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

Being a good school teacher in elementary school is a very different challenge from being a good high school teacher.

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

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

So what makes someone a good elementary school teacher?

While being able to demonstrate appropriate subject knowledge and understanding, address misconceptions, manage behavior effectively, set challenging homework, and have high expectations of their students are important teacher attributes, there are some 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 students and create confident learners while becoming the best teacher you can be. 


1. A good elementary school teacher has empathy

Understanding the way your students 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 in-house math teachers, 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 others, it may be just about remembering to tell a joke every now and then!

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


2. A good elementary school teacher is always enthusiastic

Let’s face it; sometimes teaching can be tough. Everyone has ‘those days’ where your new classroom management experiment fails, or you get to that one lesson 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 elementary teaching – unlike high school teachers, you’re going to be with the same group of students all day.

We’ve already talked about how you shape your students’ attitude toward 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, and their attitude toward 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 humor will have an effect on how the young people you teach see the world.

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


3. A good elementary 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 students with the tools they need to succeed. Your students 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 students are a part of will ensure you are seen as a  prominent figure within your school.

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


Do you agree with these top 3 characteristics of a good elementary school teacher?

While we have only mentioned these 3 top traits, we know the list doesn’t end here and that there are many more qualities that make a teacher great.

What is unarguable is that great elementary teachers make a tremendous difference in the lives of their students!


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The content in this article was originally written by primary school teacher Sophie Bartlett and has since been revised and adapted for US schools by elementary math teacher Christi Kulesza.

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