Coming back to work after a 3-week break was good to me. Not that I couldn’t use one or two extra weeks away from work – I’m not that workaholic. Classes will only start in March, and this will give me time to organise everything for teachers at the beginning of the semester. One of the first things I’ll have to do this semester is get going with the recruitment process we initiated in December. Now, hiring teachers is definitely not the easiest thing to do in the world. Despite training sessions, interviews, sample classes and all that goes into it, one can only truly be assessed in his or her work after classes have begun. No, I don’t think students are the ones who will solely decide whether a teacher is good or bad, but they can definitely give you some insight into your teaching if you listen to them carefully. This is one of the main characteristics I usually look for: can you listen to what other are saying and respond appropriately or are you one of those people who assume you know what your interlocutor is going to say and comes up with an answer even before you hear the question?
As an English teacher, I like to think of myself as a dogmeist- not an extreme dogmeist as I think balance is important in all areas of life. One of the things I learned from the Dogme list is that classes are conversation-driven, materials light, and focussed on emergent language. Now, I won’t really explain anything else about Dogme, but Karenne has written a wonderful post on it, and you can also join the yahoo group to find out more about it. There’s also the book Teaching Unplugged, but I still haven’t been able to get my hands on a copy in Brazil. Anyone, I’d rather go back to recruitment and teachers’ characteristics.
Coming back to the first paragraph, I find that one of the most important things in a language classroom is building rapport with your learners. Rapport facilitates learning, and therefore teaching. It’s that sense of trust you can get from your students that lowers barriers that might prevent learning from taking place. If there is good rapport, you will more likely find out what ticks your learners and how to engage them in meaningful learning activities. However, it’s something that is not easily taught in a teacher training session. Building relationships requires people skills.
Great teachers inspire – Longman’s catch phrase these days. I couldn’t agree more. And one of the things that I guess most training sessions do is asking us to recall a couple of good teachers we had in life and try to list their characteristics. All of my teachers were able to build a very good relationship with learners. They’ve all built a sense of trust. Good teachers don’t necessarily know all, but they try the best to make sure you have all chances to learn as much as you can. Good teachers know it’s not about their teaching, but about their students’ learning. They care, engage, motivate by words and deeds. And, most importantly, they are not all similar – they may be serious, funny, strict or friendly, but they always make sure they do not get in the way between you and what you need to learn. Great teachers listen before they speak.
“The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.”
William Arthur Ward