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The Excellent 11 by Ron Clark

What are the 11 Best Qualities for a Teacher to Have?

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When Disney Teacher of the Year Ron Clark's first book The Essential 55: An Award-Winning Educator's Rules for Discovering the Successful Student in Every Child was published, it became an immediate bestseller because it struck a chord with teachers around the world.

His follow-up book The Excellent 11: Qualities Teachers and Parents Use to Motivate, Inspire, and Educate Children has an equally important message for educators. Shifting the focus from how you should organize and run your classroom to what qualities you should exude to your students, The Excellent 11 certainly serves as a logical next-step to presenting the complete motivational package to your students.

While students learn best in an environment where the expectations are clear and consistent, they also kick their achievements up a notch or two when their instructors are energetic and inspired. That's where the new book picks up.

The Excellent 11 are:

  • Enthusiasm
  • Adventure
  • Creativity
  • Reflection
  • Balance
  • Compassion
  • Confidence
  • Humor
  • Common Sense
  • Appreciation
  • Resilience
While reading this book, I was reminded of a book that provided me with much inspiration and focus when I first started teaching. It's called The Passionate Teacher by Robert L. Fried. I love both of these books because they remind educators that we are the most important force in our classroom, the single most defining factor in determining what kind of year the group will have and how much quality learning will occur.

Ron Clark's book also mentions a point that hadn't occurred to me before - these qualities that make an excellent teacher are the same qualities that a successful student must possess and employ. Passionate, reflective, and creative students go so much farther in the classroom and in life, undergoing a much more authentic experience in their education. I could see a mini-lesson on this topic helping your students to see how much power they bring to the table with their attitudes and outlooks.

Think back to your least favorite teachers in school. For me, it was Mrs. Manchester, a crusty, moody woman who didn't seem to like children or her job in the very least. In second grade, my friend Molly and I were even compelled to bring cotton balls to school with us to put in our ears during class time because our teacher's constant yelling hurt our ears. Needless to say, none of us want to be that kind of teacher. But then again, did Mrs. Manchester know she was having this effect? Did she intend to be so cantankerous and unpleasant? Probably not. We all must be careful not to fall into ruts with our habits.

What Ron Clark offers us teachers is an alternative to Mrs. Manchester. With the tenets of his new book in mind, you'll always be aware of the powerful effect of your personality and interactions on your students and the classroom atmosphere. In fact, I think I will print out a list of the 11 qualities and tape it to my computer as a constant reminder of the end I have in mind.

One of the most endearing and engaging things about Mr. Clark and his writing style is his complete and honest humanity. Teaching isn't always easy or perfect for him. He knows our struggles with a very difficult profession. He admits to the challenges and frustrations he has faced in his own career and lets us know it's OK, all while letting us know precisely what tactics he found most helpful in working through the darker times of the job.

Ron Clark's book is more than just a simple list of 11 qualities. Each chapter must be read and savored in order to have its full impact. You don't have to read it straight through - keep it by your bedside and try for a chapter a night. Let the ideas seep in and inspire you.

It's not a chore to read this book, but rather a reminder that we all need sometimes: Don't be a Mrs. Manchester. Be the most passionate, adventurous teacher you can be. Be someone who loves to learn and who shares that passion with your students. They will follow you and they will love it.

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