The Good Ones

Posted: March 17, 2014 in Education

Good Teacher

It was my mother who convinced me to be a teacher. I can remember it plainly: I was in my parent’s bedroom and I was about 11-years old. I told my parents that I wanted to be a lawyer when my mother told me that I should teach English literature and from then on, I’ve thought of nothing else but to be an English literature teacher. It was honestly as simple as that. I’ve wanted to be nothing else.

I don’t know what makes a “quality” teacher or what students would call a “good” teacher. I know what characteristics a good teacher should have, but ultimately, different students react to different types of teachers. For me, I try (notice I said ‘try’) to use humour, but the reality is that some students will find me funny while others will find me annoying and/or awkward. I can’t help that.

If times haven’t changed that much since I was in high school, I will assume students are still looking for the same characteristics: They’re looking for a teacher that’s knowledgeable – let’s face it, whether students want to admit it or not, they want a bright teacher who can teach the material well and answer questions. They’re looking for a teacher that’s approachable – students want to be able to feel comfortable in asking questions when they need clarification/help. They’re looking for a teacher that’s flexible – classes won’t always go according to plan and students love it when the class derails (positively) and the teacher can “go with the flow.” Lastly, they’re looking for a teacher that’s engaging. An engaging teacher encompasses many qualities and this is where humour may come into play.

An engaging teacher cares and respects their students, understands that all students want to learn, and takes the necessary steps to ensure the material is being presented and learned in the best way possible. This does NOT mean making the learning FUN. The idea of “fun” is a whole other topic, but I’ll say this: I am sick of hearing that “learning can be fun!” because the reality is that that’s not always the case. The material can be “engaging” by peaking a student’s interest without it necessarily falling under the category of “fun.” I’ll take this one step further: My Principal, during our research and development sessions, likes to hand out articles for our faculty to peruse. He, self-admittedly, understands that some articles are interesting while others don’t quite fit with the vision of our school. Reading these articles on a Friday morning at 8am is not “fun.” I am not afraid to say that because none of my colleagues would ever admit to that. BUT, whether the articles are jam-packed with useful knowledge or terrible (in some cases), they are engaging. They are engaging because the subject matter has to do with teaching (and learning) and as any good teacher will admit, that is enough for us to be engaged.

Personally, I am a very cocky teacher. I know that sounds terrible, but I want students to understand that I know what I’m talking about and to trust what I am teaching them. Moreover, I never teach anything or have the students complete anything without first understanding why. I show my students how I teach (and mark) and why they have to complete the work that they do. This builds trust. I want my students to feel comfortable asking me for help, and nothing boggles my mind more than when they don’t…I know my colleagues personally and every single one of them would drop what they’re doing to help a student – I know this because I’ve seen it happen regularly (try “bothering” a teacher at lunch time and see their reaction…).

Whether students realize it now or when they are older, there will always be those teachers that students grow attached to. I can think of three: 1) Ms. Bittenbinder – we used to call her “Ms. Bitchenbinder,” but it wasn’t until years later that I realized she was the only one honest enough to tell me how awful my academic writing was, as opposed to feeding me through the system… (she was my grade 12 English lit teacher). 2) Mr. Way-Skinner – he was my eccentric philosophy teacher who was the epitome of “engaging.” 3) Mr. Gallagher – my grade 11 “world studies” teacher who came in at 7am just to help me with my essay writing (yes, a geography teacher helping me with essay writing).

Who would YOU pick? Can you name at least three?

Will I be on someone’s list? I hope so.

“Every morning you have two choices: Either sleep with your dreams or get up and chase them.” – Anonymous

  1. Bishoy Bebawy says:

    I agree Mr. Lee. I really like the way you teach because you’re very direct and lay down the foundations for everything before we do it. Before we started our course in Grade 10, you told us about yourself as a person. You gave us help when we needed it and were always there as a reference for everything we covered and this, indeed builds trust. I also think that students, including myself, do like you because you ca relate to us. You are a young teacher, an inspiration for us and that also helps in making the connection. Personally, I also think that humour does help in engaging the class because although the material we cover is hard to understand, you give us something to laugh about to lighten the mood and reignite interest in what is being covered until we understand it. Once it is understood, it becomes enjoyable. But the process of understanding and sitting through explanations is a boring one. I have actually started to enjoy English class because of your method of teaching, which is normally impossible. Before Grade 10, English was a bore. But I have begun to enjoy it and it is definitely a class I look forward to everyday. I have even considered a career in teaching English as well (haha) because you have helped me develop a passion for it. By the way, you’re definitely on my list!

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