GOOD TEACHERS: Experience and passion matter more

Sunday, June 24, 2012

By R. Murali Rajaratenam, Kuala Lumpur 0 comments

TEACHING is the profession that teaches all others and the cardinal mistake is to think that qualifications make a good teacher. They don’t. When you’re faced with 30 to 50 truculent students, qualifications do not count for much.

If you don’t have the right personality, you’ll suffer in the bear-pit of today’s classrooms. An article in The Guardian some time back stated that there were four types of teachers who were effective: the despot, the carer, the charmer and the rebel.

Despotic teachers are literally “The Terminator” of teaching; the tough guy or gal who everyone turns to when the going gets really tough. They are nearly always very experienced teachers who know not only all the pupils but their parents as well. Most “books” don’t advocate this approach to teaching, but I have to admit it can be very effective, even if morally dubious. Despotic teachers often extract fantastic work from their pupils, and rarely have to use their full armoury. Their reputations are usually enough. They are often highly organised, making their classrooms into small fortresses.

Carers take on the role of surrogate parents to their pupils. Many don’t have degrees, and have been appointed as “mentors” or “support teachers” to help struggling pupils plan out their lives. Usually, pupils love seeing their mentors, and learn from them the vital skill of “taking responsibility for their own learning”.

The “charmer”, one that I subscribe to in my approach to teaching, is quite different from both the above examples. They can be a disorganised species, living off adrenaline and wit. They are frequently highly academic, seeking to be mates with their students and to understand them and play with them. With this sort of teacher, the classroom becomes one great big, bouncing playground of learning.

The most controversial but often most effective kind of teacher is the rebel. These teachers see school as a place that should aim to transform society. Unfortunately, they have become a dying breed.

But, the crucial point here is that none of these teachers learned their skills by getting a good degree; they learned them on the job. All can ­improve by watching other good ­teachers in the classroom and learning from their techniques. Research shows that all the best teachers motivate their pupils to work hard and assess them regularly.

So, instead of demoralising teachers with ill-informed comments about what makes a good teacher, the authorities should commit themselves to putting enough money and time into training teachers.

The current policy, if implemented, won’t improve the standard of teaching and will instead further dishearten an already deflated profession.

Read more: GOOD TEACHERS: Experience and passion matter more – Letters to the Editor – New Straits Times http://www.nst.com.my/opinion/letters-to-the-editor/good-teachers-experience-and-passion-matter-more-1.97532#ixzz1ysO9JfnL