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The requirements for a good history teacher

Over the years, several sites (including this one) have published a short list of requirements for good teaching. Attributed to Richard Leblanc, the list first appeared in The Teaching Professor after Professor Leblanc won the Seymous Schulich Award for Teaching Excellence. I was intrigued by Leblanc’s list and have edited it a bit to focus on social studies teachers.

Good teaching is as much about passion as it is about reason. It’s about not only motivating students to learn, but teaching them how to think like historians, and doing so in a manner that is relevant, meaningful, and memorable.

Good teaching is about substance and treating students as consumers of knowledge. It’s about doing your best to keep on top of your field, reading sources, inside and outside of your areas of expertise, and being at the leading edge as often as possible. This often will lead you to the use of technology, especially online resources such as the Digital Vaults and the Library of Congress Learning Page. This also should include the use of tools such as Flickr, TeacherTube and Google Docs.

Good teaching is about listening, questioning, being responsive, and remembering that each student and class is different. Good teaching implements the idea of Differentiated Instruction.

Good teaching is about not always having a fixed agenda and being rigid. But being flexible, fluid, experimenting, and having the confidence to react and adjust to changing circumstances. It’s about deviating from the course syllabus or schedule when the world around you changes. Good teaching is about the creative balance between being an authoritarian dictator on the one hand and a pushover on the other.

Good teaching is about having a bit of style. Should good teaching be entertaining? Why not? Does this mean that it lacks in substance? Not a chance! This is also very important – good teaching is about humor. It’s about being self-deprecating and not taking yourself too seriously.

At the end of the day, good teaching is about having fun, experiencing pleasure and intrinsic rewards . . . like locking eyes with a student in the back row and seeing the synapses and neurons connecting, thoughts being formed, the person becoming better, and a smile cracking across a face as learning just happens, all of a sudden. Good teachers practice their craft not for the money or because they have to, but because they truly enjoy it and because they want to. Good teachers couldn’t imagine doing anything else.

What can you you add to the list?

2 Comments Post a comment
  1. I agree with everything you said. I had an amazing history teacher that led a disruptive unrespectful class to an 80% pass rate on the AP test. It was quite an accomplishment, and he had all these qualities.

    September 10, 2008
  2. glennw #

    Thanks for comment! Part of the reason I went into history was a great 8th grade teacher who really cared about the kids.

    And to be honest, I don’t really remember too much history but I do remember the relationships that were built.


    September 10, 2008

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