Thursday, September 20, 2012

Who wants to be a good teacher?

Teaching profession is unique in its kind. Since teaching is an art and skill it calls for a training and practice. The question of what makes a good teacher has resulted in an endless steam of ideas, opinions and theories.  Different definitions of teaching different ideas and traits that make up character different environment and different students can all affect teaching proficiency. 
All students have had hundreds of teachers in their life time. Among them a few teachers are remembered as being exceptionally good. There need to be many qualities and traits to be at good teaching.  Being able to master a good mix in a specific learning environment is likely to make one a good teacher. There are some teachers   who inspire students to work three times harder than they normally would, while others inspire students to skip classes. Students learn more from some teachers than others, they admire them, see them as a role model feel free to speak to them whenever possible and follow them without insisting.
Now the basic question what makes a good teacher? Based on my few years of teaching experience and my involvement in teacher empowerment programme I would say there are list of qualities required   to be a good teacher. Among them few I would say core qualities which are must for a teacher to excel as a good teacher. In most of my training programmes for the teachers I used to give a small activity for the participants’ to list out the qualities required to be a good teacher. They use to come up with many qualities and I took all of them and listed them in main five categories which I would like to name as core qualities in which all other qualities and traits  are interlined  to be a good teacher.  
All good teaching starts with specific clear and measurable goals and objectives. Goals are those general statements of outcome and objectives are how the goals are to be reached. It is also true that good teaching is not subject specific; most important traits or qualities transcend subjects.
The five clusters of qualities of a good teacher are:
·        Knowledge of the subject:
Well it is the one of the important prerequisites of a good teacher. Teacher should have a clear understanding and depth knowledge in the subject what he teaches.
In this Information Technology era student’s area aware of things around them but a good teacher always puts them in a proper container and explains the practical usage of that information in an accessible way.  Imparting information is no more the objective of education. Even though the information is in the reachable for the students from different sources like books internet and other sources class room teaching has never lost its relevance.  Classroom teaching is not just delivering the information to the student this is where the good teacher wins the heart of the student. The teacher who goes to the class with confidence in his subject delivers quality information with the recent updates. Getting to the heart of the students and connecting it to them and their everyday life helps make the subject matter relevant. Hence the teacher is a continuous learner to update his knowledge and skill in delivery.  Why to teach that subject it is not because it is in the curriculum or it in the text book or they should write in the examination to get marks  A good teacher understands the rationality behind the teaching and learning the subject he teaches that makes a good teacher.
·        Communication:
Communication is more than speaking or writing. To be effective, communication requires the creation of a common understanding of ideas, desires and observations among people. In this context communication is a two-way exchange that involves both a teacher and the student and it is a skill to be an effective communicator.  How to achieve this just speaking and delivering information and statistical data is not communication in the class. Since it’s a skill it needs practice and effort from the teacher to be a good communicator.
The general rule of  good presentation, voice, and volume gestures, humor, timing of the course, sufficient knowledge of the subject are all essential are communication essentials. I quote what I read ‘a good teacher is often a good entertainer’ good entertainer appears self confident on stage, work with their audience and have what is called stage presence. This is an ability to connect with the audience in a way that is not quantifiable. The self confidence, empathy and ability to connect with the people one wishes to reach. This is not something that can be easily taught. It comes with experience, and open personality. The difficulty involved in learning how to teach this communication. Since it is a skill and teaching is an art it can be certain degree teachable. The ability to tell a good story (Adams 1987) research mentions story telling as a mark of good teaching. Sharing personal experience from life research previous employment is excellent source of materials. Another basic requirement in communication is that understanding the audience, in the classroom setting it is the ability to read the class.  Knowing when they have had enough, when they want to stop and discuss something when they want to hear more.    Listening is an equal partner with speaking in defining effective communication. Listening is also an active process in communication that includes maintaining eye contact; providing positive non-verbal feedback, like nodding the head appreciating the idea of the student.
