What Makes a
Educational Leadership asked some prominent educators to
describe the most important quality of an effective teacher.
Humility in an Age of Hubris
Humility: The word conjures up meekness, pas-sivity, even submissiveness, and, in the worst
case, obsequiousness. Yet this is a false humility.
True humility is both a generosity of spirit and
a quiet self-confidence. In teaching, it means
understanding that although one may know
a great deal, one does not know everything.
It means being willing to learn from others,
whether they be peers, 1st graders, or immigrant
parents. It means treating all others—whether a
parent with a 4th grade education or a professor
with a PhD—as though they were as worthy and
important as oneself. It means understanding
that no method, strategy, or approach is the
magic bullet to teaching and learning.
Although we cannot teach humility, at least by
traditional means, we can nonetheless nurture
and cherish it in school. We also cannot measure
it, at least not by the blunt instruments currently
in use. But we can easily assess it. We can see it
in the eyes of students; in their self-possession
and engagement; and in the respectful relationships we have with colleagues, students’
families, and communities. In this age of hubris
and shameless self-promotion, humility is an
essential quality for teachers to have.
University of Massachusetts
Excitement About Learning
Effective teachers are
more than dispensers
ignite a passion
for learning. As a
student teacher, I
had the opportunity
to observe two educators presenting
The first teacher sat
behind his desk and read a magazine while his
students completed worksheets. It was painfully
obvious that he lacked enthusiasm, not only for
his content area, but also for teaching itself. His
job was to fill students’ minds with information,
and nothing more. In the second classroom,
the teacher and her students chattered excitedly
about Zeus, Poseidon, and other mythological
characters. Each morning, the students couldn’t
wait to share something new they’d discovered
the night before.
Teachers who pique students’ curiosity
about a topic, provide them with the cognitive
tools necessary to learn, and then engage them
throughout the learning process are priceless.
Can we measure this quality? You bet. Just ask
the students. It’s obvious which teachers are
passionate—not only for their content area, but
also for those they teach.
Fifth Grade Teacher, Wyoming