Do You Have the Heart of a Teacher?
By: Elisabeth Henderson
Estimated Completion Time
Image: Jose Luis Pelaez Inc/DigitalVision/Getty Images
About This Quiz
What makes a teacher a teacher? Is it the ability to bring order out of a classroom of unruly children? Is it their unfailing devotion to knowledge and expertise of their subject matter? Is it a love for young people that enables them to befriend students of all kinds? Is it a mastery of the art of teaching?
People have long debated what makes the most effective form of teaching. The Socratic Method of asking questions to reveal underlying assumptions has been used since Ancient Greece to teach students by helping them to come to conclusions on their own. Discussions today focus on how to best tap into students’ learning styles and what role technology should play in the classroom. While these questions of strategy are essential for effective teaching, they don’t get at what may be an even more crucial question — how do you develop the heart of a teacher?
Parker Palmer points to this central issue in his "The Courage to Teach" book: "Good teaching cannot be reduced to technique; good teaching comes from the identity and integrity of the teacher." In other words, it comes from the heart. No matter what training a person has in their subject matter or teaching strategies, real-life encounters with students will reveal a teacher’s heart. Only a teacher’s heart will know how to respond to difficult situations in ways that will open to learning. Take this quiz to find out if you’re a teacher at heart!
If you were giving a lecture and a student interrupted you with an off-topic question, what would your response be?
“That is off topic. Please be quiet.”
“Great question. Let’s talk after class.”
Explain how the idea is related through obscure connections
Ask the student questions to find out why they thought their question related to the lesson
If a student were to approach you just as you were leaving for the day, what would you say?
“I’m heading out for the day. See you tomorrow.”
“Let’s go talk over a coffee.”
“Sorry, I need to work on some research and can’t talk now.”
If a student asked to use the restroom during class, what would you do?
Make them wait to go between classes
Let them go and remind them that they don’t need to ask.
Ask them to wait until after the lecture
What kind of project would you assign?
Summarize the main points in a reading
Have a discussion with your group about the reading
Write an essay explaining the main points of the lecture about the reading
Write an essay connecting something in the reading to another topic of your interest
After class is over, what is your routine?
Pack up my materials and make sure students are behaving
Make myself available to students and chat with them as they leave
Read over my notes for the next class
Pay attention to what students are doing to learn what’s going on with them
What kind of test would you give?
If a student were to challenge something you said in class, how would you respond?
“Who is the teacher here?”
“Ok, maybe we’re both right.”
“I don’t think so. And here’s why.”
“Interesting. Let’s examine that idea.”
If your students were to ask you if the class could study something that wasn’t on the syllabus, what would you do?
Stick to the syllabus. It’s there for a reason.
Study whatever they want to study
Explain why it does not fit with the course trajectory
Have a class discussion about why they want to study that material. If their reasons are strong enough, we may go in a different direction.
Who holds the power in your classroom?
Whoever has the most knowledge about the subject
I hold a certain amount of power, but I try to share that power by giving students agency.
What is the benefit of class discussion?
There is no benefit; it just brings disorder.
It helps us to get to know each other better.
It reveals whether students are understanding the material.
It gives us an opportunity to learn from each other’s perspectives.
How would your ideal classroom look?
The students sit in rows facing the teacher at the lectern.
The students and teacher sit in a circle.
The students sit in rows, and the teacher walks around the classroom.
The classroom has movable chairs and tables and changes depending on what we’re doing.
What do you bring home from work as a teacher?
Nothing. I finish all my work before I come home.
My students sometimes call me at home.
I am constantly studying, and I often bring home grading.
I often grade and prepare lessons at home, and I often am thinking about my students.
What is your policy about food in the classroom?
Students can eat if they feel like it.
Students cannot eat during lectures, but during group work it’s OK.
Students can have food if it is not disruptive to learning.
If you found out that a student was having trouble at home, what would you do?
I wouldn’t do anything; it’s not my business.
I would go easy on them and give them good grades.
I would tell the administration.
I would approach them to see if they wanted to talk or needed resources.
Another course is studying material that closely connects to your course’s subject matter. What will you do?
I would stick to the syllabus and not be distracted with what others are doing.
I would find out if the students are interested in the connections and have conversations about it in class.
I would be sure that the information I covered was at expert level.
I would collaborate with the other teacher to see if there was a way we could enhance student learning about the topic.
When you find out you have a student in class who has been a problem for you in the past, what is your reaction?
Find out if the student can be transferred to another class
Try again to make friends with them
Remind myself that it’s not about the students; it’s about the knowledge.
Try to start over by paying attention to what this student needs in order to learn
You have been invited to chaperone a student trip to Europe. What is your response?
“Does the trip connect with my research?”
“Let me think about whether this will be a good learning opportunity.”
What is your policy about responding to email?
I only respond during school hours.
I’ll respond to carefully worded questions about the subject matter at any time.
I typically respond to emails within 24 hours, but if something is urgent, I’ll respond immediately.
How do you handle that student who always raises their hand?
I tell them bluntly that they can only answer one question per day.
I let them answer because I don’t want to offend them.
I try to pretend that I don’t see them.
I have a private conversation with the student about not dominating class discussion.
If a student constantly disrupts class, what does that indicate to you?
They need to be disciplined and possibly thrown out of class.
I need to get to know them better.
They are keeping me from being able to teach.
They have some need that is not being met, and I need to find out what it is.
How do you feel about opportunities to talk with other teachers about teaching?
It’s a waste of valuable time.
It can be fun depending on who is there.
It depends on whether there is an expert leading the discussion.
I love the opportunity to learn something from other teachers.
Why would you pursue a career in teaching?
Kids these days need to be taught correctly.
I enjoy getting to connect with young people.
I love learning, and I want to pass that on to others.
I love watching students grow into themselves through what they learn.
What the most important quality in a teacher?
Ability to control the classroom
Charisma to connect with students
Mastery of the subject matter
Attention to the student experience
What makes a good essay?
A good essay follows a specific formula and is error free.
A good essay shows that the student has thought about the material in their own way.
A good essay shows a mastery of the ideas we covered in class by clearly describing the ideas and giving examples.
A good essay engages with the course material, demonstrating comprehension while taking it in an original direction.
What was your favorite teacher like?
They were totally in control of the classroom, and we wanted nothing more than to please them.
They were my best friend. I felt like I could tell them anything, and they never punished us with grades.
They were such a fascinating expert in the subject matter, and we could listen to them lecture for hours on end.
They created experiences that we only understood later but that made us understand the material on another level.
For what reason would you get a student in trouble with school authorities?
If they do not follow my directions
If they get on my bad side
If they disrupt the class during a lecture
If it seems that the experience will teach them something
What really gets under your skin when you’re teaching?
Students talking out of order
Students who act too cool for me
Students who do not remember what we covered last class
What do you enjoy the most about teaching?
I enjoy being the one in charge.
I enjoy the friendships and the way students keep me young.
I enjoy the way teaching pushes me to learn and master knowledge constantly.
I enjoy the way that student responses always surprise me and show me different ways of seeing the material.
What is the purpose of teaching?
To shape students into obedient citizens
To form lasting relationships
To lead students to grow through encountering ideas
How do you work to improve your teaching?
I study classroom management techniques.
I talk with other teachers who seem close with their students and try to emulate them.
I go to conferences to learn from experts in my field.
I meet with other teachers to share difficulties and successes and read books that help me examine my experience.
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