·        Innovative and creative:
Creativity in teaching is using imaginative approaches to make learning more interesting and effective’. A major effect for learners at the school was an immediate experience of the dynamic, appreciative, captivating and caring ethos. The construction of this type of ethos has many objectives but in terms of teaching and learning one of the school’s major aims was to make the learning experience relevant to learners, to make it interesting. For young learners this meant an ethos that was dynamic and active: There is a continuous throb of movement and a quiet hum of activity. The school understands young children as active agents who experiment with their bodies, emotions and intellects. Teachers acknowledge the enormous capacity of young children to take in an extensive variety of experiences in any one day. Maths was made exciting, literacy experienced as a set of keys unlocking a whole range of delights and emotional journeys, science was developed as a passion for enquiry, discovery and experimentation, technology provided intensely focused activity involving problem solving, frustration and satisfaction and the arts were valued as opportunities for expression. Creative and innovative teacher provides students little extended, unhurried time to explore and do their best work.  Provide an abundant supply of interesting and useful materials and resources. Create a classroom climate where students feel mistakes are acceptable and risk taking is encouraged.  Good teacher is always able to motivate his students by using creative and inspirational methods of teaching he is different in his approach and that makes him to stand out from the crowd hence the reason why students enjoy ones class and seeks him out for new ideas.
·        Empathy and accessibility:
Empathy and accessibility are the most consistently required quality and elements for good teaching and a teacher. It is important to note that whatever is taught must somehow relate to the experience to the student or it will be sterile. Drawing the good and bad experience of the students draws them into discussion and makes them their part of the lesson. To relate this way one must understand the student getting to know the student is key to good being a good teacher. Some students will be having a considerable experience others do not adding to the complexity faced by the teacher. How to deal with these differences and be able to empathize with the learner requires creativity, time and experience. It is the reason why variety in teaching methods is important. Majority of the students see accessibility as the major aspect of good teaching. ‘Being around’ gives more information and feedback about the students and teaching.
·        Humor:     
A good teacher should also have the quality and characteristic of having a good sense of humor. It is a logical fact, that a person generally teaches the next generation and as they are younger than the teacher, they are expected to have more fun in the class too. So, a good teacher is the one who can cope up with his sense of humor, and with his strong communication skills and personality, can also maintain the discipline of the class.
There's another aspect of fun that's equally important. If the teacher's having fun, there's a good chance the students are also. Students of all ages appreciate a teacher who's having a good time. Hard work and dedication are not exclusive of having fun. In fact, one of the valuable things I learned during my student teaching was that the harder I worked outside of class getting ready for it, the more fun I had inside the class. When students say that a teacher is "fun" or teaches a "fun class," they don't mean it's all fun and games in which no teaching or learning is going on. They simply mean that the teacher enjoys what he or she is doing, and that it becomes an important part of the atmosphere of the classroom. In the teaching profession hard work and fun go together.
Humor is very effectual on children’s learning and is considered as a desirable personality trait. Individuals with a high sense of humor are thought to have some distinguishing characteristics such as optimism, self-esteem, stress management skills, positive self-esteem, autonomy and social skills.
                                                                                              Prof. Madhusoodana. Sunnambala       
                                                                                            Head of the Department (Psychology)
                                                                                                         Horizon Campus Malabe

