There are nearly as many quotes floating through the universe about teaching as there are about love. One of the most famous, perhaps, being the old adage, “Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach.” But is it necessarily true? Are phys. Ed teachers simply failed athletes and all English teachers simply disconsolate writers? Is teaching simplistic and easy? Or is there something more to the profession? I would say so. While not everyone can easily define it, people can generally point out a poor or a good teacher. Thus, teaching is complex, as is any analysis of the profession. And a good teacher needs to have certain traits.
First of all, a strong teacher does not follow old-fashioned methods. The best teacher does not stand in front of the class and lecture, astounding students with the information that they can expound. The better teachers concentrate more on learning and act, in the classroom, as a facilitator. They provide ways for students to locate or realize answers. They guide students towards insights or understandings. Strong teachers incorporate different learning styles, work on study and research habits, and encourage students to help each other. They model behaviour, strategies, and skills and allow their students opportunities to watch and practice.
As anyone who has ever been in a classroom knows, teaching goes far beyond the exploration of ideas and information. Teaching is about compassion and understanding. The best teachers care about their students as people, and do their best to get to know them. In any given day, a teacher must take on the role of counsellor, nurse, parent, mentor, or coach. Teachers need to help students deal with personal issues and mediate conflicts within a classroom. They try and be aware of what might get in the way of student learning, and try to find the best ways to work around this problems.
Lastly, teachers are patient. (They can’t survive otherwise). In most cases, learning is not something that happens instantly. The understanding of ideas and the development of skills can take place over days, months, or even years. Teachers have to be aware of long-range plans and think of learning as a process that might have some roadblocks in the way. Teachers can’t give up too easily or allow themselves to get discouraged. They have to work with one another in the profession to develop new strategies or continue on with development of skills from year to year. Many rewards that arise in the profession are a long-way off.
Perhaps anyone can teach. A person can stand up in a room and spout off on a topic. But is anyone listening? Did anyone learn anything? That is the key question. The fact is, not every can teach well. Quality teaching is something different, something special. And it requires specific skills. The definition of a good teacher needs to include – among others – the words patient, compassionate, and guide.