Edward Lawrence Marcos Lardizabal
I have been teaching English for the past 3 years and there has always been a perennial problem of finding out if there is a formula to be a great teacher. Prior to taking the TEFL course, I had thought that such a formula exists and it is the panacea to learning English. However after my third week in Oxbridge, I have come to a conclusion that there is no such thing as a perfect methodology. What I did realize is that we can get different elements from every methodology and come up with our own. In this essay, I will try to answer an age old question. What makes a good teacher?
To answer this question, I will be drawing up conclusions from my own experience both as a student and teacher as well as my observation activities with Oxbridge. I went back to my experience as a student and asked myself what were the qualities of my favorite teachers? What qualities do I have than can help me be a good teacher? Among all of the teachers I have seen in Oxbridge what are the general qualities that I like that they exhibit in class? I came up with 3 qualities which are flexibility, authoritative, and engaging. I will take these values in as my own. Flexibility is a very vital quality of a teacher because every student will have a different need and different goal. Teaching is like navigating the seas with a sailboat. I mean, we can’t change the direction of the wind but we can always adjust the sails to take the boat where we want it to go. So if a student is not as fast enough we have to change our pace. If a student needs to learn English for work then we have to adjust our syllabus to his needs by teaching him vocabulary and grammar that will help him become an efficient communicator in his field. Another quality is being authoritative. I have learned this from military school. Authority is not about demanding respect it is about earning respect. It means to be a good example all the time. For instance, if you don’t want your student to be late then we set the pace we have to be on time ourselves. If we want them to work hard we have to work hard as well by making timely and relevant lesson plans. Authority can be found in the use of space and silence. Meaning we should use the space in the classroom well. For instance, if you have a talkative student then we can just stand next to them and start teaching then and there. If the class becomes noisy, we can use silence to our advantage by simple not saying anything until they figure out that they are noisy and that they self-correct their attitude. We can also be authoritative by respecting our students the way we want them to respect us. Lastly, I believe being engaging is a major trait that any teacher should have. Remember if the students love what they do then it would feel like work to them. We need to find their needs and interests and strike a balance between the two.
Delving into the specifics of methodology, I can say that I will have a hodge podge of elements coming from the different paradigms. The method that I think is not very timely nor effective is Behaviorism. This is the method used in the military and is what I’m used to. Its emphasis is the use of drilling, repetition, rewards, and punishment. I think this would work more if we are teaching our dogs some tricks but it’s a different thing for humans. We have a thinking individual who has their own way of thinking and filtering ideas. We don’t have merely passive learners that would acquire knowledge through drills and repetition. However what I do like about Behaviorism is the idea of positive reinforcement. I would totally borrow this from this methodology. It encourages them to keep achieving and it rewards their effort. Although, I will keep the positive statements low as regular use would lessen its effect because they will get the idea that it is easy to be praise so why bother.
Constructivism will be the paradigm that I will be using more often. I believe that learners are active. Engaging them about topic that interests them would be very productive. Moreover, real learning will transpire if they can draw from their previous knowledge and experiences. If ideas connect then there is a higher probability of them retaining the information. I’m also going for the direct method approach. I feel that eliminating translation would help the students more. They are forced to think in L2 and therefore eliminating translation. Direct translation is not really helpful because the context should be taken into consideration. There are also some concepts that don’t have translation.
I firmly believe that spoon feeding is a big blunder. We should encourage our students to self-correct. Once they are aware of their constant mistakes they will have a heightened awareness of those errors and sometimes just by seeing visual cues they know that they’ve committed an error and would automatically correct themselves. This way we know that there is learning. If a vocabulary is difficult we should allow time for them to think and also if the chance comes up we can always ask the class as a group. A teacher should always be careful in error correction. I will make sure that I give my corrections after they speak that I don’t mess up their thought process. The best idea is never say “NO” we can always prompt them by saying “Are you sure?” “Is it buyed or bought?” the answer should always come from them.
In conclusion, everything seems to be good in theory. However, in my years of teaching I’ve learned that lesson plans don’t turn out a 100% the way we imagined it to be. As there is no magic pill that can make us a great teacher we will have to learn to go with the flow. If things don’t turn out the way we plan it then we have to adapt. Experience is the best teacher so we have to learn to evaluate our materials, lesson plans, and the actual lessons. Based on our observation of what work and what didn’t work then we will eventually become the best teacher we can be. The only thing we need to do is to compete with ourselves and make sure that we are a better teacher today than we were yesterday.