BTR-TESOL Unit 3A - Developing a Successful Teaching Personality
This unit will introduce you to ten categories of personality traits that are important to successful teaching. Identify one of the ten categories you want to start working on in order to develop a successful teaching personality. After improving one of them, select another one and continue going down the list.
As you go through the scenario, think of:
Iva: “I remember my math teacher in high school. She was always very serious and never smiled. We could never approach her to ask questions because we felt that she would think less of us. She had her two or three favorite students, and when someone gave a wrong answer, she made a comment in her notebook, which made me feel embarrassed. It was altogether a frightening experience for me. After high school, I threw away all of my notes from that class and was determined to choose a major that did not require a single math class. I was lacking the self–confidence in math, and I simply hated it. Later I found out that my goal was very hard to reach. If I wanted to study at the university, I had to take at least one math class to fulfill the general university requirements.”
“I went to the second best university in the country and was scared as the time came to take my only math class. It was a very hard class filled with concepts I had never heard of. Our teacher was an older guy with a very relaxed personality who crushed all of my prejudices about math teachers. He promised us that if we worked hard, did not give up, and asked for help, we would never fail his class. It gave me hope. His classes were always well–prepared. The time in class went fast and soon the class was over. He could even joke about boring numbers. Finally, math started making sense, and I ended up with a good grade and decided to switch from humanities to a business major."
At the end of this unit you will be able to explain:
Most teachers want to succeed – teach the material effectively so it leads to a student’s long-term improvement and a good relationship with students. In fact, the normal hierarchy of novice teacher’s needs is first to have enough materials for the classroom, second, to receive a positive response from the students and third to sense that the class fulfills students’ needs. That is why the questions “How can I be a successful teacher?” and “What characteristics do I need to have?” are the first questions every teacher tries to answer.Much research has been done not only among students but also among teachers themselves. Thousand of different answers have been given, grouped and ranked according to importance. For our purposes, I have chosen ten categories that include > characteristics that have taken the lead from among these answers. They are fairly simple, and in spite of that, they seem to contribute to the effective and enjoyable teaching for students and even more so for teachers:
* The order does not imply order of importance
New books, computer programs, and teaching methods can help you to better address students' needs and make lessons more interesting, effective and fun. Publishers’ websites or professional TESOL journals provide you with an overview of what publications are on the market.
To be respectful to your students and create a positive environment where they feel welcomed will be easier if you take the time to get to know your students as we discussed previously. You will learn quickly that students are very sensitive to how you approach them: more specifically how you address them, answer their questions, and react to their mistakes.
It is easier to build a relationship with teachers who show respect towards students in their voice, nonverbal communication, and feedback. Teachers should also respect comments even though they might not always be correct. Moreover, the important rule of every lesson, activity, and relationship building is patience. Such an attitude will encourage students to keep trying and to participate. The class will become more of a learning experience rather than time for the brightest students to demonstrate their knowledge.Back
Being fair becomes especially important in terms of grading. Here are some tips to help you with fair grading:
The feedback that a teacher provides during and after the class, or even following the test is very important. Make sure the feedback comes promptly, so students can benefit from it. Just marking the mistake usually does not help students to understand what went wrong. They will most likely need a detailed explanation with an example to really understand the problem.
Feedback needs to be seen as a part of a learning process rather than an additional activity that comes in play only if time permits. This requires good time management skills and planning that will allow you to provide adequate feedback as soon as possible.
A follow up interview, office–hours appointment (only possible in certain settings), detailed comments, question/answer block at the beginning of the class, and group work where students can help each other out and make comments will assist you in providing prompt quality feedback.Back
Let’s look at our scenario or maybe your personal example one more time. How do classes that start late from unorganized teachers affect students’ attitude and determination in terms of performance? In fact, the way a teacher acts has a big impact on how seriously students take the class and how involved they become. If a teacher masters these two principles, students come to understand that a teacher does not only invest a lot into teaching but also has high expectations. These two characteristics "to be punctual and prepared" go hand in hand.
