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Expert answer

I think that there are lots of ways of being a good teacher, so I’m reluctant to try to come up with labels. The only characteristic that I think is indispensible is that he or she understands kids.

I’ve never taught an elementary classroom so I can’t really know what it’s like, but from my observations what impresses me most is the rapidity with which decisions must be made. Decisions about how the lesson is going, whether to change course, whether and how to discipline, and so on. The wisdom of almost all of those decisions rests heavily on the teacher’s knowledge of children. The teacher must judge who understands and who is confused. The teacher must judge when the class as a whole is too tired to think anymore. When a child is hit on the playground and tells the teacher “I’m okay,” the teacher must judge whether he’s really okay. The list could be never-ending.

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