult or unpopular. Integrity is really a heart
**Corresponding author e-mail: patrick_low2003 @yahoo.com
issue. Confucius said, “Man’s existence lies in his
integrity. A man without integrity can exist merely through
his luck” (Confucius of Analects VI:19). In this respect, it
is about a teacher being upright and transparent to the
student at large. A teacher must have the right character
and motivation deep inside with the purpose of passing
down good knowledge to the future generation. Integrity
is really tested when difficulties and hardships come into
one’s teaching. Take, for example, when majority of the
students do not understand or find it difficult to
understand what the teacher is trying to teach. The
teacher needs to pause, reflect and review how (s)he can
make the student understand his or her teaching. True
integrity does not take the easy way out for not making
one’s teaching, the students’ learning and understanding
the subject better.
Perhaps the single most important aspect of teaching is
classroom management. A teacher cannot successfully
teach his/her students if (s)he is not in control of the
class. If a teacher’s teaching style cannot reach out to
everyone, the students can become bored, disinterested
and restless. One should thus take an extra pause to look
out at the class after one has made a key point. Be alert
to non verbal reactions that indicate that one has lost
one’s students (Davis, 2009: 166). It is understandable
that most students have their own learning styles and
areas where they excel.
On the one hand, if a teacher is able to discipline the
class and can reach out to students by using a variety of
teaching methods, they would be motivated and would
less likely to cause trouble in one’s teaching. On the
other hand, the weaker student has no desire to learn
because they may have tried to understand or that they
do not have the discipline to study. As a result, they don’t
feel like to study and they don’t do their homework.
Worse still, parents at home do not have the time to look
after and discipline them. Their teachers are too busy
and have no time for them. In this way, they do not learn
in school as well. And finally, they drop out from the
school. And unless their parents and teachers have the
heart for them, they would remain as weak students.
Therefore, it is very important that the teacher is willing to
help these students for they need encouragement,
inspiration, guidance and most of all, discipline to study.
Being an Ever Willing Teacher
Do not look so far. It is not without. The ‘Kingdom of God’
is at hand, within. And if we apply the Confucian
perspective, a teacher must be a willing teacher – willing
to serve and do one’s best (The Analects, Chapter IX,
verse 25). The secret recipe to great teaching goodness
lies within us, our teacher selves.
The good fit is essentially vital. That willingness, that
heart and soul to teach, in a person makes a good or
successful teacher. It builds the confidence, the
enthusiasm and the excitement of a teacher. It also
creates much passion to teach, coach and guide one’s
students well. The teacher should thus have ‘a loving
heart’, doing what the heart is set on (The Analects,
Chapter V, verse 26; also cited in Low, 2010).
To be a teacher is really not about just getting a job,
earning a living or scoring Brownie points with the
principal in raising the school’s key performance
indicators (KPI). The willingness to teach and serve must
indeed be underscored. And with that comes the serving
and caring of the students and looking after their interests
and needs, the very reason for the existence of the
And when it comes to preparing the course, a good,
ever willing teacher, that willingness or even good service
fit leads the teacher to duly consider the abilities and
interests of his or her students – the teacher would ask:
“How much will students know about the subject
matter?”; “How interested will they be in the material?”
and “What experiences or attitudes might students have
that you can use to draw them into the subject?” (Davis,
2009: 139). And the great teacher is often interested in
his or her students, and this helps to build the teacher’s
rapport with students. The students really need to have
Low and Ang 1119
something they enjoy too. The teacher ought to get to
know them; so, the questions teachers need to ask,
“What do you know about your students?”, “Do you really
know them?” and “Do you know their interests and
Knowing the students can not only establish rapport
but also help to relate the content well to the student. “A
key to hooking the students is to relate the content to
their lives. Personal connections to the subject matter
need to be found, instead of teaching content without the
kids in mind – we are building kids, not refrigerators! For
example, when looking where things went wrong in U.S.
History, the connections with today can be made; we are
still vulnerable to these mistakes” (Verna DeLuce, an
English teacher, cited in Hawley, 1997).
