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30 skills a teacher should have June 17, 2011

Posted by IaninSheffield in Management, Musings.
Tags: , , ,

Yesterday a member of our team pointed me at this interesting post on the ‘30 skills every IT person should have‘ and asked what I thought. Well most of the points in the list made a lot of sense and as an ‘IT Manager’ of sorts, I hope I scored pretty well (you’ll have to ask my colleague how I really measure up!). But since most of my career was spent in the classroom, it also got me wondering what a similar list for teachers might look like. So I thought I’d use the original list as a starting point (Hope Richard the author doesn’t mind; there are after all some universals on there) and adapt where necessary. Here’s my stab at it:

  1. Model learning … often.Apprenticeship worked for hundreds of years and still does. If you want your students to become better learners, show them how and show them well by modelling good learning. If you feel you’ve little left to learn, time to leave the job.

    from oneiroi on Flickr


  2. Be punctual and expect punctuality from students. If you’re at class before them, you can welcome them to the lesson and have the chance to speak with individuals if you need to.
  3. Do public speaking. At least once, you should present a topic to your peers. Not your departmental colleagues; the whole school.  It can be as simple as a five-minute tutorial on effective marking, but being able to explain something and being comfortable enough to talk in front of a crowd is a skill you need to have. If you are nervous, partner with someone who is good at it, or do a roundtable. This way, if you get flustered, someone is there to cover for you.
  4. Train someone. The best way to learn is to teach. Explain to someone ‘how to’ … reveal hidden text on an interactive whiteboard for example.
  5. Listen more than you speak. Telling students what you think they need to know is pointless if you don’t know what they already know.
  6. Know basic networking. Teaching is a tough job, but one full of bright, resourceful people. The tools and technology exist to help you nurture a support network of colleagues across the world from which to seek guidance and inspiration. No-one is an island.
  7. Devise an effective marking strategy. What matters is quality not quantity. Ticking and flicking books regularly is far less effective than providing quality feedback which moves your students forward. Peer assessment done properly can be a win, win, win.
  8. Make the most of parents’ evenings. If you have several groups of students, your time will be precious. Get straight to the point – ask what parents need to know and tell them. Don’t repeat what you might already have said in a report.
  9. Know the difference between summative and formative. Summative assessments provide information of how much students know, understand and can do at the end of a topic of study. Formative assessments should provide students with continual feedback on their performance to enable them to improve their learning.
  10. Spelling. Poor spelling is not an option. Be grateful to anyone who corrects your errors.
  11. Back up. Whenever you do any work using a computer, for your own sake, back it up.
  12. Meet deadlines and expect students to meet yours. If you fail to meet a deadline, you are inconveniencing a colleague who is equally strapped for time as you. Give students ample warning of future deadlines and stick to them. Every time you give an extension, you discourage them from planning their time effectively.
  13. Blog. If you had a great lesson, share it widely so that others may benefit. If you had a toughie, share that widely so that others may benefit … you might just gain a few suggestions on how you can turn things around next time.
  14. Read “The Craft of the Classroom.” The definitive guide on how to become a successful classroom practitioner, from Michael Marland.
  15. Work one evening on a team project. Working through a hell project that requires an all-nighter to resolve stinks, but it builds very useful camaraderie by the time it is done.
  16. Have you tried turning it off and on again? If a computer or laptop isn’t working as expected, before calling for IT Support, try turning it off and on again
  17. You should know about total cost of ownership. For example: If you are thinking of buying a printer for your department, it’s more than the purchase price + the cost of ink/toner. There may be software which needs loading on the computers which attach to it. How reliable is it and how much might it cost to repair over its lifetime? Who will maintain it and how much will their time cost? How much will the paper that goes through it cost? How much will it cost to replace at the end of its life? How much electricity will it consume and how much will that cost?
  18. Manage at least one project. This way, the next time your line manager asks you for a status update, you’ll understand why. Ideally, you will have already sent the status report because you knew it would be asked for.
  19. Understand the principles of cost-benefit analysis. If you need to adopt a new course or buy new textbooks or equipment, first evaluate the costs – money, time, (re-)training, additional resources and weigh them against the benefits – improved student learning, improved departmental efficiency, more effective parental engagement. Then decide whether to proceed.
  20. Be collectively responsible and engender it in your students. We all work within a community and need to be supportive of each other. Nothing should be seen as ‘someone else’s job.’
  21. Don’t be afraid to debate something you know is wrong. But also know when to stop arguing. It’s a fine line between having a good idea and being a pain in the rear.
  22. If you have to go to your boss with a problem, make sure you have at least one solution.
  23. There is no such thing as a dumb question, so ask it … once. Then write down the answer so that you don’t have to ask it again. If you ask the same person the same question more than once, you’re an idiot (in their eyes).
  24. Even if it takes you twice as long to figure something out on your own versus asking someone else, take the time to do it yourself. You’ll remember it longer. If it takes more than twice as long, ask.
  25. When you leave a classroom, make sure it is fit for the next colleague and class. Make sure the teacher’s desk is tidy, tables and chairs are tidy any litter is picked up. It’s a simple, common courtesy you and your class should extend to the group and teacher which follow you.
  26. You might already know the answer, but ask the right questions for your students to get the solution; don’t just give the answer. This is hard when the rest of the class is waiting, but it will pay off in the long run. After all, you won’t always be there for them.
  27. The first time a student does something wrong, it’s not a mistake — it’s a learning experience. The next time, though, be more robust in your response.
  28. Always set students challenging tasks. Give them ‘busy’ work which just occupies their time and you do them no favours at all.
  29. Square pegs go in square holes. If someone works well in a group but not so effectively on their own, keep them as part of a group. Applies to both students and staff.
  30. Stop saying ‘you don’t have the time.’ Yes you have chosen an incredibly demanding profession. Yes term-time can be unbelievably intense … but you’re all in the same boat. If a colleague offers an interesting idea, never say you’d love to try that, but don’t have the time. Instead be honest and say it’s not important enough for you to prioritise … or better yet, make the time and give it a try, since they’ve probably done the hard work for you.

