Headmaster's Blog

What makes a great teacher?

I am often asked by parents what I am looking for when I appoint a new teacher. My answer is quite straightforward. Teaching styles may have changed in the 25 years I have been recruiting staff, but the essence of what makes a great teacher has not. In my experience, all great teachers have three passions in common: a passion for their subject, a passion to share that subject with the students in their classroom, and a desire to see children develop and flourish as rounded individuals. If a candidate can demonstrate these, I can be confident they will be a success in the classroom.

A passion for their subject is perhaps the most obvious of these. We have all experienced being drawn in by someone’s enthusiasm for a topic and a key ignitor for children is the teacher’s sense of excitement about what they are doing. After all, if the teacher isn’t fascinated and engaged, how can we expect their students to be?

But passion for a subject alone is not enough. To be successful, a teacher must also want to communicate and share that passion with their students. Of course, not every child learns in the same way, or at the same rate, and a great teacher will be able to connect their knowledge with where the child in front of them is today; one size does not fit all.

These attributes will enable a teacher to deliver great results in the classroom, but the best teachers recognise that their job reaches beyond the classroom door. They will not see just a music student, or just a physics student, but recognise each child as a complete human being. A passion to play their part in enabling every child to grow and flourish, and to connect with them on a human level, is as essential as subject knowledge and teaching skills.

High-quality staff make a big difference to both individuals and whole school communities; great schools are built on great teachers. The popular narrative may be of teaching as a profession in crisis, but in my job I am privileged to watch a lot of teaching and, in my opinion, the quality of teaching, and of the learning generated, has never been higher than it is today. We have many great teachers and we should celebrate this fact.

Rod MacKinnon
Headmaster, Bristol Grammar School