Undeniably when these are done, with rapport and
relationships established, the successful teacher shows
that (s)he cares for the students. Indeed, “one of the first
things you must do is show you care about the students
as individuals.” “(Get to know their) names in a warm,
friendly manner and with a smile… (know that) each
person counts. …create a comfortable atmosphere; set
up name games so they get to know each other too.”
(Martin Moore – who has been teaching for over two
decades at North Central High School in Indianapolis,
cited in Hawley, 1997). In this connection, Davis (2009:
278, italics ours) has highlighted that students, in part,
can especially be motivated when teachers
“communicate personal interest in students by calling
them by name, initiating conversations with them before
or after class, asking questions during class, and
referring to “our” class (establishing rapport and building
Being Selfless, Caring and Putting In Much Effort
A good teacher should indeed be selfless. This basically
means that such a teacher should look after the weak
students more than the good students. It takes a teacher
more effort and energy to teach the weaker students. If a
teacher has no love and patience for weak students,
(s)he is not a good teacher and to the authors, (s)he is
not fit to be a teacher.
A good teacher should be giving all the time and
energy to the student; (s)he should not expect any return
or favor from the student. That is why one is a teacher
because (s)he only teaches and without expectation or
return – as if rendering a service. There should not be a
differentiation between a good student and a weak
student. All students, in most ways, are like his or her
children; (s)he cares about all students. If a teacher has
a big heart to care, show concern and even worry about
all his or her students, (s)he can be considered to be a
good teacher (Low, 2010)
1120 Educ. Res.
Learning More Than The Student
Never stop learning. The teacher keeps on learning.
Interestingly, a Chinese saying has it that, “learning is like
rowing upstream; not to advance is to drop back.”
How true, a successful teacher has and enjoys “the
mastery of the subject (s)he teaches, and continues to
learn and improve what (s)he teaches” (several
interviewees’ input; mentioned several times). One will
never learn a topic better than when one starts teaching
it. And this coincides with what Whitman (1991: 323) has
indicated, that is, the great teacher never forgets the
teacher learns more than the student, so he allocates
specific subject areas to selected individuals, and has
them teach to or coach others.
In our experiences, the student’s questions or queries
normally make one digs deeper, and learns more.
Widening Knowledge And Opening New Horizons
In the Confucian sense, a small person with education is
of use to the state; of what use is a tall man who knows
Another Chinese proverb has it that, “a bachelor of
arts discusses books, a pork butcher talks of pigs.” In
essence, what is stressed here is the fact that a
successful teacher must not only continue to learn, but
needs to widen his or her horizons. Indeed a teacher or a
coach should not shackle or chain up him(her)self to any
single idea. There is a need to always try to see things
with fresh eyes. If one can do this, one will be able to
achieve progress and growth.
To widen knowledge and open new horizons, there is
also a need to learn from others (Low, 2010: 682). An
excellent teacher learns from others. To a Confucian, for
one to be capable, one should study; to be intelligent and
smart, one must learn from others. (Zhou, 2005). To learn
well from others, one should especially listen; and listen
well. Confucius said that, “(S)he who talks too much is
prone to failure” (Zhou, 2005: 69). Because (s)he who
does not listen, does not learn.
Applying Different Strokes For Different Folks
One interviewee expressed this, that is, “there is a need
to treat the students as Buddhas. Show benevolence,
compassion and kindness to them”.
This interviewee went on, saying: “Peter Seah, 64
years old, a retired Singaporean Banker once related that
one day he complained to his friend about his driver who
cannot understand and did not follow his instructions
while driving his car. On many occasions, he commanded
his driver to drive on a specific road with clear directions
yet his driver would turn to the opposite direction that he
used to do and drove a longer way to the destination. He
said that his driver was ‘stupid’. But his friend replied that,
‘If your driver is cleverer than you, you would be driving
the car and he would be sitting behind you.’ Clearly, the
message here is that different people has different ways
or styles of learning and developing their potentials.” And
indeed they ought to be treated differently; to each, his
own. Good teachers understand their respective
students’ capabilities and, more critically, guide them
according to their potentials.
Giving Students Carrots And Incentives (Or Giving
Them Something to Hold Onto)
An Old Russian saying has it that, “it is not the horse that
makes the carriage go; it’s the carrot that one puts in
front of its nose.” A successful teacher offers as many
carrots and something for the students to hold onto as
well as move forward.
