What makes a Good Teacher?

I would like to start this blog with a quote I found on the internet as I was looking for a definition of a teacher.

“The dream begins, most of the time, with a teacher who believes in you, who tugs and pushes and leads you on to the next plateau, sometimes poking you with a sharp stick called truth.” (Dan Rather)

I had a Maths teacher in my year 9 to 12. He was absolutely incredible. He made every problem, however big it may seem, so doable. He made me believe I could solve any mathematical problem if I put my mind to it. It was his encouragement that I carried on with me to my university. I scored 95% plus in all my Maths and statistics courses as I felt confident and comfortable with tests/ exams. I still remember his encouraging smile and the “kind and gentle” look he gave me when I felt frustrated with a problem. I often got a tap on my head with a ruler when I made a careless mistake and he would say “seems like someone didn’t eat any breakfast today”. He never scolded or made me feel stupid.

With a challenging (or bad) teacher I feel the case was that the teacher assumed that the reason the student was not doing well was because he/she wasn’t putting in enough time and practice. Hence lack of intentional effort on part of student. Since the teacher worked on this premise he/she often resorted to scolding or making the student feel ‘small’ in class. Using fear to motivate the student to do better. 

I often experienced that I didn’t really understand the topic being taught or perhaps the reason to memorise a certain fact was not there. When this happened I was not interested in topic and hence had bad grades. For me fear never worked as a motivator. So a bad teacher just made things worse. 

Coming back to the definition a Teacher is simply defined ‘as a person who teaches or provides instruction’.

I have had numerous Teachers, like all of you, over the many years of school/university. I recall many of them vividly. I have been trying to consolidate the key similarities of the ‘good’ teachers . They were compassionate for sure, they were kind, responsive, willing to entertain questions, willing to explain a difficult concept maybe even a number of times, they definitely smiled more often and they listened wholeheartedly. 
The professor in the lecture video on Coursera states a very interesting point. He says that though it is possible to instruct any person on how to teach it is not possible for everyone to be a good teacher. Teaching is about passion, about wanting to do the job and it is not an easy job for sure. I totally agree with him.

In the blog by Smith, M. K. (2012). ‘What is pedagogy?’, the encyclopaedia of informal education. [http://infed.org/mobi/what-is-pedagogy/]

The author states some thought provoking points that I want to share and I quote 

“Often teachers fall, or are pushed, into ‘schooling’ – trying to drill learning into people according to some plan often drawn up by others. Paulo Freire (1972) famously called this ‘banking’ – making deposits of knowledge. It can quickly descend into treating learners like objects, things to be acted upon rather than people to be related to. In contrast, to call ourselves ‘educators’ we need to look to acting with people rather on them.”

I think after reading this I understand more about my ‘bad’ Teachers. By “bad Teachers” I want to refer to those Teachers who genuinely made an effort to teach but were just not effective at it. This doesn’t include the “bad Teachers” who perhaps never wanted to teach but were doing it for some personal motives. When a teacher makes education a “deposit of knowledge” for the student, I think often the student doesn’t gain much. 
He goes on in blog to say and I quote:

“Education is a deliberate process of drawing out learning (educere), of encouraging and giving time to discovery. It is an intentional act. At the same time it is, as John Dewey (1963) put it, a social process – ‘a process of living and not a preparation for future living’. As well being concerned with learning that we set out to encourage – a process of inviting truth and possibility – it is also based in certain values and commitments such as a respect for others and for truth. Education is born, it could be argued, of the hope and desire that all may share in life and ‘be more’.

A teacher doesn’t only pass on knowledge he or she also passes on ‘a process of living’. Teachers that fail to pass on the latter are the ones that fail to make an impact. 

The blog says further and I quote: 

“For many concerned with education, it is also a matter of grace and wholeness, wherein we engage fully with the gifts we have been given. As Pestalozzi constantly affirmed, education is rooted in human nature; it is a matter of head, hand and heart (Brühlmeier 2010). We find identity, meaning, and purpose in life ‘through connections to the community, to the natural world, and to spiritual values such as compassion and peace’ (Miller 2000).”

A good teacher is considered good by most of the students. It is the human quality of their method of teaching that makes them such remarkable Teachers. 
I would like to end with another thought provoking quote:
I cannot teach anybody anything, I can only make them think.” (Socrates)
Great Teachers make you “think”, they take you on the path of life long learning where the journey of learning is more important than the end. 
I am eternally grateful to all the absolutely amazing Teachers that I met in my life. I am all I am today because they took the time and energy to believe in me and gave me an unending quest for learning. 


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