Typhani Harris | March 2014

The Art of Great Teaching: 10% Content, 90% Personality

While I am a proponent of the Common Core Standards Initiative, we must remember that although the underlying Common Core philosophy is synonymous with good teaching, there is a difference between good teaching and great teaching.  We must not forget that great teachers can teach anything, because it is not the content that makes great teachers, it’s the personality.  Even though our educational world is enveloped in the new paradigm shift and the plethora of content, we still need to allow our personality to show through, because that’s what engages our students and that’s what makes great teachers.

Anyone Can Teach

For so long there has been an overarching perception that teaching is easy, anyone can do it, or belief in the inaccurate quote “those who can, do; those who can’t, teach”.  This lingering perception is so confusing, because it’s not easy and not everyone can do it.   We pride everything in America on education.  We harp on the importance of education and the furthering of one’s education for sought after success.  But who is going to provide that education?  Teachers.  Who prepares our doctors, lawyers, accountants, and engineers?  Teachers.  Yet, teaching is often considered a fall back job, a job that anyone can do, or worst of all the idea that if you don’t succeed in the career you wanted you can always become a teacher.

The Making of a Great Teacher

While researching what makes a great teacher, I came across a couple different perspectives.  www.greatschools.org offered seven underlying traits of a great teacher.  Great teachers have high expectations, clear objectives, are prepared and organized, engage students, form strong relationships, are masters of their subjects, and communicate often with parents.  I agree with all of these traits, however this seems more like a good cookie cutter response to an administrator’s interview question…but it is not necessarily reality.

Leblanc (1998), however, presented his top ten requirements for great teaching.  I found this list to be very inclusive and indicative of great teachers.  It’s a great read if you get the chance.  Leblanc (1998) explained that great teaching is grounded in passion and reason; training students to be consumers of knowledge; listening, questioning, and being responsive; flexibility; style and entertaining with substance; humor and caring; nurturing and developing, strength in leadership, teamwork, and fun.  He ends his list with “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”.

If we look at either of these lists, the actual topic of content is only mentioned once.  This illustrates the idea that teaching is only 10% content and 90% personality.  Traits like passion, reason, organization, humor, care, and teamwork are all a matter of personality.  Even the most intellectual content expert may fail without a great teacher personality.

Great teaching is an art; an art that is 10% content and 90% personality.  As we move into the Common Core Initiative, and the adoption of new assessments, don’t forget the importance of your personality in the classroom.   Don’t let the new standards rob you of your great teacher personality, because it is your personality that makes you a Great Teacher!



Next Week: Common Core

Is it really that Common: the unedited conversation of Common Core, Part I
I feel that in this mad dash to Common Core, no one has stopped to talk to the teachers.  Everyone keeps throwing things at us, new language, new standards, new assessments, new tools, and new strategies. Although this is good,  sometimes you just need to let out your true feelings.  Join in on the conversation!

About the Author

Dr. Typhani Harris, author of Putting the Performance in Performance Task and Stop Teaching, brings over 2 decades of educational experience to The Institute. Originally a high school English Language Arts teacher, Dr. Harris transitioned into a dance educator who cultivated an award-winning collegiate style dance education program at a public school in California. Prior to joining the Institute, she was an educational leader and instructional coach specializing in preparing new teachers in secondary urban schools.  As the Executive Director of Academic Affairs, Dr. Harris maintains courses, conferences, and the accredited certification program at The Institute.