Anna Neena George
“It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge.” – Albert Einstein, Out of My Later Years
“Teaching is an act of hope for a better future… the reward of teaching is knowing that your life makes a difference.” – William Ayers
Being and becoming a teacher is a relentless journey on which many embark with either passion or desperation for livelihood. This journey unfolds in the classroom to produce a teacher par excellence, or a mediocre matter-of-fact teacher, or a perennial nitpicker. The classroom is the womb where teachers are formed and nurtured.
There is a long list of qualities that a teacher is expected to possess. Understanding the self and interpersonal relationships, sense of humour, observational powers, passion and enthusiasm, intellectual curiosity, creativity, deep desire to learn and the professional training to teach. Having content knowledge and professional training are among the many requirements to becoming a teacher. However, the rest of the list of qualities emerges from within and not from any training. The perfect blend of comprehensive knowledge of the subject, communication skills and interpersonal skills seems to be the potion of a successful teacher. A teacher whom students remember for life has qualities which set him/her apart.
One cannot discuss about a teacher without mentioning the students she teaches. It is the teacher who shapes the learning environment in the classroom. The mutual trust between the students and the teacher creates a cohesiveness in the class and thereby provides a collaborative environment. It permeates the classroom learning environment and prepares a fertile ground for both the highly able and the learning disabled. The congenial, trust filled atmosphere is the vital element that a teacher alone can create.
“Education happens when hope exceeds expectation. Teaching is what makes the difference.” – A. Hargreaves and M. Fullan
Rules, syllabi, examination, promotion policies do not coagulate into authentic education but give only statistics. Real education happens when the teacher loves his/her subject, sets high expectations from the students, inspires them with his/her own passion. Remarkable teachers keep themselves abreast of the new developments and teaching strategies in their subjects. They challenge themselves to acquire new skill sets and enliven old skills. They refuse to worry over the ills of working conditions and the inabilities of their students; rather they fetch honour to their work by sheer dedication. They are on the lookout for what pains their students.
“A teacher who loves learning earns the right and the ability to help others learn.” – Ruth Beechick
“Your role as a leader is even more important than you might imagine. You have the power to help people become winners.” – Ken Blanchard
Effective teachers are skilled leaders and focus on developing decision-making, teamwork and a sense of leadership in their students. Their role is not confined to the curriculum; they are concerned about the transformation of their students. The teacher is constantly designing work to motivate, inspire and elevate students to higher levels of knowledge. They are always attentive to the problems and gaps in student learning. The contagious passion for the subject, inherent caring stance, the ability to elicit receptiveness to learning in students and permeating their teaching with humour, makes the teaching of a great teacher, distinct.
Being a great teacher is a constant struggle to improve. Real teachers have a critical eye on their practice, pedagogy and self. They render themselves open to scrutiny rather than basking in the glory of experience. Resilience and grit to overcome difficulties distinguishes these teachers from the rest. Enjoying the work and making learning a happy process is the hallmark of a remarkable teacher. Using humour to teach helps students grasp the material better. Humour subtly creates curiosity and generates interest about the subject.
Teachers who love their work and their subject are confident and grounded. They innovate not necessarily with technology but with their minds, solely to help students understand and internalize. Being adaptive to handle unforeseen situations and learning difficulties is the priority of a great teacher. Designing their teaching to make it unique, engaging and dynamic is the eternal mission of a remarkable teacher.
Certainly some are born teachers, but others can work to develop the qualities of the teachers who have influenced them the most. It is a journey of self-improvement rather than mere transaction of content. It is a matter of influencing and bringing forth human acumen.
- Einstein, Albert, (1950) Out of my later years. New York: Philosophical Library,1950.
- Ayers, W. (1993). To teach: The journey of a teacher. New York: Teachers College Press.
- Hargreaves, A. (1994). Changing teachers, changing times: Teachers’ work and culture in the postmodern age. Toronto: OISE Press.
- Fullan, M., Hargreaves, A., & Linton Professional Development Corporation. (1998). What’s worth fighting for in education. Salt Lake City, UT: LPD Video Journal of Education.
- Neufeld, G., & Maté, G. (2004). Hold on to your kids: Why parents matter. Toronto: A.A. Knopf Canada. Marva Collins.
Anna Neena George is Associate Professor at GVM’s Dr.Dada Vaidya College of Education, Ponda, Goa. She can be reached at [email protected].