I often wonder about who is a teacher? Or what defines a good teacher. People often expect a teacher to inspire and motivate. How exactly does a teacher do that?
A teacher without passion can suck out the soul and spirit of eager young minds much like a dementor in the Harry Potter stories. Unfortunately, many join up as teachers because “they did not get anything better”.
So passion is an obvious prerequisite but for what?
A passion to make students comfortable – not just with the subject, but with themselves.
A classroom should be a place where students lose their inhibitions and can ask questions without fear. To enable this, the teacher should discuss the subject as an equal and not be afraid of being proved wrong.
Every class can be approximated by a bell curve. Kids who do not need a teacher and can learn on their own, form one tail. Kids who are not interested learning form another tail.
The central mound is filled with the so-called average students. Kids who may go on to excel if teacher lend a helping hand. As a teacher, my focus is on this mound. If I can make a small fraction of this group lose their inhibitions and make them believe that they have it in them, I would have done my job well.
This brings us to the title of the post. We need teachers who can go in front of a class and lie without batting an eyelid: I have confidence in you guys. I have faith that you are the best among the world and with some dedication and hard work, you will excel.
It is a lie because there is often very little evidence to back that up! It is a harmless lie and a gamble.
Tell a class that they are no good, chances are only a handful will take offence and work to defy that statement. The rest would see that as proof of what they think about themselves – not much.
Tell a class that “I have confidence in you” (remember that song from Sound of Music?) then it will fire people up. Not all of them, but enough of them.
In order to take such a gamble, the teacher must be a secure person. Mental security comes from professional competence. Clarity of thought tags along with competence.
It is this clarity of thought that defines a good teacher. Clarity about the subject and clarity about their role in a student’s growth curve.
All this sounds nice, but the trouble is, do educational institutions worry about such aspects when they hire teachers?
It is unfortunate that encountering “good teachers” is plain dumb luck. It ought to be way more frequent than that.
A salute to all the teachers who had faith in my ability when I myself did not.