What I Want in a Teacher

I’ve always wanted to be a teacher. I’d be a Social Sciences Professor who’d rave and rile my students into opinionated individuals. My dream is not but a passing melancholy; one day I will be a teacher.

I’ve had the honor of being under the tutelage of great teachers in my life. I write this entry while I am a student that I may never forget what qualities such great people had. I aspire to be such when I realize my dream. This list is in no particular order.

1. Competence in the Field


I think the foundation of successfully teaching is knowing the subject matter itself. This is what differentiates a teacher from any other individual. Someone may be nice, good natured, and kind, but that’s just the base where one adds other qualities that make the person stand out, or in this case, a professional.

When I speak of competence, I do not only desire a teacher who knows the inner workings of the mitochondria (the “powerplants” of cells) ; I want a teacher who applies such knowledge clinically in all aspects. I once had a teacher who always made my jaw drop when she explains those tiny details you miss but are very crucial for patient care.

I once took care of a baby with Biliary Atresia. Children like them have bloated abdomens (ascites). When she asked how my patient’s breathing was, I was stunned. I didn’t consider that fact. She explained that the condition can cause difficulty in breathing because it can mechanically compress the lungs when the child is lying down. So the best move would be to put the child in a side-lying position to ease the breathing. Bam. Competence at its finest.

Competence is a dynamic quality that must be constantly developed. I want a teacher who maintains competence by practicing the profession, taking continuing education courses, keeping up to date on the literature, and those things I’ll *probably* be complaining about in the future.

2. Ability to Communicate Well



All knowledge is for naught if a teacher is unable to communicate ideas effectively. In retrospect, the best teachers I had were those who had the ability to make me understand things I didn’t want to understand.

Communicating ideas is in a way, selling these ideas. Communicating effectively requires getting the attention of the student, stoking the flames of interest, and leaving the student craving for more.

The best ways I find effective in communicating ideas from great teachers are:

  • Providing Analogies. Instead of saying that a heart attack occurs secondary to a block in the coronary arteries by an emboli, a teacher can liken it to a bad traffic jam (or a pile-up) that disrupts the flow of supplies. From that concrete image, a student would be able to translate it into an abstract thought.
  • Telling stories. I had a Psychiatry professor notorious for this. She would tell the natural courses of the diseases of her patients, and through these vignettes, I was able to understand the diseases better than reading the prescribed texts.
  • Analyzing and Correlating. An adage I picked up through the years: “Analyze, don’t memorize; correlate, don’t reiterate.” It is one thing to provide facts, but it is another to transform these facts into tools one can use. Besides, I think that it is by analysis that one can discard useless information and better “memorize” concepts. Learning is further strengthened by correlating ideas with one another, which forms a “web” of concepts that mutually strengthen each other.

3. A Person of Noble Character


I mentioned awhile ago that being “nice, good natured, and kind” are the base where other qualities and abilities are added. Nobility far exceeds these aforementioned traits. It is hard to define what a noble character is – so I will just describe what a noble charactered teacher made me feel.

These are teachers, when I meet them, I feel that I can trust. When I approach them, they welcome me and  take time to hear me out. When they answer, it is with equal curiosity as to the manner I inquired; they are not condescending. When out of the classroom, they smile and greet their students, a great bonus if they know our names. When I think about them, I want to be just like them. When we part ways, I feel afraid, but incredibly inspired to be better.

I guess for my future self, the closest concept would be the Golden Rule. Do that which ennobles the self and others.

4. Strives for Excellence


A teacher becomes outstanding when the students feel that they are  in school to become better people. It’s one thing to treat teaching students like a factory, and another to help every student maximally achieve their potential.

I want a teacher who continuously grows and becomes better, and who doesn’t accept mediocrity from the students. I want a teacher who says bluntly: “You’re not living up to your full potential. I know you can do better, but you just don’t want to.”

And lastly, on the flip side…

5. Never Forgets What it Means to be a Student


Often I find teachers who act all high and mighty with their students. They forget that they, too, were those same scared clerks who didn’t know the difference between that crumdumgeon Nephrotic and Nephritic Syndrome (it’s the spelling. DUH.) A teacher always remembers their roots, and accept, that they too, are students who are also learning and making mistakes.

I remember one instance when I  taught a strict professor a lesson. She was then helping a classmate of mine collect a urine sample from a bedridden old lady in the ICU. After all preparations were done, I noticed that they didn’t drape the cover curtain around the patient, so I just walked over and closed it for them. I heard her saying “Oh yeah… [we forgot that detail].” Mind you, I love that professor, but boy, was it sweet.

Those who can, teach!

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