How I learned the qualities of a good teacher by working less

Do you have the qualities of a good teacher? We all start as a wide-eyed graduate who is set to change lives. As time goes on, we work on our craft and improve. However, I learned so much about what makes a good teacher in the 21st century by breaking all the preconceived notions of success.


One of the common misconceptions about teaching is that you have to work as hard as possible to be successful. Seriously, work your fingers to the bone, get to school early, leave late, and it will all come together.

However, if that were true, wouldn’t every busy teacher would be crushing it and mega-successful?

But they’re not.

So, theoretically, you could spend an extra fifteen to twenty hours a week working to end up overworked and fall out of love with teaching?

That is the rike teachers like you, and I run.

Although, what if I told you that I was able to buck the trend? Would you be interested? I exponentially improved my teaching by spending less time on my craft.


What are the five traditional qualities of a good teacher?

The consensus of the qualities of a good teacher has pretty much stayed the same over time. Which, when you think about it, is scary considering the amount the world has changed around teaching. As per Great School, a lovely little list of what makes a good teacher is exactly what you’d expect it to be.

  1. Set high expectations for all students.
  2. Have clear, written-out objectives.
  3. Be prepared and organised.
  4. Build strong relationships with students and parents
  5. Be masters of their subject matter.


Now, I don’t disagree with any of that list. In fact, I think that everything on that list is handy. However, does it feel a little bit incomplete? I know it does to me.


What is the role of a teacher?

Now, you may disagree with me, but I think the role of a teacher is pretty simple: to ensure students are well prepared for the adult world.

That mission statement or job description has many different faces to it, but the message remains the same. We need to make sure our students are ready for the world they’re entering.


Are the qualities of a good teacher in the 21st century different?

Compared to the traditional qualities of a good teacher, we, as professionals need to be able to deal with a brand new set of problems. Teachers also need to embrace a brand new range of opportunities. On top of the traditional, the 21st-century teacher needs more.

  • Innovation
  • Motivation
  • Gratitude
  • Resilience
  • Allowing students to fail – and ensuring it is okay to do so.

That is just a few qualities of a good teacher in the 21st century. Feel free to comment with more and get the conversation going!


The freelance economy and changing workforce

As Bob Dylan said, the times, they are a changing. Freelancing is set to take up the majority of the U.S. workforce within a decade. This statistic is a game-changer. Why? Well, the gig economy comes with its own set of problems.

Now, many companies that may have had a marketing department, or a design team freelance their jobs. A member of the modern business world has to find their next gig consistently. It is a reflection of a society that rents and doesn’t buy. From the corporate world, all the way down to the person paying for Netflix and Ubers instead of drives.

However, there is a fatal flaw in teaching to the freelance economy, and it is in the mirror.

Most teachers have none of the soft skills needed for a gig based workforce.

In a world that requires finding short-term contracts, innovation, solving new problems, networking and being your boss, we still teach to take teacher’s orders for thirteen years. Then, in the end, we give them a standardised test and a number ranking how well they did.

So to achieve well in high school, you need to memorise content and become a good student. Which, is great for school.

However, if you spend thirteen years at school and all you learn is how to be a good student, you’ve wasted thirteen years.



As teachers, we need to step up. We need to do our job and make sure our students are ready for the changing workforce they’re set to enter.


Why becoming an edupreneur changed my teaching

I learned the benefits of entrepreneurship on teaching through practice, and, like any great finding, a little luck.

The path that is my entrepreneurial journey is a windy one. I will give you the cliff notes version. The first business and freelancing venture I fell into sportswriting. Specifically, writing about the NBA on a series of American and Australian online publications.

Yes, I said I fell into sports writing. I’m not sure how it happened either. What that did was develop my WordPress skills and ways no network for my next story.

From my writing, I had the idea on a whim to start a business. I can’t tell you the exact thought process, but there was one involved.

I was a full-time teacher who was writing about LeBron James in the evenings. So I made the obvious business decision to start a bow tie label. Like I said before, I am not sure what the thought process was.

But like that, Why Knot Ties was born.

However, I was hesitant about starting a business. Mainly due to the time that I would have to invest in it to succeed. As a newbie to the industry, the self-doubt and worry was daunting and almost stopped my business before it even began.

All questions were going through my head. As I am sure, it does with many teachers are stepping out of their comfort zone.

Was my teaching going to suffer as a result?

Would I even be any good at it?

Where will I find the time?

