How to be a good teacher

how to be a good teacher and have that magic touch

Let’s look at how to be a good teacher. Unfortunately, most of the school and university teachers in my life were mediocre. Miss Hayden, supposedly a geography teacher, would dictate chapters from the textbook for us to copy. But thinking about my teachers now, I realize I have forgotten most of them. On the other hand, I can still see and hear the good ones. I’m taken right back into the classroom decades ago!

Mrs Molian, English, Mr Fricker, religious studies, Miss Bain, French, Mr Baker, history. Prof Grenville Hancox, Canterbury Christchurch University and Ronald Smith, who died while giving a concert. Decades later, I remain grateful for these teachers who inspired me in some way. But what was their secret, and how did they do it?

Benjamin Franklin once said, “If you would not be forgotten as soon as you are gone, either write things worth reading or do things worth writing.” So, let’s learn how to be a good teacher and make a positive difference!

The secrets of how to be a good teacher


Teach your pupils to think for themselves rather than spoon-feed them. Sometimes, after two hours of English literature, I would wonder what we had learned. I had not made any notes, yet the lesson had riveted me. Rather than dishing out the accepted wisdom, she always asked us what we thought and what we could deduce from a text ourselves. She did not ‘present information;’ she taught it. If we were to learn anything, we had to participate. Teaching me to think was the greatest gift of all my teachers. Thank you Mrs Molian.


Our religious studies lessons with Mr Fricker were rarely on religion. But, on the other hand, we would have lively debates on contentious issues. Speaking out in public, formulating and expressing ideas, and debating; these skills serve us throughout life and beat staring at the board, attempting to stay awake.

Respect and Rigor

Miss Bain put the fear of God in everyone with her steel glasses and no-nonsense demeanor. Since I was a naughty monkey at school, I dreaded the day I would have her as a teacher. But it turned out that she was human after all! No monkeying about in Miss Bain’s classes for me – she meant business, and I respected her. Having respect for the teacher changed my attitude as a student. In addition, Miss Bain set high standards and expected you to have intellectual curiosity.


One had to listen to Mr Baker because he spoke quietly. Sometimes he would stop mid-sentence and had obviously lost his train of thought. Eventually, he left the school. However, his gentle, humane nature and his affliction affected us all. You don’t need to be perfect to enjoy the love and respect of your students.


The energy and enthusiasm of Grenville Hancox, heading the department of music, was enough to boost anyone’s motivation to participate. If you love your subject and life, you’ll be enthusiastic and inspire your pupils. On the other hand, if you are just doing a job to pay the bills, you may be under par when it comes to igniting your students’ passion to learn.


Let’s face it, we can’t all benefit from this! Ronald Smith was a concert pianist, after all. That said, a teacher can aim for a perfect mastery of their subject and be able to express it. Therefore, do your homework! Know your texts and grammar rules, have exciting activities for the classroom, and demonstrate how to do things.

Edu-tain your students

Nick Fuhrmen talks about how to be a good teacher, and I recommend his fun talk, which I link to lower down. Nick Furhmen remembers being fascinated by a park ranger who came into school to talk to the kids about animals. “He edu-tained us,” says Nick.

While I highly recommend listening to Nick’s Ted Talk, for those short on time, the key points he makes are:

  • Make students think for themselves,
  • Make them curious,
  • Motivate students,
  • Celebrate mistakes (a confident teacher will capitalize on mistakes, making them a ‘teachable moment’ and not an error, distraction, or humiliation),
  • Appreciate differences,
  • Give positive feedback,
  • Evaluation themselves and,
  • They care.

Listen to Nick’s Ted Talk on how to be a good teacher here.

Positive feedback

On positive feedback, Nick Furhmen talks about the stamps he uses on good work. For example, one stamp with an owl says “Owl-standing work,” and the leaf stamp says “unbe-leaf-able.” He says not to underestimate the power of encouragement and tells a charming story about how a giant, adult, hefty football player came into his office because his work had not been stamped when his grade deserved it.


When teaching, pay attention to your students’ body language since it is a reflection of you. Log how students are doing in tests over time to ensure they are progressing. If your average is low, it may be that you can do better as a teacher. Occasionally record one of your classes and watch yourself teaching. You are sure to learn about things you could do better and pat yourself on the back for what you do well.

Do you care?

If you are not interested in your students, it’s unlikely that you’ll be a good teacher. Know their names and interests and talk to them when you see them outside the classroom. Your students may forget what you said and what you did, but they will never forget how you made them feel!

Exciting teaching resources

You won’t ever be a good teacher if your lessons are boring. My resources will show you how to be a good teacher from a practical point of view, by intriguing and implicating students in their learning. My four games books will have students stimulated, participating, motivated, and alert. The story teaching kits for children will guide teachers in learning the method of teaching active, student-focused classes. Wonderful feedback over the years proves that these resources work. They motivate students and help them learn.

Download versions from my shop

Paperback version from Amazon

While many of us feel that Amazon is rich enough, in my case, I get more royalty from them than if you order from one of their sister companies like Good Reads or the Book Depository (which they own anyway!) You can also get your local bookshop to order the books for you. This link will take you to my Amazon author page: Shelley Ann Vernon.

2 thoughts on “How to be a good teacher”

  1. Hi,
    I just wanted to say that I’m a great admirer of your work, I already own 2 of your books and I really appreciate your emails, thanks for sending them to me.
    Today I especially loved this post about how to be a good teacher, it was really really inspiring.
    Thanks again,


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