Recently, www.ratemyprofessors.com ranked some top professors, and the one that topped the list was one I'd taken courses from.
He was a good professor, but I think what put him at the top of the list was his absurdly easy classes. And I'd say absurdly easy classes should be a negative factor, not a positive one.
And I started thinking.
What makes a truly great teacher?
An incomplete list:
1. Respect for students. One of my professors right now has some great skills as a teacher, but she's scary and mean, at least to a few of her students. I recently overheard one of the library staff refer to her as...
Oh. Right. G-rated blog. Let's just say I'm not alone in thinking this otherwise good professor has serious people issues.
2. True love of the subject. If the teacher's not excited about it, the students won't be either. Well, at least unless it's like the chastity lesson I gave in Gospel Essentials the other week. Maybe it's best for teachers not to get too excited about specific topics in certain situations...
I'm especially impressed with a teacher who can make an awful subject interesting (Mr. Kinsel (Math), Dr. Wood (chemistry), and Ted (chemistry/physics)--I'm looking at you).
3. Good communication skills. Don't let me get started with one of my current professors...a brilliant guy, but he has a hard time talking.
4. Organized. Again, another current professor (well, current except I took her final on Tuesday) has problems here.
5. Good knowledge of the subject. This one's for all those high school coaches who were there just for the sports, but had to teach anyway...some of you may know your stuff. Most of you don't. To be fair, the above-mentioned Ted is an exception, but he doesn't spend a whole lot of time on the coaching side of things. This also applies to the fifth grade teacher who told us to do a report on an animal and then told me I couldn't do it on snake because a snake's not an animal. Yeah. I realize it's fifth grade, but still...according to my mom, she later called a goose a duck. Not a bad teacher overall, but she needed some very basic-level assistance with animal identification.
6. They're demanding. This BYU professor? My education professors at UVSC? Definitely not demanding. Education requires work. If I'm not trying, I'm not learning. There is no way my kids will get the easiest teacher, even if that teacher does happen to be the most popular one. And kids need to be prepared for the real world. An easy education class is not adequate preparation for a classroom full of 35 hormone- and rage-filled teenagers. An informative yet ridiculously easy Mission Prep. class is not adequate preparation for the craziness of a mission.
7. They make you think. This is where CS Lewis is at his finest. I took institute from Thomas Griffith. He was my stake president at the time, and a good teacher. And one of the most thought-provoking teachers I've ever had. This was not a class that required work, as there was no grading. But it still required thought. He asked deep questions. I'm not entirely surprised that he's now a judge on the DC Court of Appeals--this nation's second highest court. I am surprised that he's scheduled to visit my little law school in a few months to speak--definitely exciting.
8. They do their best to make the material applicable to their students.
To be honest, I sometimes fell short in all of these areas as a teacher. I despised a couple of my students, I wasn't a big fan of some of the things I taught (cells, for example), I sometimes found it hard to say what I wanted to say, I sometimes wasn't as prepared as I should have been, and as a result was disorganized, and I didn't always know the subject as well as I should have (cells, again). And my class was probably a bit too easy.
I got better as time passed, and then life pulled me in a different direction.
Any other important attributes to consider?