What does it take to be a great teacher ?

Thursday February 16th, 2017 in In the News, Ampersand Latest, Ampersand Insights

What are the benefits of educating?

Roslyn Arnold explores this subject in NewPhilosopher and gives us something to feel proud about when we have taught with our hearts. Roslyn, ” Effective teaching requires an extensive and ever expanding repertoire of attitudes, skills, abilities, and personal philosophies.” Teaching is for those who enjoy re shaping their thinking and feeling in the light of of evolution in human understanding. Such understanding is influenced by adaptations necessitated by technological change.

Roslyn, ” Education and educators have to be more than responsive to change , they have to anticipate it by envisioning the possibilities.” The idea of constant development can be daunting and challenging and herein lies one of the attractions of the profession, it is never boring. It can promote the intellectual and emotional growth of people and their teachers. And is is satisfying, provided the teacher is driven by a commitment to act always in the individuals best interest. Roslyn, ” It is for those who are satisfied with long term and uncertain rewards, and the quiet satisfaction of knowing students have developed in response to their careful guidance.”

What does it make to be a great teacher? How do we get the best out of those we are trying to develop and move onto bigger and better things. We find that the best way to gauge this is to actually ask those who we have and are presently instructing. Roslyn, ” They had all the answers. As well as offering insights into the personal and professional qualities they valued in teachers, students repeatedly cited four qualities I believe are at the heart of good teaching. These four concepts constitute empathetic intelligence and offer a frame work for understanding what makes a good teacher:empathy, enthusiasm, the ability to engage, and expertise.”

Empathy – often thought of as walking in someone else’s shoes. It can also be described as nothing more than a sophisticated version of sympathy. However in the context of what we are describing here these thoughts are very incomplete in their description.  Roslyn, ” In professional practice empathy is a sophisticated concept that makes heavy demands on the self awareness, imagination and sensitivity of its practitioners. Empathy requires an ability to understand your own thoughts and feelings and by analogy, apply your self understanding to the service of others, mindful that their thinking and feeling may not match your own. It’s practitioners have to be able to accurately read the multiple signals transmitted in human engagements and choose sensitively which to a attend to and which to ignore. The downside, ” Regrettably, an empathic disposition can sometimes raise false expectations or be interpreted as an opportunity to call for attention or resources beyond those available to its practitioners. Hence boundaries have to be established and maintained, in everyone’s best interests.

Enthusiasm – Enthusiasm is a warm happy disposition which translates positive affirmations from others. Roslyn, ” In teaching it is underpinned by a belief in the worth of education and a hope that conditions can be created to enable students to develop their values, intellects, abilities and relationships in transformative ways. Students read very accurately their teacher’s level of enthusiasm for them as learners and for the discipline they teach.”  You will find teachers leading the way as they create an interactive process with their groups to ensure the tempo of the learning process leads upwards and becomes all embracing.

The Ability To Engage –  The ability to engage refers to teacher’s skills in attracting, holding and directing participant’s attention through purposeful interactions with resources and others.  Roslyn, ” This means teachers need to channel the or communication abilities, their power, knowledge, authority and talents for the benefit of those who are learning.”  As a mentor you need to develop the skills to help you assess the progress of each person and then connect easily with those who may need to make adjustments to the way they take on information and then deliver appropriate outcomes, based on this learning.

Expertise – This takes into account the expertise and knowledge required to successfully pass on information to those you are developing. An understanding of the needs of those under your care is also necessary in order to create an level field for all participants. Roslyn, ” Expert teachers can model best practices and have a finely differentiated understanding of their subject matter. They are able to convey a vision beyond the here and now, along with an ability to explain to those learning the place of subject knowledge and learning processes in overall intellectual and emotional growth.”

We see clearly, if you decide to enrich the lives of those around you by developing their skills and show them new ways to attack problem solving, maintain a feeling of being valuable through their improved contributions, all being made possible through honest teaching, then you as the teacher and they as the students will grow together through the appreciation of this great gift. Really it is not complicated. The four valuable concepts which Roslyn Arnold details and explains to us, are simple to follow. Yet, they are worth their weight in gold. I am left with the feeling that there is no better way to move people towards you in a welcoming way, than to develop teaching techniques and pass them onto those you care for and those who will then reward you with the results that will follow.

Hayley James .



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