Four cardinal virtues – prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance – are seen as the ‘hinges’ on which other virtues can be cultivated. Christian writers add the theological virtues of faith, hope and charity, giving preference to the greatest – charity.

The virtues or the qualities of a good teacher are derived from The Conduct of Schools written by St John Baptist de La Salle. The Twelve Virtues of a Good Teacher by Brother Agathon Gonlieu, fifth superior general of the Brothers of the Christian Schools in 1785, incorporate virtues that are universal to educators whose vocation is to instil in students entrusted to their care, the love of learning, essential to becoming a positive active member of the world.

Teachers earn respect by acting with dignity. Effective teaching is about the quality of the teacher-student relationship, which does not begin and end with the bell. It takes place in every action and word with students. The influence as a mentor is constant in everything the teacher does at all times.

The classroom atmosphere should normally be harmonious and quiet, leading to more effective teaching. The teacher understands the strength and weakness of the spoken word. Knowing when to intercede in the process of learning, and when, through silence, the process of learning is enhanced. The teacher understands when to stop talking and when to start listening. The idea is to empower students to value their education.

Firmness is tempered with kindness and courtesy such that the teacher is always approachable

As humans, we make mistakes. We, therefore, never misuse our powers and, instead, make pupils feel respected. The effective educators see themselves as older siblings who mentor their students. They share what they know, understanding that they are not the focus – their students and the learning process are.

Teachers understand what they need to do and what they need to avoid when dealing with children. They put into practice the very skills they hope to instil in their students – common sense.

Teachers remain the masters of their domain by exhibiting traits of lifelong learners, remaining updated on the current developments in their field. Not only do they need to remain abreast of their content area but also those of education and the process of learning. Educators demonstrate a passion for gaining and sharing knowledge, and pass this on to the students entrusted to their care.

The teacher who can keep composed and even-tempered will be a better educator. This virtue is a natural part of the ongoing process of educating those students in need of guidance and understanding. The educator must develop a competence to wade through the trials and tribulations of adolescents who have just as many difficulties with learning English, maths and science as they do in dealing with their own insecurities, relationships and personal growth. The essence of this is communication.

A statue of St John Baptist de La Salle, founder of the Brothers of the Christian Schools and author of The Conduct of Schools, in which he wrote about the virtues or qualities of a good teacher.A statue of St John Baptist de La Salle, founder of the Brothers of the Christian Schools and author of The Conduct of Schools, in which he wrote about the virtues or qualities of a good teacher.

De La Salle wanted teachers to control themselves and show restraint in the face of annoyance. Knowing what to say, and just as importantly, when to say it, is the characteristic of the teacher who understands reserve. Understanding that communication takes many forms, a smile can make a student’s day, and an angry glare can set a student back. Creating a safe environment for students enhances their ability to learn.

Firmness is tempered with kindness and courtesy such that the teacher is always approachable. Educators develop an environment of trust between themselves and students whereby communication includes corrections and constructive criticism that are part of the learning process. Discipline is exercised as a means of maintaining an environment that meets the needs of the learning community.

The difference between a good teacher and a great one comes down to passion. This is translated to the students through each and every action, from creating an environment of learning, to the correction and encouragement of the students. In turn, this desire becomes infectious and is passed on to all members of the learning community.

The teacher is to be observant to promote values. A caring teacher creates a learning environment that is safe for students physically, emotionally, socially, and academically. In this environment, the learning process can flourish, and students can communicate effectively, work collaboratively and think critically. The vigilant teacher provides an atmosphere in which each student can maximise their potential.

The teacher, knowing each pupil is a child of God, will confide them to God’s protection while doing everything possible to prepare them for life. This virtue is summarised in one of de La Salle’s meditations: “Let it be clear then, in all your relations with students who are entrusted to you, that you look upon yourself as ministers of God, acting with love, with a sincere and true zeal...”

De La Salle wanted teachers to be always available and approachable whether in or out of the classroom. Teachers live the motto “Enter to learn, leave to serve” in all aspects of their life: working with students both in and out of the classroom, participating in the life of the school community and demonstrating the traits of lifelong learners.

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