The role of the teacher has significantly changed for past few years due to advent of new technology. Although the same qualities of a good teacher are still required from the educators, the style of teaching has fundamentally changed and transformed from teacher- centered method of teaching into student-centered teaching pattern. Nowadays teacher?s personality is still considered an important factor in a process of teaching. Thomas Peacock in his article ?Native Students Speak What makes a good teacher?? states that a teacher should possess two kinds of characteristics: teaching and personal. As Peacock indicates ?teaching characteristics include having cultural knowledge, being interested in students, listening and understanding to their problems and using multiple approaches to solve them. Personal characteristics include being caring, being friendly, having patience and respecting students.? Another interesting viewpoint on some teacher?s traits presents Edward Pajak in his book ?Honoring Diverse Teaching Styles: A Guide for Supervisors.? Based on a fact that teaching reflects teachers? way of living their private lives, Pajak distinguishes four groups of teachers: inventing, knowing, caring and inspiring. Inventing teachers expect from their students to utilize their learning in life, therefore these teachers pay special attention to students? ability to solve problems. Knowing teachers, on the other hand, stress importance of becoming an expert in particular field, and that is why these educators focus on an effective method of absorbing knowledge by their students. Caring teachers help students to understand and respect themselves and to get along with others. Finally, inspiring teachers encourage students to reach for independence in their lives according to their goals and personal values (23-24).
From my own learning experience (Poland and Slovakia, 1980-1990s) I remember that my teachers traditionally had only three roles such as controllers, organizers and assessors and they all qualified to the group of knowing teachers. Undoubtedly, I witnessed the teacher- centered style of educating with a teacher-controller, standing in the front of the class. My educators were very good organizers and assessors, who gave their students clear instructions, arranged various activities and provided meaningful feedback on students? progress. At American colleges (in Philadelphia and Illinois, 2000s), on the other hand, I had the opportunity to experience much different style of teaching, that has been centered on the students instead on a teacher. This time I had been taught by the teachers, who not only combined three mentioned above roles, but also performed as prompters, participants, tutors, facilitators/guides, models and observers. I met the teachers with a whole range of personalities, who according to Pajak?s classification of educators would represent groups of inventing, caring and inspiring teachers. Since the American style of teaching in most cases focuses on the students? needs, teachers depending on the kind of activity have to show some flexibility in switching between their roles. As a broad resource of information and a reliable model of usage proper language teachers sometimes need step back and be just an observer in order to let students explore some ideas on their own and monitor some students? mistakes for further correction purposes. In certain situations, though, teachers need step up and perform as prompters or tutors when students are not able to make any progress on their own. In some activities teachers are simply participants, who are students? equal partners in particular assignments.
As it was mentioned in the introduction, the style of teaching has changed for past few years, and not only in North America, but also in some European countries, for example in the Netherlands (Siebenlist and Dekker). Replacing teacher-centered style of educating by student-centered teaching pattern has required building a close relationship between an adult and a child. Teachers have learnt that their ?most important role is to learning style, social and cultural background, interests, and abilities.? (Taack Lanier 1). Soon they became mentors, who took an effort to create their relationship with students on strong foundation of trust, respect and ethics (Kiltz 140). They became counselors, participating in social, emotional, and intellectual growth of their students. Students, on the other hand, were no longer ?consumer of facts?, they became ?active creators of knowledge,? whose opinions and ideas about their own learning process were heard and were taken into consideration (Taack Lanier 1). Since students took responsibility in their learning, they became better learners, who were more open to teachers? new strategy to link students? practical knowledge with theoretical background (Sibenlist and Dekker 472).
In conclusion, the role of the teacher became more complex and more important in last decades. Teacher is no longer an exclusive director of student learning, he became students? mentor, equal partner and true friend, responsible for not only an intellectual growth of individual students, but also vital to overall ?cultural health of nation? (Taack Lanier 1).
References Bunting, Carolyn. ?Good Teachers Who They Are and How We Fail Them.? Clearing House.Jul/Aug 2006, Vol.79 Issue 6, 245-246
Kiltz Gary, Arnold Danzing, and Elsie Szescy. ?Learner-centered leadership: a mentoring model for the professional development of school administrators.? Mentoring and Tutoring Vol. 12, No.2, Arizona State University, Carfax Publishing, August 2004, 135-153.
Pajak, Edward. ?Honoring Diverse Teaching Styles: A Guide for Supervisors.? Alexandria, Va. Assoc. for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 2003, 22-25.
Peacock Thomas. ?Native Students Speak What makes a good teacher?? Tribal College, Vol. 17 Isssue 4, Summer 2006
?Role of the Teacher.? Educational Accomplish Practice #11 <http://www.coedu.usf.edu/ap/11>
Siebenlist Ellen, Sini Dekker, and Maarten Dolk.?The Changing Role of the Teacher Educator.? Amsterdam 22-26 Oct. 2005 <http://www.atce2005.nl/download/papers/64_bb.pdf>
Taack Lanier, Judith. ?Redifining the Role of the Teacher.? Edutopia. The George Lucas Educational Foundation, July 1 1997 <http://exhibithall.org/php/article.php?id=Art_393&key=137>
Author: Beata Zukowska
Date of post: 2007-04-18