You might be well prepared, but if you are not on time, you have to compromise between the time left and your students' needs. A good strategy to master these two things is to plan and prepare your lessons in advance. Lessons prepared in advance can be more easily adjusted according to the students’ immediate needs and classroom situations. Having the time you planned will help you to pay attention to individual questions, go more into detail, and adjust lessons according to the discussion.Back
Let’s look at some ways in which lessons can be made more engaging, on target, and fun. For example, how many ways are there to teach students about the American Constitution? One way is that you can ask them to read a chapter from a textbook and quiz them on it later after you gave the same lecture from the book. The other way would be to ask students to look up information before class as homework. At the beginning of class you can show pictures of the main characters, and in groups students can match the names with pictures and roles they played in the constitution. The winning team can get some extra points or candy. Movies or short clips are good ways to get the students’ attention and help them remember facts. Students can also create a timeline as part of their notes while you give the lecture.
Interactive lessons actively engage students in a learning process where they have to use multiple skills such as writing, art, or speaking. By making connections to the real world by using authentic materials, students will be more alert, motivated, and will most likely go beyond the textbook to learn more.Back
As we have already mentioned, students are very receptive to the teacher’s behavior. In fact, it is you-the teacher who sets the tone of the class and functions as an example. The teacher’s attitude, enthusiasm, and sense of humor will motivate and engage students in a subject. Enthusiasm and a good attitude bring life into textbooks and other material that might not be otherwise well received. Even the driest subject can be enjoyed if taught with enthusiasm and by using engaging activities as illustrated in the previous point. Don’t be afraid to be creative and use new activities if appropriate. Using real-life examples and materials will help you in this task.
Research shows that students appreciate a good sense of humor used appropriately as well as a happy relaxed teacher who brings positive feelings into their classroom. Knowing what appropriate behavior is in different cultures will help you to build a better relationship with your students.Back
On the other hand, students from some cultures (such as many in Asia) might be reluctant to talk to a teacher. Being aware of what the standard of a particular country is will help you to reach your goals by finding appropriate solutions.
Critiquing is another very sensitive subject that varies from culture to culture. Often students are not entitled to interfere with the structure or the content of the course but need to follow the teacher’s instruction completely. You need to make sure that students understand the purpose of communicating their opinions and making suggestions.
ConclusionIn this unit we have mentioned ten important characteristics that according to students, teachers and administrators describe a successful teaching personality. Moreover, being a good teacher is like a puzzle. As you keep these principles in mind while you prepare and teach your classes, you will see how they all work together, how missing pieces makes teaching and outcomes weak, and how every piece of this puzzle contributes to good teaching experiences.
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This website offers a free personality test based on the Myers-Briggs Personality Inventory that will help you determine your personality type and indicate what your strengths are and what the areas you might need to work on are.
Characteristics of the Novice Teachers. This document was created at the West Virginia University and includes 10 characteristics that novice teachers should posses. Accessible online at:
http://depts.hre.wvu.edu/ ssteel/educ312/gen_ info/characteristics.pdf
Angela Provitera McGlynn. Successful Beginnings for College Teaching. Publisher: Atwood Publisher. 2001. ISBN-13 9781891859380. $ 21,95. This book “shows you the many tools and strategies you can employ to get your classes off to a positive fruitful start – right from the very first day”.
Peter G. Filene. The Joy of Teaching: A Practical Guide for New College Instructors. University of North Carolina Press. 2005. ISBN-13: 9780807856031. $14,88. “Rather than prescribe any single model for success, Filene lays out the advantages and disadvantages of various pedagogical strategies, inviting new teachers to make choices based on their own personalities, values, and goals…”
Brown, D. Teaching by Principles. An Interactive Approach to Language Pedagogy. Chapter 25: Lifelong Learning: Teacher Development. New York: Pearson Longman. 2007. ISBN-13: 9780130282835. $ 40.00. This chapter explains the importance of classroom observation, collaboration between teachers, research in order to become a better teacher as well as what “good” language teacher should be like.
Harmer, J. The Practice of English Language Teaching. Chapter 6: Describing Teachers. New York: Pearson Longman. 2007. ISBN: 9781405853118 . $ 39.89. This chapter provides a good introduction into what teaching is and what teacher’s roles are.