What is a teacher? What do they do?*
Not for the first time, I find my own thought expressed within someone else’s words.
“I make kids work harder than they ever thought they could.”
A teacher is a task master. But more than that, a teacher is a motivator:
“I can make a C+ feel like a Congressional medal of honor
and an A- feel like a slap in the face.
How dare you waste my time with anything less than your very best.”
A teacher is authority:
“I make kids sit through 40 minutes of study hall
in absolute silence.”
A teacher is the link between educational and domestic life:
“I make parents tremble in fear when I call home:
I hope I haven’t called at a bad time,
I just wanted to talk to you about something Billy said today.
Billy said, “Leave the kid alone. I still cry sometimes, don’t you?”
And it was the noblest act of courage I have ever seen.
I make parents see their children for who they are
and what they can be.”
A teacher is a spark:
“I make kids wonder,
I make them question.
I make them criticize.”
A teacher holds a huge influence over the development of his or her learners. I’m not saying a teacher is the only influence, as friends and family as well as other commitments all have a bearing on any learning, but I would say a teacher bears a significant amount of reponsibility here. The classroom is a space created for learning. We need to be sure of this, what we are teaching and what there is to be learnt. A teacher needs to be able to get to their learners. to find out what makes them tick, and use this knowledge to encourage them on their journey. Some just need a little guidance, others may need a lot of prodding – they all need motivation. I’d say that teachers need to be able to motivate their learners. This risk needs to be taken.
A teacher needs to walk a fine line regarding being an authority. They need to be authoritative enough to create an environment where learners can be pushed on to achieve their best (in spite of any barriers there may be), but not so much that the teacher as authority becomes another barrier.
Above all, I think a teacher has to believe in their learners, but not blindly. If there is no belief, there will be less chance for learners to grow and learn. More than this, a teacher has to know their learners, what they can do, what they can’t do (yet), what they might not be comfortable doing, what they could do, what they want to do, perhaps what they need to do. A teacher should use this knowledge to help a learner go at the right pace, not letting them coast along at the same level and not setting the bar too high as to demotivate the learner.
I could go on, but I hope a lot of this is common sense.
I was going to continue this post, but I have found a number of people blogging on issues related to my idea of risk. All of these posts and the comments they have attracted are well worthy of your time reading them.
- Sputnik of The Tesla Coil on trust in the classroom (I’d recommend reading the other posts in the series as well – What connects TEFL and psychoanalysis)
- Anita Kwiatkowska’s guest post on Teaching Village on opinions in the classroom
- Karenne Sylvester of Kalinago English on telling the truth as an EFL teacher
- eisensei asking the question “How open is too open?” in the EFL classroom
- Scott Thornbury on P is for Presence on his A to Z of ELT blog
These bloggers and commentators have written so eloquently on these topics, I’d rather you read them than the few words I might put together.
*I’m not sure who tweeted this video way back in November when I first started using Twitter, but thanks to @luclip for tweeting it recently 🙂