In this paper I would like to characterize the model for the effective teacher or to ask what is a special teacher. Teaching is a social profession. A teacher’s goal is to pass on knowledge to the young generation in order to make them a part of society. The knowledge is not always explicit knowledge like grammar or history but also behavioral knowledge like how to communicate with the other students, how to act in a social state like sitting together in a classroom and how to express yourself in words both verbally and by writing down a test or an essay. These are the main goals of any teacher but what makes a teacher special? How can a teacher do all these things and actually be effective to his students? Some teachers are just trying to pass on that knowledge in the dullest way and hope the students will do the rest of the learning. Those teachers believe they have done their part of the deal and that the students’ other part of the deal is to take that information and use it in the correct manner in a test or a paper. Sometimes the students actually understand that this is the deal between them and the teacher and they use the new information as expected from them.
The problem with comparing the learning state to a deal like that usually ends up in the case that the students forget the information since they have done their part of the deal. After the students are done using that information they will not consider that knowledge useful any longer and just leave it behind as another unnecessary information they have gained during their learning period, that shouldn’t be the case of learning. Learning is about making that information meaningful for the students so that that information will help them long after they are done writing tests and essays. If learning is a kind of a deal that ends in a meaningless test students will not understand the real point of learning, not in school and not in in their adult life. In a case like this the students learned the point of view of the teacher toward learning or his lack of understanding of what is a teacher’s job. The students will act as they have been taught and the teacher is responsible for that mis-education. A teacher should try and make the study in school an experience of meaningful learning, each subject taught in school can help a student long after he had graduated. The only way to make those students have that future possibility of using that information in their everyday life is by making that knowledge meaningful for them, and the only way to make that happen is if that knowledge was brought to them by a meaningful teacher, a special role model who effected them. A special teacher will be remembered as someone who gave them something to think about for the rest of their life and not just some useless points of data which had to be remembered for some final exam. A teacher must understand that this is the only way of passing on the knowledge he wants to present to his students.
I will review Paul Bress’s article about the special teacher. In his article we find two sides of the characteristics that makes a teacher special, one from the students’ point of view and another from the teachers’. I will try to take these characteristics and analyze them. In the article Bress brings different research about what the qualities of a special teacher might be. Students and teachers were asked to rate the characteristics that make a teacher special in their opinion. From the students point of view a good teacher has caring qualities for his students, he interests and motivates them, his materials, topics and methods are up-to-date and varied, he treats the students equally, he’s patient and reteaches if needed and has a sense of humor. These five qualities have been rated by the students as top most important qualities a good teacher should have. From the teachers point of view a good teacher treats each student as an individual, he is inspiring, has caring qualities, he creates a rich learning environment, he’s funny and spontaneous. These five qualities, which are similar to the ones the students rated, have been rated as top most important qualities of a good teacher by other teachers.
The first quality I would like to discuss is the caring quality which was rated first by the students and third by the teachers. The caring quality is kind of a parental or a friendly quality, it means that for a teacher to be a special one he must be more than a teacher. A special teacher is a kind of a person who feels responsible for the class not only to their grades and behavior but also to the students as persons. He treats his students with respect and involves himself with their personalities and tries to adapt his lessons according to them. A special teacher get a bunch of anonymous students in the beginning of the year and by the end of it he will have a unique relationship with each one of them. This quality is what makes a teacher special in the eyes of the students and without that quality he would be just like the rest of those distant old fashioned teachers who sees the class as low or high graded students who participate or attend their lessons. As we can see by the rating this quality is very important for students and teachers rated it lower probably because it is a very hard task for a teacher to fully engage with each class he teaches. I guess in some cases a teacher who shows caring qualities in class might damage the discipline that needs to be in a class and therefore the teacher would prefer not to express that quality. The students, on the other hand, would find the lack of sympathy by the teacher as a non caring quality although the teacher does care secretly. I believe a teacher must find a balanced way to show his caring toward the class and still remain a disciplinary figure in their eyes.
Another two qualities rated by both students and teacher are treating the students equally and treating each student as an individual. These two qualities contradict each other but are also completing. The students rated the quality of treating the students equally as forth and the teachers rated treating each student as an individual first. A class is a group of students, each student is unique and therefore the whole notion of a lesson must be conducted as a balanced dialog between the teacher and the class as a group, the teacher and a specific student and the individual students between themselves. Each student comes with his own personal baggage of background, relationships and experiences and wants to be treated in a way that suites him individually. The teacher stands in front of a dilemma, on the one hand he is obligated to treat the class equally, not to leave any student behind and not to treat any of the students in a way that would be considered unfair for the rest of the class. On the other hand different students demand different attention, it is impossible to actually ignore any personal differences and teach the class as a faceless group of equal individuals. A good teacher must know how to treat the class as a whole in an equal way, he must try and create an atmosphere in which all students will participate in the lesson and that all students will learn everything that was taught. There’s nothing more annoying for the students than a teacher who repeats for the thousandth time something that was understood by most of the class just because one student didn’t, not to mention the way that student will be treated by his class mates by doing so. Perhaps extra homework for a student who did not understand something or a personal meeting with that student to clarify a subject would be more appropriate and will keep the student in line with the rest of the class and will give him the attention he needs. These two qualities are very hard to practice in a class and only experience will give a good teacher the right tools to make it right.