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Teaching is a profession which teaches all other professions’ But????...

Dr. A.P.J Abdul Kalam the former President of India was asked to contest for President Election recently he refused and replied I will be a teacher than a President!  As all of us know the President is the first citizen of the country and it’s a most prestigious position. But for Dr. Kalam being a teacher is more than that simply because ‘teaching is a noble profession’. It is a service oriented, it has a potential to have a great impact on the moulding of next generation. This profession is looked with honour and respect, many wants to be a teacher not with caprices of this profession just to serve and feel worth living. Teaching is a one of a kind profession; this career choice may be frustrating, exciting, and also very fulfilling those who are fully dedicated to choose teaching as their long life career.
A teacher should be a teacher in every moment in his life his attitude life style behavior everything matters a lot to himself and to the society as well. So he is more conscious of his life and behavior and also he should live up to the expectations of the society in spite of his financial hardship and professional life.
It is hard to believe but the fact is that teaching is stressful job hence most teachers deal with big stress level each day. It always goes unnoticed by the society management and the policy makers. Some teachers may think that he has a ‘mellow’ job so he is least bothered about his health effects of stress. The teachers stress level proven to cause physical problems, such as blood pressure and a slew of other problems.
Many studies evidenced certain source for stress for teachers in teaching profession. I also interacted with many people who are involved in this profession and I strongly feel there are certain areas needs to be focused for better in the point of pupils’ the well being of the teacher and the genuine improvement of the school.
More than two –thirds of teachers have experienced or witnessed bullying which resulted for one in five to quite the job. Apart from bulling on teachers themselves being shouted at in front of their pupils would set a bad example for children who were themselves bullied because it would send a signal to their tormentors that such behavior was tolerated. And the consequences for teacher of being bullied were devastating for their health and wellbeing. Loss of confidence, dread of going to work, sleepless nights, family disputes are some of the effects of this.
One teacher confessed ‘the school needs to improve but I am not sure it can’ common sense and trust in human communication is being forced out of profession. A lot of teachers seem to like being told exactly what to do and how to do it. The status quo is just fine for a lot of middle and senior management too. It allows them to wield power justify inflated salaries and be recognized by their peer as being ‘outstanding’ teachers. Recognition the children in their classes would never give them. Never mind they never really liked teaching children that much anyway!
Teaching is a political football; it changes all the time- the combination of continual change with frequent market need, societal demand, coupled with long unsociable hours and poor pay makes up a stressful recipe. All though the school day may be shorter than most office working days, teachers put in many more hours in the evening and at weekends preparing lessons, marking work and organizing extracurricular activities. As one teacher admits I teach twenty five lessons a week despite my best intensions some of these lessons are boring. To plan an outstanding lesson can take hours. I can do that for every lesson I teach. Sometimes I stand in the class delivering a lesson I know isn’t as good as it could be. I know how to make it better. I just don’t have time to do it. I don’t think children notice they are used to this.
Another important area which appears to make teachers more pressured than other professions. Problems in relationship with managers-head teacher, deputy teacher, sectional heads. If there is a good relationship, professional as well as humanitarian then teachers feel free to express themselves to ventilate their feelings. Most of the time its lacking, building relationship and maintaining the same relationship has a very positive effect in any profession but in teaching it has double effect. The problem here is if any problem arise the teacher need to tackle alone so the feeling of isolation troubles the teacher which may lead to the resignation of the teacher from that school. Even while handing the problem behavior of the child the teacher should do it alone and also teacher have to look after their pupil’s welfare and also the school boundaries which are imposed on them so teacher gets little outside support. This sense of isolation can grow and contribute to teacher burnout.  
The school leadership is also another important area of concern. One of the most consistent findings from studies of effective school leadership is that authority to lead need not be located in the person of the leader but can be dispersed within the school between and among people. There is a growing understanding that leadership is embedded in various organizational contexts within school communities, not centrally vested in a person or an office. The real challenge facing most schools is no longer how to improve but, more importantly, how to sustain improvement. Sustainability will depend upon the school’s internal capacity to maintain and support developmental work and sustaining improvement requires the leadership capability of the many rather than the few. Many so called leaders in the school lacks leadership quality hence they may hurt the feelings of the teachers in the name of quality improvement.
                                                                                                        --Prof. Madhusoodan Sunnambala 

Friday, June 15, 2012

The most successful teachers share some common characteristics

The most successful teachers share some common characteristics. Here are the top six keys to being a successful teacher. Every teacher can benefit from focusing on these important qualities. Success in teaching, as in most areas of life, depends almost entirely on your attitude and your approach.
1. Sense of Humor A sense of humor can help you become a successful teacher. Your sense of humor can relieve tense classroom situations before they become disruptions. A sense of humor will also make class more enjoyable for your students and possibly make students look forward to attending and paying attention. Most importantly, a sense of humor will allow you to see the joy in life and make you a happier person as you progress through this sometimes stressful career.
2. A Positive Attitutude A positive attitude is a great asset in life. You will be thrown many curve balls in life and especially in the teaching profession. A positive attitude will help you cope with these in the best way.
3. High Expectations An effective teacher must have high expectations. You should strive to raise the bar for your students. If you expect less effort you will receive less effort. You should work on an attitude that says that you know students can achieve to your level of expectations, thereby giving them a sense of confidence too. This is not to say that you should create unrealistic expectations. However, your expectations will be one of the key factors in helping students learn and achieve.
 4. Consistency In order to create a positive learning environment your students should know what to expect from you each day. You need to be consistent. This will create a safe learning environment for the students and they will be more likely to succeed. It is amazing that students can adapt to teachers throughout the day that range from strict to easy. However, they will dislike an environment in which the rules are constantly changing.
5. Fairness Many people confuse fairness and consistency. A consistent teacher is the same person from day to day. A fair teacher treats students equally in the same situation.
6. Flexibility One of the tenets of teaching should be that everything is in a constant state of change. Interruptions and disruptions are the norm and very few days are 'typical'. Therefore, a flexible attitude is important not only for your stress level but also for your students who expect you to be in charge and take control of any situation.