Teachers are not robots, neither are students. No two teachers are the same or teach in exactly the same manner. No two teachers can deliver the same lesson in exactly the same way. And, even if by some fluke they did (maybe two identical twins who had planned the lesson together?), the learning outcomes in those two lessons cannot possibly be the same if you take into account the other confounding variable: the students! Twenty-five different human beings with different DNA, different family backgrounds, different amounts of bouncing hormones, each having had a different experience that morning in the lead up to the lesson, each having had a different bowl of cereal and a different trip to school, each with a different set of concerned parents.
Over the years I have been asked by many people, “How come you teach Spanish?” For some reason, based mainly on prejudice, people find it strange that a man from Liverpool should end up speaking and teaching a foreign language. The answer is quite simple: the ‘Nev Mars’ effect. He was my Spanish teacher for the last four years of my secondary education.
Nev (bless his soul) wouldn’t have known what a learning intention looked or sounded like if it landed in front of him on his plate of paella, but he made me love Spanish and want to know and learn more about the culture, the people, the food, the music, the language and everything else.
He was a great and effective teacher because he had that human bond with his students. He made his lessons interesting and amusing and engaged us. He did that because he was Nev Mars, Manchester born and bred. He was not programmable. He was not a robot.
Parker J. Palmer puts it so well in the preface to his book The Courage to Teach: “...good teaching cannot be reduced to technique but is rooted in the identity and integrity of the teacher. Good teaching takes myriad forms but good teachers share one trait: they are authentically present in the classroom, in community with their students and their subject.
“They...are able to weave a complex web of connections between themselves, their subjects, and their students, helping their students weave a world for themselves. Connections made by good teachers are held not in their methods but in their hearts – the place where intellect, emotion, spirit, and will converge in the human self.”
So, what is it that makes an inspiring and effective teacher in this day and age? (To be continued.)
– Chris Greene
Chris Greene is the Head of Modern Languages at British International School, Phuket – BISP. For more information, visit them at www.bisphuket.ac.th or call +66 (0) 76 335 555.