Whenever the discussion arises ?What makes a good teacher??, various theories and suggestions concerning a teacher?s personality and his/her relationship with pupils are laid on the table. The TEFL International handbook summarises what many teachers and students suggest are the main qualities of a good teacher:
?Should be patient and kind ?Should really love teaching ?Should be lively and entertaining ?Is able to motivate learners ?Has a good knowledge of his/her subject ?Should have a good rapport and interaction with the class ?Should be able to involve all students equally throughout a lesson ?Should be able to correct students without offending them or affecting their motivation ?Should know students? weaknesses and try to give help and individual attention where necessary
Having been a student myself and now a teacher, I would agree to a greater or lesser degree with all of these statements. However, from this list I feel that one very important quality/skill is missing, that of a teacher?s ability to self-evaluate: teacher self- analysis. The TEFL International handbook tries to simplify things further by suggesting that a good teacher is someone who, quite simply ?really cares about his/her teaching, but cares more about the learning of the students?. (1) If a teacher truly cares about their teaching, and more so about the learning of students, then teacher self-analysis is an intrinsic part of professional development.
?It is universally acknowledged that improvement in educational systems is critically dependent on effective teacher self- evaluation.?(2)
I very much believe this to be the case and do indeed believe that to be a good teacher you have to be a good learner. No teacher in ESL teaching or otherwise, should be arrogant enough to assume that they know it all after a few years of experience teaching. This, quite simply, is not the case. There are so many variables which affect the teaching and learning process in any given lesson that there is always something to learn ? and modify- in this profession and we should never be complacent. As with many other areas of teaching, it has been suggested that within ESL teaching teacher self-analysis is extremely important and that not only trainees and newly qualified teachers, but also experienced teachers, are encouraged to actively and consistently evaluate themselves and everything about themselves and how they operate as a teacher to determine what is successful, what is not and why. This type of self-evaluation is also known as ?lifelong learning? and is encouraged in many areas of teaching, ESL included. Teachers are encouraged to be ?reflective practitioners? in order for them to develop professionally and it is believed that they should, with regularity, ?assess their strengths and identify areas for improvement.?(3)
To conclude then, I believe that to be a good teacher you need also to be a good learner as the two are intrinsically linked. A good ESL teacher (or any teacher for that matter) must analyse their teaching practice often to assess not only what did not work and why, but also what was successful and why. Then, and only then, can modification of teaching methods take place and effective teaching and learning continue. As mentioned previously, in any teaching and learning environment there are so many variables which affect the success of a lesson. What may work well for one class or one individual, may not work for another and there are any number of reasons for this. In any career I would suggest that it is useful to be able to analyse, evaluate and reflect upon your performance but in ESL teaching - indeed any teaching ? I feel it is essential to be able to self-analyse and be a ?reflective practitioner? as we are dealing with a very precious commodity ? people. As a teacher at any given time you will have many different individuals before you each with their own learning style; their own successes, desires, hopes, wishes and dreams; their own insecurities, anxieties, difficulties and problems, all of which change on a daily basis. As a result, no two lessons will ever be the same and the truly effective teacher has to respond to such a challenge. A true professional, someone who is indeed a ?reflective practitioner? thus has to respond to unpredictability and must be able to:
?cope with and shape change and uncertainty by interpreting and responding to the particularities and circumstances they find.?(4)
A good teacher thus must self-analyse and evaluate in order to cope with the variables in teaching that come in the shape of the students themselves. Only then can true effective teaching and learning take place.
(1)TEFL International handbook (2)www.highlandschools-virtualib.org.uk (3)www.saskes.gov.sk.ca (4)www.cels.bham.ac.uk
Author: Maureen Kenefick
Date of post: 2006-05-12