The idea of effective teacher for each individual is variable. Students´ perception, opinions and/or experiences about an effective teacher are different. An effective teacher has been considered, sometimes, as a perfectionist, encouraging, approachable and caring, other times as intelligent, but above all, as enthusiastic, funny, clever, affective and understanding, open, and with a relaxed style while teaching. In 1964, Holt addressed that learning is enhanced by the teachers´ knowledge, enthusiasm and responsibility towards creating a warm class climate enhancing “the students desire to learn and to accept the challenges of thinking and enquiring into all that is offered by the teacher”. Stronge et al (2004) stated that teaching is vocational, and most effective teachers are passionate about their chosen profession. However, he also added that an effective teacher is always in a constant learning process due to changes in terms of the students’ characteristics, the curriculum, the community, and finance among many others.
Effective teachers are distinguished by their dedication to the students and to the job of teaching, and feel responsible for the achievement and success of the students and own professional development. Effective teachers really believe that all students can learn, although all learn differently. They strive to motivate and engage all their students in learning rather than simple accepting that some students cannot be engaged and are destined to do poorly. There are many different types of teachers. For instance, among many others, there are those who walk into the classroom, and some students do not even notice them; also there are some who seem to be authentic dictators, and students are even afraid to ask anything in the classroom. There are those who read from a book, or talk constantly, during the whole session, while students keep just copying; or even those who just talk, and by the end of the lesson, students do not even know what the lesson was about, because the objectives, structure and/or theme were not clear, even for the teacher.
Effective teachers manage and organize the classroom, in the beginning of the year, according to the students’ needs and preferences to create an optimistic and warm learning environment for all the students, and enhance learning. Emmer et al. (1980, 2003) stated “effective teachers takes time in the beginning of the year and especially on the first day to school to establish classroom management, classroom organization and expectations for students behavior”
According to Sokal et al. (2003) classroom management seem to be a high priority for novice and experience teachers. However, management is not parallel to strict rules; in fact, management is to anticipate students´ needs, and then prepare a suitable year plan, procedures, activities, assessment, evaluation criteria, and above all, clear instructions to the students to promote students motivation, enthusiasm and learning. Effective teachers use low classroom rules, and more routines to maintain a relaxed and warm environment to enhance learning. Marzano et al. (2003) stated that “minimum number of classroom rules, which tend to focus on expectations of how to act toward one another, maintain a safe environment, and participate in learning”. McLeod et al. (2003) distinguished from rules, and stated that is more effective and efficient to use routines in the classroom. Stronge et al. (2003) also suggested that effective teachers use more routines for daily tasks than rules. Wong and Wong (2005) distinguished between routine as what the students do automatically, and procedure as what the teachers want to be done.
While classroom management focus on instructions which influences the students in terms of psychological behavior to learn, classroom organization influences the students’ motivation to learn created from the physical learning environment. Effective teachers organize the classroom to promote learning and interaction, and have to create an optimal learning environment where students feel comfortable and relax in terms of decoration, accessibility and mobility. According to Stronge et al, (2004) part of the classroom organization is the furniture arrangement, the accessibility of material, and the decoration. Kohn (1996) stated that the furniture arrangement facilitate interaction.
Good classroom management and organization, and a good lesson plan also minimize the likelihood of misbehavior. Craig and Dickenson (2003) stated that almost all classroom behavior is learned and that students must clearly understand what is expected of them. The responsibility lies with the teachers to explain how and why they want them to work in that way, and to give positive feedback when students respond positively. In the McBer Report (DFES, 2000), it is stated that students themselves want a teacher to keep discipline in the classroom. According to Kyriacou, (1998) maintaining discipline is necessary for learning to be effective. He also suggested that students’ misbehavior can be minimized by generally skillful teaching. Wong and Wong (2005) differentiate between manage and disciple. They stated, “Effective teachers manage their classrooms with procedures and routines. Ineffective teachers discipline their classrooms with threats and punishments”. They also underlined that discipline has to do with how students behave, and management has to do with procedures on how students have to work in the classroom. Many ineffective teachers use reward stickers, incentive gifs, and infractions cards to discipline their classroom with punishments. They only waste time, and do not solve the problem, effective teachers manage the classroom with procedures and routines to maximize and engage learning time.
Misbehavior such as luck of silence can occur. Some seemed to obtain virtual silence all the time. Others obtain almost perfect silence, but pupils need regular reminders, while others, seldom achieved any silence and pupils behaviour needed regularly keeping in check. Craig and Dickenson (2003) pointed out that it is unreasonable to expect total silence for extended periods. On the other hand, an effective teacher is aware that some students might prefer to sit quietly and have low active participation in the classroom activities, although will know how to make the student participate.
Communication skills are vital for anyone who has a teaching job. Effective teachers are always effective communicators. They communicate clearly about course objectives, content and testing, making sure to provide a rationale for learning particular material and adapt instruction to their student’s level of knowledge and skill. Lacks of communication mean that the students will not understand key concepts at all, or they will do incorrectly. Effective teacher can take something that is complex and present it in a way that can be easily absorbed by the students, and through different verbal and non-verbal communications (Prozesky, 2000).
Motivating students make them to be more receptive and excited about the subject, make them be aware of the value and importance of learning, and have a better attitude to learn. Effective teachers makes the students increase their academic self-concept, their interest in the subject and the desire to learn more, and therefore to have a high level of achievement (NWREL, 2001). It also been stated that students see the effective teacher as a motivational and a leader when the teacher encourages them to be responsible for their own learning. Also when high standards and challenge tasks and a variety of strategies such as cooperative learning (Fisher, 2003); and when relevant reinforcement and feedback have been provided during the process, enhancing learning as a result. Humor can be a powerful ingredient in every lesson. Effective teachers do not need to be clowns, but it is beneficial to have good sense of humor, and been willing to share jokes with the students to break negative-cold barriers.
To conclude, to be an effective teacher is not an easy task. In fact, it is a complex process. It is not only concerned with success in short-term, but also with appropriate values and success of long term achievement. Effective teachers need to have good professional and personal skills. Content knowledge, together with good planning, clear goals and communication, good classroom management and organization, and consistently high and realistic expectations with the students are essential factors to be effective teachers. Besides, they need to feel responsible for the students learning process, regardless the students’ aptitude to learn. The teachers, as well as having effective personal and professional skills, serve as example of lifelong learners, and are investors of their own education.
Moreover, the effective teacher will combine professionalism with care, understanding, fairness, and kindness. They also have to be passionate, enthusiastic, motivated about teaching and learning. They have to create a warm classroom environment where students feel comfortable, and have a sense of belonging, as the environment is conductive to learn. Effective teachers are innovative, invite students to approach and interactions, and also values diversity. To finalize, it can be said that those who have the capacity to inspire students to reach their fullest potential on learning through their qualities and professional and personal skills are effective teachers.