Two important qualities which were on both rating lists are a teacher who motivates and interests his students and a teacher who inspires his students. Both of these qualities were rated second by both the teachers and the students. Students find it very important that a teacher would be interesting, a boring teacher gives a boring lesson which won’t motivate any student to learn that subject. A good teacher is a kind of a person who would try to make any subject more interesting in order to motivate his students. A teacher who inspire his students and tries to connect the learned subjects to other subjects that might interest the students is a good teacher. In order to do so a teacher must be up-to-date in any of the students’ everyday world. An up-to-date and varied teacher is another quality that was rated third by the students and not mentioned as important on the teachers list. It is hard to follow the cultural world of students when the teacher is an adult who has already built his own taste in music, movies and television shows. Today’s world is moving so fast that a movie which was at the cinemas a month ago might be considered as “old news” for the students who watched many new movies during that period. All the electronic gadgets, smart phones, Internet web sites and television shows, a teacher must know his way when talking to class about them and use the correct terminology for the students to accept him as up-to-dated. A teacher who will be able to use up-to-date knowledge will motivate the students to be interested in the subjects he is trying to teach, if he makes the right connections between them. Another quality that was rated forth by the teachers is a teacher who creates a rich learning environment. A teacher must use different techniques in order to keep the classroom “alive”. A lesson should have many different items so that the students will be kept busy. A teacher should use different strategies of teaching in order to attract the students to learn a subject, the use of multimedia and technology in class might also give motivation to the students and create an interesting environment for them to learn in. The main idea that stands behind these four qualities is that students want a more exciting kind of lesson. A teacher must have a variety of strategies for approaching the students. He should be able to know how to use the different technologies like video, audio and Internet web sites in order to attract his students to learn. A teacher should know how to take a traditional subject and present it in an up-to-date way so that a richer learning atmosphere will be created. Any subject can be adapted into a more interesting and fun lesson all it takes is a little patience, creativity and understanding of the students. A teacher who can do that will gain the respect of the students and therefore be able to teach them more efficiently.
One of the most important qualities of a good teacher is his sense of humor. This quality had been rated fourth by the teachers and fifth by the students. The students rated the quality of being funny on their list and the teachers rated the quality of having a sense of humor. These are two similar qualities but have a small gap between them if we think about them carefully. Being funny means to make others laugh and having a sense of humor means that you are able to understand a joke and laugh from it. A person can be funny to others without having a very sharp sense of humor, and a person with a sense of humor is not necessarily funny. Although both qualities usually come together I wanted to point out the qualities that were chosen by the teachers and students and what they might mean. The students rated “funny” because they seek a teacher who would make the lesson more enjoyable and interesting but the teachers rated “having a sense of humor” because in order to be funny in a class room you have to understand the students’ humor. Being funny to a group of people holds much more than just being able to make them laugh. A sense of humor is the tool which will make a good teacher understand the climate of the class and be able to reach the students. The quality the teachers chose is more responsible and it tries to include different aspects of the classroom climate while the quality the student chose of “being funny” is more egocentric and suitable for a students’ point of view. A teacher must be careful with his sense of humor, the classroom is not a circus and a teacher is not a clown. Once again, a teacher must find a balanced way between passing a lesson in a humorist way and being serious when needed. Students come to school firstly to learn and to acquire knowledge and not for being amused or entertained. A good teacher should be more of an actor than just funny and know when to put on a serious face and teach. A lesson that passes with laughter is a privilege to the students and they must respect the fact that they are here to learn.
The last quality I will present was rated fifth by the teachers, it is being spontaneous. This quality is very important because it hold within it other important aspects of being a good teacher. The first quality is being organized and having a well planned lesson. In order to be spontaneous a teacher must know exactly what he is going to do in his lesson. Being able to improvise is a quality that is possible only if the lesson is preplanned. A teacher can not improvise in a lesson unless he has specific points in which he can hold on to, every time a teacher is improvising and changes the subject it is only because he knows what’s his next point to teach. Without a well-planned lesson improvising in a lesson is just a random discussion without a goal of learned knowledge. Another aspect of being spontaneous in a class room has to do with the qualities of being updated with the students’ interests and being able to motivate them. In a lesson, when an example is needed to pass a subject more clearly, a good teacher would try to find an example that would be meaningful for the students and that will be interesting for them. Situations like these are a little harder to predict and are solved better when improvising on the spot. A good teacher would also make his improvising funny and that way will make sure his students will understand the subject.
I believe a special teacher should have all these qualities, that is the only way he will be able to reach his students. In addition to that, a special teacher has to have an open mind, he should be brave enough to try new methods and approaches to teach with, he should consider using every technology feature he got in hand and most importantly he must have tons of patience because every student is different and every lesson is different and the only way to do this job right is by seeing the importance of this profession and the understanding that teaching students is much more than passing knowledge but it is building the minds of the students which are the citizens of tomorrow. If students are with teachers for twelve years of their lives for so many hours a day than they probably learn a lot from the way a teacher is acting in class. A special teacher will create a special student which will become a special person, each one of these qualities is not only a list of which qualities will make a teacher special but also the qualities which would make any person special. A person who cares for others, who treats others as equals because he understands that each person is a special individual. a person who motivates and inspires the people around him, who is funny and has a sense of humor. A spontaneous person that has patience for others and is up-to-date with what goes in the world around him. The qualities for a special teacher are the qualities for the people we wish to see around us in the society. And since the teacher is such a long term role model he should have these qualities in order to create a better world.
1. what makes a teacher special? Paul Bress, issue fourteen January 2000, English Teaching Professional (P.43-44)