What makes a great teacher? | Portsmouth High School

What makes a great teacher?

Bernard Shaw’s play Man and Superman, includes the maxim, “He who can, does. He who cannot, teaches.” Woody Allen added another line “he who can’t teach, teaches gym”.  As you can imagine over a career that has spanned decades I have had this quoted to me many times.

Aristotle, Galileo, and Mozart were great teachers. Marie Curie, known for her discoveries about radioactivity, was the first woman to be a professor at the Sorbonne. Stephen Hawking retired not that long ago from teaching mathematics at Cambridge University, where he held the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics chair, once held by Sir Isaac Newton. So I say “those who can do, certainly teach”.

The GDST carried out a survey amongst all current pupils from Year 3 upwards about what makes a great teacher. I have only just received the results for PHS but glancing through a positive picture is painted of dedicated and committed teachers who go to endless lengths for the sake of their pupils. This could be camping out with them to facilitate the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, taking them for their first visit to a public library or seeing yet another

production of a Shakespearian play watched many times before by the staff. It could be meeting a pupil during a lunchtime to help them catch up or keeping students’ interest and developing their understanding of a difficult topic. PHS teachers always encourage their tutees to develop their intellectual curiosity for the unknown.

Albert Einstein is often credited with a quote that underpins the importance of teaching on the teacher: “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”

PHS teachers were praised by the girls at being able to make the most complex concepts easy to comprehend and they said their teachers were fun and approachable. I know the girls going to South Africa this summer are looking forward to passing on their knowledge to local children and the accompanying staff are helping train the teachers in a country where many in rural areas are untrained.

The results of the survey are a wonderful highlight on which to end this academic year.

I wish you all a very enjoyable summer break.