Be Teachable

I’ve been involved in teacher training and professional development for a long time. A lot of the time, I’m trying to keep up the good fight against so many preconceived notions about what makes a better teacher.

There is a general culture of thought that professes content knowledge as being primary on the “good teacher” checklist. In general, I agree however with English language teaching – it isn’t a quality that often translates into more effective teaching / teacher delivery and enactment of the curriculum.

Too often, teachers believe that getting a degree and knowing their Selinker and Gaas inside and out automatically makes them a better teacher. Bullocks! We all know many big-brained professors who taught like wet socks. It just doesn’t work that way.

Despite my own career and many degrees, I’m convinced that certification more often than not actually hurts teachers and detrains them – especially language teachers. There is nothing but a lot of perpetuated misinformation about what makes for good teaching / a good teacher.

I suggest what’s most important is what the teacher does in the classroom. Both their implicit/innate ability to relate to students, accommodate, adapt, personalize on the go in the classroom. What we often call “transaction”. Also what counts is the explicit knowledge of skills and strategies of how to deliver content. Also important are people skills, interpersonal skills go a long way – teaching IS strongly orientated towards building relationships.

There is a lot of people who right put high on the list – intrapersonal skills, primarily reflective teaching practices. I agree but I do think one much bigger intrapersonal skill is more important – being teachable.

I’ve found over the years that it is not those teachers seeking out degrees and trainings that are stellar. It’s rather those that remain open to new ideas, to change, to adapting their teaching practices to differing environments that really are stellar. It’s this openess to change, being a learner oneself that is so important. That’s why my moniker has always been “When one teaches, two learn.”

This article is really good food for thought – What Makes An Expert. Though not directly related to teaching, it focuses on what makes someone rise to the top of their profession/interest. So many valuable lessons for teachers all revolving around the notion that “teachers are made, not born” (another big myth we have out there). Please read at your leisure and comments welcomed.

To end, here is my own list of the myths that exist about – “A Better Teacher”. I’ll refrain from commenting on them and leave this for another post.

1. Teachers are of a certain character type/personality.
2. Professional development always is beneficial and teachers never “get worse”.
3. There is a relationship between increased subject knowledge and increased teaching effectiveness.
4. Teacher pay has no bearing on how effective they will teach.
5. Teaching is an academic subject and there is a set body of knowledge all teachers should know.
6. What a teacher thinks about their student’s abilities does not influence their teaching or educational outcomes.
7. A degree represents a better teacher than one without, all other things equal.

If you liked this post, you’ll be interested in this one: The #1 teaching factor effecting student success.

Also published on Medium.

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