What Makes a Good Primary School Teacher? The Top 3 Characteristics

Being a good primary school teacher is a very different challenge from being a good secondary school teacher.

You’re the one who can set the attitudes of a pupil for or against every subject they’ll learn. And, like it or not, you’ll also encounter many pupils whose reaction to certain subjects has been set by their parents, who may not remember their own studies with enthusiasm.

However, a great primary teacher has the power to change this poor impression by bringing passion, dedication and curiosity into their teaching.

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So what makes someone a good primary school teacher?

According to Ofsted (2015), outstanding teacher attributes include demonstrating deep subject knowledge and understanding, addressing misconceptions, managing behaviour effectively, setting challenging homework and having high expectations of their pupils.

These traits may well help a teacher understand what tasks to include in their lesson planning, but the suggestions include little insight on the more personal traits that are needed to become a great teacher.

We’ve shared 3 traits for you to think about developing to further engage your pupils and create confident learners, while becoming the best teacher you can be. 

1. A good primary school teacher has empathy

Understanding the way your pupils learn is crucial to improving their success. It is key that you are empathetic towards their needs  and help nurture a love for school in any way you can.

Ellie McCann, one of our Maths teachers in house who previously taught at Ark Globe Academy in Southwark, has great advice, noting that “each child learns in a different way and you have to be able to adapt your teaching methods to reflect this diversity within your classroom”.

For some children this will mean breaking concepts down into their smallest steps, for other’s it may be just about remembering to tell a joke every now and then!

Ellie’s also got some great tips around how pupils of different abilities can be taught to memorise number facts.

2. A good primary school teacher is always enthusiastic

Let’s face it; sometimes teaching can be tough. Everyone has ‘those days’, where your teaching assistant is sick just as your new classroom management experiment fails, or you get to that one you’ve been dreading teaching because your subject matter knowledge isn’t great.

But very often being a good teacher means not letting any of that show, and this goes double for primary teaching – unlike secondary school teachers, you’re going to be with the same group of pupils all day.

We’ve already talked about how you shape your pupils’ attitude to the subjects they learn; your enthusiasm (real or passionately faked) will directly impact not just how your class sees a subject, but their whole learning environment, their attitude to school as a whole.

That’s why you always have to put on a smile: you’re one of the biggest role models your class will have, and everything from your lesson plans to your sense of humour will have an effect on how the young people you teach see the world.

New to primary teaching and looking for more tips like these? Read our Top 5 Pieces of NQT Advice!

3. A good primary school teacher is a leader

In the classroom, a talented teacher will not take an authoritarian approach by saying “because I said so”. Instead, you should be seen as a facilitator of learning, providing pupils with the tools they need to succeed. Your pupils should see you as a leader, within the classroom and larger school community.

Why not run an after school club? Or get involved in your school’s morning routine? Volunteering your time and taking part in various activities that your pupils are a part of will ensure you are seen as a  prominent figure within your school.

Any primary education professional (teacher, deputy or headteacher) has the ability to inspire pupils to embrace their education. It is through your approach and attitude that you can provide inspiration and nurture a love of learning in your pupils for the rest of their lives.

Do you agree with these top 3 characteristics of a good primary school teacher? Should we have mentioned patience, or a sense of humour, or being well organised? They’re all important too. Let us know what you think on Twitter or by email to hello@thirdspacelearning.com

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