Although, as you can imagine, things are never as bad as you assume. In fact, my teaching benefited more from my business ventures than I ever could have imagined.

qualities of a good teacher
Me repping my bow ties in one of Australia’s most prominent newspapers, The Herald Sun


How starting my business as a teacher helped my teaching

What I discovered as my company took off was that I was spending less time on my teaching. I also noticed that spending less time planning lessons wasn’t a bad thing.

I don’t have to tell you that just because you’re busy, doesn’t mean you’re productive. We have both seen students or colleagues constantly busy, but never getting anything done.

The initial win for my teaching was through time management. Working with a purpose changed how I ran my business and my classroom.


That was only the second biggest win


The most significant victory was learning skills needed for the present workforce. A workforce that I couldn’t relate within my ongoing comfortable teaching position.

I wish I could tell you that it was on purpose. A business venture with the bonus of improving my craft in the classroom. Instead, it was an unintended key positive.


Becoming an edupreneur is your genius hour.

Similar to how Google allows it’s engineers to spend 20% of their time to work on any pet project that they want, my business became a personal genius hour.  A dedicated portion of the time spent at home doing work on Why Knot Ties.

Google’s method was to allow people to work on something that interests them, and productivity will go up. And hey, it worked for them. Gmail and Google News are part of the 50% of the total used innovations that Google credit to the genius hour.

The same thing happened to me. I was motivated, productive, picked up healthy habits, and was able to use skills learned by solving new problems and using them to help my teaching.


Learning and teaching skills for the freelance economy

The biggest positive of the business in my classroom was learning new skills, skills that are relevant to the way the new workforce operates.

As I said, my new-found passion for business and entrepreneurship didn’t just rejuvenate me; it changed the way I teach. The skills I was able to learn from my business trickled down into the classroom


For example, I had the idea of completely flipping an assessment into a project-based approach. Instead of learning about the local environment and writing a report, we went out and completed three action plans based on raising awareness about these local issues.

Was this a thought I would have had if I was not immersed in the world of networking, entrepreneurship, and marketing? Probably not.

And the results were excellent. I had students creating viral petitions on, and students writing for international and national websites, while others planned their own river clean-ups and hosted radio shows. Other students networked and negotiated with businesses.

It was incredible. Hell, you can probably imagine my massive smile as I type this.

Better yet, I could help the students with practical advice.


A real-life example of a side hustle helping my teaching

No, I know what you’re probably thinking. “This all sounds great in theory, but I can’t see how it would be useful”. However, there are plenty of instances where it has helped my teaching.

For example, a student was planning to email the local government to organise river cleanup and have the council collect the rubbish.

So when the student came up to me and asked how to write a formal email, I was able to stop the whole class and run a mini-lesson.

Better yet, instead of merely writing a formal letter structure on the board, I was able to say “well, let’s all look at this email I sent the editor of GQ last week”. I displayed the letter on the projector, and we explained the devices used in the email.

The students received a real-time lesson and learned a skill that they will need in their future. Best of all, students saw a real-life example of that skill in action.

How many times do you think I was asked: “are we ever going to use this?”


You’re right. Not even once.


The email on the board is just one example of using these business skills in the classroom. This is what teaching needs to become.

The sad part is that, as teachers, we haven’t had to learn those skills before. There is no way I am emailing GQ Magazine about a photoshoot before starting Why Knot Ties. No teacher without that real-life experience could have taught that lesson as effectively as I was able to show it.


Edupreneurs are the answer to 21st-century teaching

It would be ignorant of me to skip over the fact that the voices for change are already out there. I am by no means a pioneer or anything like that. There is talk about making the curriculum more innovation-friendly and suitable for the current and future workforce. And that talk is growing.

However, there is one glaring problem. Most of the teachers who are responsible for delivering this whizz-bang curriculum are not as qualified to teach it as they should be.


Teachers should start a side hustle

It is plain to see. With all that is going on around us and how the workforce is changing, if you want the qualities of a good teacher, you need to teach those soft skills required by the modern world.

And let’s be honest, a stable, ongoing teaching gig where if you blink you’ve taught the same year for ten years straight, isn’t the way to do it.

While changing the curriculum will help (and there are people advocating that we do so), teachers won’t embrace the changes unless they are a part of that modern workforce. The teachers need to care.

There are plenty of options for people who want to start their side hustle and pick up the soft skills needed to teach our students. The most obvious is selling teaching resources online. However, the options are endless.



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