Mark Twain, the writer once said that, “I can live two
months on a good compliment.” Likewise, the teaching or
coaching must be full of carrots, praises and ideas that
will help the teacher get the students to want to learn
what (s)he wants them to. Just like food helps our bodies
to grow and sustain us, praises and ideas motivate or
energize the students to learn and grow.
Applying Dramas and Using Metaphors and
Analogies to Enhance Learning
The carrots thrown in by good teachers can also include
dramas, metaphors and analogies.
Talking to various experienced faculty members also
prompts us to realize that a good teacher should give
special attention to preparing memorable examples,
counterexamples, illustrations, and demonstrations.
Research shows that an important characteristic of an
effective teacher is the ability to present difficult or
complex concepts in ways that students can understand,
through the use of metaphors, analogies, and examples
(Erickson, Peters and Strommer, 2006; Schwartz and
Bransford, 1998; Stones, 1992)
As Low (2010: 681) has pointed out, teachers,
according to Confucius, should, indubitably not be merely
repeating things in a rigmarole fashion, annoying the
students with unbroken questions and repeating the
same things over and over again. This ordinarily
frustrates, if not, makes the students bored, and often
they do not know what good learning and their studies
can do for them; they miss the essentials of learning, see
it as irrelevant and become unmotivated. Instead, he
should say in different ways and styles.
The successful teacher normally finds ways to
dramatize certain key concepts so they’ll stick in the
students’ brains like a fish hook (Whitman, 1991: 324).
The teacher uses metaphors and analogies as well as
parallels so that the students understand well the
concepts examined. (S)he can also tell stories and color
the student(s) more than the deepest dye.
Additionally, an outstanding teacher is “expressive,
casual but full of hidden meaning” (Lin, 1994: 248). A
good teacher, to Confucius, is excellent in drawing
ingenious or meaningful examples or live illustrations to
make people really understand him or her. In this way,
(s)he may be said to be a good person to make other
people follow his or her ideal.
Pausing or Slowing Down to Allow the Students to
Good teachers pause or have silences, they time them to
allow their students to still themselves; basically, to reflect
and learn. With a pause, the student would then be able
to have the “Ah-ha!” experience or develop fresh “A-
“Learning without thought is an opportunity lost. A
teacher should reflect on what (s)he has learned, and in
that way, (s)he gains new insights” (Low, 2010: 682).
Confucius said, “A man who goes over what he has
already learned and gains some new understanding from
it is worthy to be a teacher” (Lin, 1994: 203). Reflecting
and reviewing is necessary in helping students to learn.
Applying A Variety of Ways of Teaching
To motivate students to learn, successful teachers vary
their teaching methods. But whatever one does, avoid
reading a prepared text or not having eye contact with
one’s students. Davis (2009: 281) has expressed that
good teaching involves a variety of instructional ways,
and these include “break(ing) the routine with a session
of role playing, debating, brainstorming, field experience,
demonstrations, case studies, or a guest speaker”.
Preventing Bad Habits Before They Appear
A successful teacher should nip bad learning habits of
the students in the bud (Low, 2010: 682).
Students when young are like young bamboos, they
can bend and not be broken. It is critical for the teacher to
prevent bad habits in his or her students before they
arise. Confucius maintained that he who learns, but does
not think, is lost, and who thinks but does not learn is in
great danger (Lin, 1994).
Low and Ang 1121
Being the Role-Model Benefits the Students
Monkeys see, monkeys do, and interestingly, people
learn from the leaders; the leaders show by their actions
and ways (Low and Theyagu, 2003). Moreover, Low
(2010: 684 - 5) highlights that imparting knowledge is
only part of teaching, and this forms part and parcel of
the Confucian teaching ways. Confucius was the living
example; for Confucius, the teacher should not show or
illustrate the examples, but be the example him(her)self.
“In life, we need examples to learn from” (several
respondents’ input), and this match with Low’s (2005: 8)
words, “when we have role models, we learn better”.
Giving Choices Is Motivating and Persuasive
Great teachers are persuasive, and they are influential.
