Teacher Character Strengths: Which are the nine characteristics of a great teacher?

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Hello my friends!

Positive psychology is said to be an umbrella term for the study of positive emotions, positive character traits, and enabling institutions (Seligman, Steen, Park, & Peterson, 2005). It can be described as the study of what people do right, and how they do it, and involves aiming towards helping people to develop those qualities that will help them lead more fulfilling lives. Within the field of positive psychology the terms subjective well-being and life satisfaction is often used interchangeably with happiness, which are more scientifically solid terms for what people usually associate with happiness (Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi, 2000). A premise of positive psychology is that it is possible to improve mental health, and make development and growth feasible, by focusing on and elaborate on strengths of character and positive personality traits. To be able to put a name to what one does well, to gain knowledge about and cultivate ones strengths is thought to promote well-being. Happiness is in theory and research often substituted with the term wellbeing, in particular referring to individual, or subjective, well-being (SWB). It can be defined in terms of the individual’s cognitive and affective evaluations of his or her life as a whole (Diener, Oishi, & Lucas, 2009). As such, these judgements will consist of both cognitive evaluations of life satisfaction, as well as emotional responses to events.
Thus, subjective well-being is an individual experience that implies high levels of pleasant moods and emotions (not just the absence of negative ones) and high life satisfaction, resulting from a global judgement of all aspects of a person’s life.

This blog post provides the basics for what has become known as the six core virtues of psychological strength; courage meaning emotional strengths that involve the exercise of will to reach goals in the face of difficulties, justice, denoting civic strengths that underlie healthy community life, humanity, which implies interpersonal strengths that enhance meaningful social relationships, temperance, implying strengths which protect against excess, wisdom, denoting cognitive strengths that imply the gaining and using of knowledge, and finally, transcendence, which means strengths that are thought to lie at the basis for being able to connect to the larger universe and provide meaning (Peterson & Seligman, 2004).

Character strengths are defined as the subset of personality traits, on which we place moral value and are psychological processes or mechanisms that constitute positive traits reflected in thoughts, feelings, and behaviors (Park, Peterson, & Seligman, 2004). For instance, introversion or extroversion might be seen as neutral concepts, but gratitude and fairness have a moral value, and can as such be called character strengths. Virtue and character are thus different from personality and temperament in that they have moral relevance. But like other personality traits, they presumably exist in degrees rather than either-or categories (Peterson, Park, & Seligman, 2005a).

Virtues and Character Strengths

1.Wisdom and knowledge
– creativity: thinking of novel and productive ways to conceptualize and do things
– curiosity: taking an interest in all of ongoing experience for its own sake, exploring and discovering
– judgment: being open-minded and thinking things through and examining them from all sides
– love of learning: mastering new skills, topics, and bodies of knowledge, to add systematically to what one knows
– perspective: being able to provide wise counsel to others

2. Courage
– honesty: speaking the truth and presenting oneself in a genuine way, being sincere and without pretense
– bravery: not shrinking from threat, challenge, difficulty, or pain, speaking up for what is right and act on conviction in the face of opposition
– persistence: finishing what one starts, persisting in a course of action in spite of obstacles
– zest: approaching life with excitement and energy, feeling alive and activated.

3. Humanity
– kindness: doing favors and good deeds for others, helping and taking care of others
– love: valuing close relations with others, sharing, caring and being close to other people
– social intelligence: being aware of the motives and feelings of oneself and others, knowing how to fit into different social situations.

4. Justice
– fairness: treating all people the same according to notions of fairness and justice, giving everyone a fair chance
– leadership: organizing group activities and seeing that they happen and at the same time maintain good relations within the group
– teamwork: working well as a member of a group or team, being loyal to the group and doing one’s share.

5. Temperance
– forgiveness: forgiving those that have done wrong, giving people a second chance and accept their shortcomings
– modesty: letting one’s accomplishments speak for themselves, avoiding the spotlight
– prudence: being careful about one’s choices; not saying or doing things that might later be regretted
– self-regulation: regulating what one feels and does, appetites and emotions, being disciplined.

6. Transcendence
– appreciation of beauty and excellence: noticing and appreciating beauty, excellence, and/or skilled performance in all domains of life
– gratitude: being aware of and thankful of the good things that happen, also expressing them
– hope: believing in a good future, expecting the best and working to achieve it
– humor: seeing the light side, liking to laugh and joke; bringing smiles to other people
– religiousness: having coherent beliefs about the higher purpose and meaning of life, also beliefs that shape conduct and provide comfort.

Studies that examine happiness, life satisfaction, and related concepts of well-being are some of the more popular areas of inquiry in positive psychology. Since the onset of positive psychology, researchers have been interested in those character strengths that correlate highest with happiness. Zest, hope, gratitude, love, and curiosity frequently emerge with the highest correlations with life satisfaction.

Teacher character is referring to the teacher’s personal distinctive qualities, which are significant of his/her, complex mental and ethical traits. Orlando (2013) listed nine characteristics of a great teacher:

A. A great teacher respects students. In a great teacher’s classroom, each person’s ideas and opinions are valued. Students feel safe to express their feelings and learn to respect and listen to others. This teacher creates a welcoming learning environment for all students.
B. A great teacher creates a sense of community and belonging in the classroom. The mutual respect in this teacher’s classroom provides a supportive, collaborative environment. In this small community, there are rules to follow and jobs to be done and each student is aware that he or she is an important, integral part of the group. A great teacher lets students know that they can depend not only on her but also on the entire class.
C. A great teacher is warm, accessible, enthusiastic and caring. This person is approachable, not only to students, but to everyone at school or on campus. This is the teacher to whom students know they can go with any problems or concerns or even to share a funny story. Great teachers possess good listening skills and take time out of their way-too-busy schedules for anyone who needs them. If this teacher is having a bad day, no one ever knows—the teacher leaves personal baggage outside the school doors.
D. A great teacher sets high expectations for all students. This teacher realizes that the expectations she has for her students greatly affect their achievement; she knows that students generally give to teachers as much or as little as is expected of them.
E. A great teacher has his own love of learning and inspires students with his passion for education and for the course material. He constantly renews himself as a professional on his quest to provide students with the highest quality of education possible. This teacher has no fear of learning new teaching strategies or incorporating new technologies into lessons, and always seems to be the one who is willing to share what he has learned with colleagues.
F. A great teacher is a skilled leader. Different from administrative leaders, effective teachers focus on shared decision-making and teamwork, as well as on community building. This great teacher conveys this sense of leadership to students by providing opportunities for each of them to assume leadership roles.
G. A great teacher can “shift-gears” and is flexible when a lesson is not working. This teacher assesses his teaching throughout the lessons and finds new ways to present material to make sure that every student understands the key concepts.
H. A great teacher collaborates with colleagues on an ongoing basis. Rather than thinking of herself as weak because she asks for suggestions or help, this teacher views collaboration as a way to learn from a fellow professional. A great teacher uses constructive criticism and advice as an opportunity to grow as an educator.
I. A great teacher maintains professionalism in all areas—from personal appearance to organizational skills and preparedness for each day. Her communication skills are exemplary, whether she is speaking with an administrator, one of her students or a colleague. The respect that the great teacher receives because of her professional manner is obvious to those around her.

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Love always,

Vassiliki xxxx