The Good Teacher
by Steve Schackne
Make It Fun and Interesting
Motivation or desire is a key to learning; add curiosity and a questioning nature, and you have a primed learner. Motivation, curiosity, and inquisitiveness, however, tend to wilt in a stale, uninteresting school environment. Use personalization and localization to stimulate communication—let the students talk about themselves and their lives. A few decades ago, the highly controversial values clarification approach was widely being discussed in language schools. It was a classroom approach that analyzed how students chose and developed beliefs and behaviors. At one time considered too radical for conservative Asian cultures, it has become, in a less rigid and psychological form, more acceptable as it loosely mimics personalization and localization; that is, it involves real student lives in communication.
Don't be afraid to use realia, that is bring the real world into the classroom, and when it is too large to bring into the classroom, take the students out of the classroom to engage the world. Primary research projects are often broadening for advanced students, while selected field trips can often benefit lower level students.
When looking at classroom topics, get in touch with what your students know, and what they are interested in. Gearing discussion or writing to student interest is always a positive step in engaging a class.
Just as important is to have a positive attitude towards learning and your students. Jeremy Harmer asked teachers and students what they thought “makes a good teacher.” The two areas most often mentioned were teacher's rapport with the students and the teacher's personality; people wanted a teacher who was fun and understood young people, as well as one who could motivate students through enjoyable and interesting classes. In addition, creating a fun, interesting, and enjoyable classroom can have salubrious effects on teachers' morale as well.
Many of the observations above tend to be common sense in nature—be understanding, be fair, set reasonable goals, be flexible—the type of behavior that would set a firm foundation for success in business or personal relationships as well as in a classroom. Yet, adversarial relationships still exist in many classrooms around the world, the residue of academic power cultures or simply the by-product of an insecure, undertrained practitioner. These types often brag about failing large numbers of students (the implication here that a tough teacher is a good teacher), and use coercion instead of management in a classroom. If we come back to our original thesis that a good teacher's goal is “to make it easy for her students to succeed,” then the petty power cultures and adversarial relationships which render so many educational institutions ineffectual and joyless, would slowly wither away.
Griffin, Robert. “Worries About Values Clarification,” Peabody Journal of Education, Vol. 53, No. 3, 1976.
Harmer, Jeremy. “What Makes a Good Teacher,?” Japanese Association of Language Teachers Conference, 1990.
Harmer, Jeremy. The Practice of English Language Teaching, Longman, 1991-2000.
McCourt, Frank. Interview, “All Things Considered,” on National Public Radio, Oct. 1, 1996.
Ohio Learning Network. www.oln.org
Schackne, Steve. “The Common Sense Approach: Grades and ESL,” in DevelopingTeachers.Com, 2005.
Schackne, Steve. “Leveling Your Students: The Common Sense Approach,” in DevelopingTeachers.Com, 2007.
Schackne, Steve.“The Common Sense Approach: Vocabulary Building,” in DevelopingTeachers.Com, 2007.
Other articles by Steve:
The Common Sense Approach: The Flexible Syllabus--Balancing Time and Content by Steve Schackne
The Common Sense Approach—Advanced EFL by Steve Schackne
The Common Sense Approach - How One Teacher Organized A Speaking Course For 200 Chinese Graduate Students by Steve Schackne
A Common Sense Approach to Treating Error in L2 Learners by Steve Schackne
Teaching Useable Language by Steve Schackne
|Steve Schackne has spent 25 years in the field of linguistics. In addition to teaching, his background includes teacher training, program administration, and online-distance learning. He was educated at the University of North Carolina and the State University of New York, and has taken post graduate language training at Taipei Language Institute and the University of Macau.
| His postings have included Taipei Language Institute, Tunghai University (Taiwan), Kansas University, Culver Educational Foundation, University of California--Santa Barbara, Oklahoma State University, University of Macau, Ming Chuan University (Taiwan), and Fooyin Institute of Technology (Taiwan). He has lectured and published all over the world, but is now best known for his educational resource web site, Schackne Online.
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