I guess they’re not all going to be popular, but which would you discard and which ought I to have included?


1. ozymandias1 - June 17, 2011

Sweet, was actually thinking of doing one of these myself so only had a very quick look. I was thinking top 10. will then come back and compare.
I reckon one of mine would be “everybody should compile a top 10” and revisit it every year – would be really interesting to see how the list changes with time.

No. 1 for me has always been: Be reflective – think about your job. If you don’t do that then there is nothing else.


ianinsheffield - June 18, 2011

Liking the idea of a rolling top ten. I didn’t think about the order of this one, but you’ve got me thinking I should have.

Being reflective at number 1? Right with you on that one!

2. Nick @ largerama - June 18, 2011

Real quality Ian. So much so that I will share with my line manager. Not sure about no 17 for all teachers but defo something to integrate as people take on responsibility. No 16 is a bit specific to those using computers or is that the intention of the whole thing? And no 13 blogging. Would love to think this could be school wide but reality?!?!

3. ianinsheffield - June 18, 2011

Thanks Nick; too kind!
You’re probably right about 17. I guess it was more from the perspective of when I was an HoD and asking folks to acknowledge that the price in the catalogue may not be the whole story. But yes, I guess it does apply predominantly to IT and I perhaps leaned in that direction a little too far.
You’re also right about about 16, but these days aren’t all teachers ‘using computers?’ 😉

And blogging? Well yes I guess it’s probably a pipedream. For me (us?) the cost-benefit analysis (No. 19) comes down firmly on the benefit side. the time I invest in writing and more importantly reading other blogs and commenting on them where I can, is an investment … one which pays dividends. I guess the factors in other folks’ analyses will be different or have different weightings. Shame really, but then so long as they’re developing themselves and becoming better at their jobs, who am I to say how they should go about it.

4. deepeetonee - June 23, 2011

High on my list would be ‘be passionate” because “passionate people produce”. If you can’t exude love, enthusiasm and an infectious desire to embrace your subject/classwork then you don’t hasve what it takes to be a great teacher.

ianinsheffield - June 23, 2011

Being passionate? Absolutely!! Thanks Tony.

5. asg1201 - June 23, 2011

I find #10 regarding spelling very interesting. I become unbelievably frustrated with spelling errors because there is simply no excuse for them. If the writer does not have the time to check over and correct these, then he or she should not be writing the information in the first place!

ianinsheffield - June 23, 2011

Oooerr! Hope I picked up all mine before posting Petter? But I’m afraid it’s one of those things that I find irritating … maybe I’m just getting old and grumpy? Or older and grumpier? 😉

6. 100 Not Out! « In the pICTure - June 3, 2012

[…] margin and one which continues to attract regular views arising from Google searches is “30 Skills a Teacher Should Have” and there’s probably a whole post to be written on analysing why that might […]

7. markdecosemo - June 10, 2013

Reblogged this on markdecosemo.com and commented:
This may be a couple of years old, but is still relevant. At least half of this list apply to Trainers as well as Teachers

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