When they speak, people listen. Simply being tough is
not going to get the students to want to learn. Successful
teachers don’t force but offer choices, and they are
amiable and likable. Good teachers frequently give
students choices; they give students options on term
papers or assignments, allow them decide between two
locations for the field trip, or get them select which topics
to explore in greater depth (Davis, 2009: 280). Choosing
among options gives students the opportunity to develop
skills in regulating their own learning: planning what to
do, setting goals, monitoring their performance, and
reflecting on their actions (Davis, 2009; Young, 2003;
Cross, 2001; Cashin, 1979).
Being Credible Helps
Normally “the students trust the teacher and have
confidence on the teacher” (Several interviewees’ input;
mentioned 34 times). To be credible and influential is to
be persuasive, and one can then convince or talk into
others, getting them to see one’s view, perspective or
angle (Low, 2010a). Example-setting also builds the
teacher’s credibility. Competent, benevolent and
example-setting, the teacher grows the trust of the
students in him. These are winning ways for a teacher to
be convincing; soft power is indeed better favored.
Checking Orderliness And Having An Engaging
Learning Place/ Setting
Low (2010: 684) speaks of Confucius, when teaching,
was good at leading one on step by step. (The Analects,
Chapter IX verse 11). The successful teacher checks for
organization and ensures orderliness in teaching so that
students can easily follow and understand the lesson(s)
1122 Educ. Res.
better. (S)he teaches the different subjects in proper
Although it is commonsensical, we at most times take it
for granted and may even skip this process. Here, we are
referring to the fact that when preparing to teach a course
for the first time, there is a need to talk with faculty
members who have taught it previously, but at times, we
simply pass it over. Indeed it is good or beneficial to ask
one’s colleagues for their syllabus, course Web pages,
instructional resources, list of assignments, projects and
papers, and previous examination questions, and even to
find out about the typical and common problems their
students had with the material and any other difficulties
the instructors faced. Good teachers indeed do
preliminary information gathering, and it helps in topic
sequencing, arrangements and overall teaching later.
Additionally, the teacher should consider having a
winning learning place and setting – what Frederick
Herzberg calls the hygiene factors. In this regard, Low
(2010a: 45-46; 2005) has pointed out that when planning
and preparing the learning area/ room, one should
consider S. A. L. T. that is, the:
O Seating arrangements.
O Atmosphere or ambience.
O Lighting: Make sure that the lighting is just
right, not too dim or too bright and harsh.
O Temperature: Ensure that the room temperature
is just nice, not too cold or too warm.
Having A Sense Of Humor
A sense of humor can help one become a successful
teacher (Low, 2010). Be aware that one’s sense of humor
can, in fact, relieve tense classroom situations before
they become disruptions. It will also enliven the class,
making learning more enjoyable for the students.
It has been highlighted that more critically, the
teacher’s sense of humor will allow one to see the joy in
life and make one a happier person as one progresses
through this sometimes stressful career (Kelly, 2011).
Having a Positive Attitude
Having a positive attitude is life’s great asset. Problems
are challenges, and they are really blessings in disguise.
School children or even adult learners (as in corporate
training) can be amazing, dealing with them can be fun;
and life can be an absolute blast.
And the authors agree with Kelly (2011) that as a
teacher, one will be thrown many curve balls in life and
especially in the teaching (training) profession. A positive
attitude will certainly help one cope with these in the best
way. When one faces disruptions such as magpies in
class, too much talking or the likes, and if one thinks
positively, one would respond well and manage the class
better. A good teacher can, in fact, promote discussions
or engage students arising from such circumstances.
In sum, one can perhaps say that there are certain
core values that one should possess in order to enable
one to become a good teacher. And these values can be
illustrated in the figure 1 above.
If we believe that the future belongs to our young people,
then we have a serious responsibility to insure that we
provide them by teaching and giving them the
foundations necessary to build a world where they and
future generations can flourish. We, as teachers, have a
unique opportunity and an obligation in our homes, our
community, our businesses and our schools to influence
the kind of world that they want to have. And for this
reason, even if we study to old age we shall not finish
learning. All in all, teaching through various strategies
and ways enables the teacher to improve his or her
teaching ways while learning through various strategies
causes both the teacher and the student to learn in
smarter and better ways. And good teachers should
realize that variety is really the spice of life and learning,
and students indeed enjoy a mixture and combinations of
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