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

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