You know it practically the minute you walk into class. You see how they interact with you and their respective subject and you can be sure. You think "This teacher will be ... " and an adjective lands in your brain -- "easy," "hard," "fun," "scary," "mean," "boring" or many other possible words.
But the best moment is when the word that comes is short and simple. This teacher will be "great."
Truly great teachers are rare. I've only had a few. There are plentiful good teachers, and far too many bad teachers, but great teachers can be hard to come by. I've noticed that these teachers have a few things in common.
The first thing is that great teachers care about their subject. They are excited about it when you walk in. They seem to want to open the window in your mind to their subject's magic and wonder. Their interest in their subject splashes off of them and onto their students.
Great teachers must be compelling and interesting. This is an extension of caring about their subject, because to meet this standard, you must also meet the first one. Teachers have to make the students want to listen when they talk. It could be by humor or eloquence or both, or a combination of other things. But if they are not compelling, they cannot hold the class's attention long enough to connect with their students on an academic level.
The next thing is that these teachers know how to motivate students, and also how to hold them accountable. They set clear due dates, and make sure their students understand what is expected of them on every assignment. They make sure all questions are answered. They have reading quizzes that are in-depth and open-ended.
The last thing that can make or break a great teacher is how they interact with their students. A truly great teacher knows their students, and takes the time to make sure each of them understands. This is a difficult task for many teachers, and they will never be perfect at it, but there is a distinct difference between the good and great teachers on this front.
A good teacher will know all their students' names and have a general idea how all of their students are doing; he or she will be able to note those who are excelling in class, and those who are having trouble.
A great teacher, however, will constantly ask for you to talk to them about any problems that you have, whether it's understanding the class or even things that keep you from keeping up with course work. These teachers will listen to stories, and remember facts about each student. They are the teachers who read everything you write, and care about how much effort you put into it.
These are also the teachers who put the measuring stick up against the student's potential for achievement, not the class's average. These teachers consistently have challenging classes that no one really wants to drop, even if they need to. These are the teachers that students will remember, and these are the teachers that can fully teach their students.
In order to be great, teachers have to meet all of these criteria. Missing one will put teachers on the cusp of greatness and they will usually be remembered and well liked, however meeting all these standards almost guarantees their importance in all of their students' memory and growth.
Truly great teachers are the teachers that have students who are encouraged by other students to transfer in to the class. These great teachers are the ones who will be remembered by all of their students. They can teach any subject, can be in any school, but they are the teachers every student wants.
The teachers who make the student want to succeed, and do their best, rather than just putting forth the usual minimum effort -- these are the teachers who matter most.
Katey Campbell is a junior at Fremont High School. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.