Sunday, March 11, 2012

My Top Ten(Eleven) List: Qualities of Teachers and Writers

    A principal friend on Facebook asked a question today that got me thinking.  His question was:  What personality traits does it take to be successful in life?  I have thought about this today first in the context of what it takes to be a successful teacher and then what it takes to be a successful teacher who writes.  I think there are great parallels between the two.
    Here is my list (in no particular order except I think #1 is the most important):
  1. Love kids--To continue teaching this is an essential personality trait.  I have to love children and all the wonderful "stuff" that comes with them!   To continue writing it is equally important to love kids because being a writer myself as a teacher helps me recognize the struggle they face and honor it because I have experienced how difficult writing can be.  It also gives me ideas on how to help them move forward when they get stuck because I've had to figure out what to do when I'm at a standstill too.  
  2. A sense of humor--As a teacher, this trait is so very important.  It helps me deal with the ups and downs each day and the stresses that come with teaching young people who sometimes have everything other than school on their minds!  As a writer, it helps me not take myself too seriously. It helps me deal with the ebb and flow of writing.
  3. Flexibility/Adaptability--I have to be flexible and if Plan A doesn't work, then it's on to Plan B, Plan C, etc. .  I also have to be able to adapt.  Change is a constant in education and I have to make sure that I can accept those changes and roll with them if I am to help my students be successful in the 21st century.  As a writer, I have to be flexible and adaptable too.  If what I'm writing goes in a direction that isn't what I had envisioned, I need to be able to change direction and be willing to see where the words will take me.  
  4. Effort--A teacher has to put forth a lot of effort in order to be successful.  I have to work hard so that my students grow as learners and as people.  A writer has to put forth effort to collect ideas, to find time to write, to revise, to work on the process of writing.
  5. Perseverance--I have to be determined to keep at it when my students are not "getting it" in my classroom.  I need many strategies that I can use to attack problems in learning and I have to stick with it to help my students develop the understandings they need to work in school and in this complex world.  To write, I need this same quality.  I have got to be determined to keep writing.  If the words are not coming, I have to keep at it.  Maybe I need to try another approach or another structure, but I must keep writing!
  6. Faith--This trait is one that is so important to foster in myself and in my students.  I have to believe I can reach them and I have to believe in them as learners.  I have to focus on what they can do and have faith in their ability to stretch and grow.  In order to write, I have to have faith that the words will come and that someone will read them.
  7. Compassion--Another quality that is essential is for me as a teacher to understanding my students.  Knowing their stories and why they think and work the way they do so that I can best help them is essential.  Understanding myself as a writer and treating myself with gentleness if the writing is not going well helps me want to keep going and put in that extra effort to keep at it.
  8. Passion--Teaching is not just what I do, it is who I am.  The passion it takes to teach every day and to believe what I do matters to these kids.  Writing is also a part of who I am.  I must believe that what I have to share matters .  My words and my stories are worth recording.
  9. Integrity--Honesty is a trait that I must show my students.  They need to believe in me and that what I do for them is what I honestly think is in their best interests.  They need to trust in me.  Honesty is just as important in my writing.  I must write straight from my heart about things that matter to me.  
  10. Conscientiousness--I have to be conscientious in my work with kids.  I am responsible for helping my students develop as readers and writers and as human beings.  I also have to be conscientious about working hard every day and honoring my commitment to be the best teacher I can be.  I have to be conscientious as a writer as well.   I have to be willing to write each and every day.  I need to honor the commitment I have made to be the best writer I can be.
  11. Sense of Wonder/Curiosity --Thanks to Theresa and Juliann for this one I did not include!!--As a teacher, it is essential to have a sense of wonder about the world.  Curiosity drives my lifelong learning and I must find a way to help my 7th graders (many who have lost that sense of wonder) find that inside themselves.  If I am asking them to be curious, then I must model that curiosity myself.  As a writer, I must have a sense of wonder and curiosity that makes me look at the world around me in new and interesting ways.  I try to make sense of what I see and hear and feel through writing.  I let this sense of wonder open me to new experience that keep me always writing and thinking and sharing.
Feel free to agree or disagree with these ten qualities.  Would you add anything to this list?  Take anything away?  I am curious of what you think it takes to be a successful teacher and writer.  Leave a comment if you would like.


  1. Tracy, I agree with everything on your list and can think of one other trait that stands out for me. Not sure of the best name for it...perhaps curiosity or a sense of wonder...I am thinking of that hunger for knowledge, the life long learner in us. It motivates me and I think it we spread this to our students. Do you know what I mean? ~Theresa

    1. Oh, yes, Theresa! That is a wonderful addition to the list. I don't know what the best word to describe it would be either, but I like "sense of wonder." There is never an end to wondering. I didn't think about that and I think it definitely should be on the list. Thanks for commenting and adding your wonder! :)

  2. Love your list and I agree with Theresa - curiosity is another important trait for teachers, learners, and writers.

    1. I agree, Juliann. It deserves a place on the list! Thanks for commenting.

  3. What a great slice! Thanks for sharing...inspiring way to begin a new week!

    1. Thanks, Mandy. I'm glad I was able to help start your week out on a positive note! Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment.

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