How to be an exceptional teacher

How to be an exceptional teacher

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This is a loaded topic and perhaps needs many iterations of the same thing told through different angles and perspectives. For this piece, lets stick to the most obvious part: how to teach exceptionally well. The problem is with the word ‘teach’ itself. In today’s internet-driven times, the children know more than the teacher or the textbook they are referring to. The upshot? They might not listen to you in class because either they find your lecture boring or they know the subject already. So how do you become a good teacher? Here are some tips that could get you started… on a different line of thought.

No egos, please, we are only students

Yes, that’s right. They have come to learn and it’s your job to make your lecture interesting enough for them to learn something. If it’s drab or treading the well-trodden path that is obvious or repetitive, it’s bound to numb your students. Make it interesting by life insights and other practical examples. Children learn through real-life anecdotes. Who doesn’t love a good story? Ditch the theory and make them understand concepts. They don’t need to memorise the exact definition of something. They need to know how to measure temperature. If you teach them well, they will come up with the formula for it. That’s real teaching. Making children stumble from the unknown to the known and not vice versa. But what do conventional educational systems do? They teach children to mug up the formulas and spellings even though they have no clue what they mean. Whose fault is it? Yours, dear teacher, for not teaching them, the right way. So don’t hide behind discipline and etiquette to punish the students when your lecture methodology is not attention-grabbing enough. Ditch your ego, and learn.

Interactivity works wonders

Switching roles can be a mixed blessing for students but here again, the lecturer can make the crucial difference. The studious but reserved students can be asked to become a instructor and use the blackboard to write out their formulas and solve equations while those with the gift of the gab can explain the concepts to the class by taking on the role of the professor. This works for students who can understand it better if it comes from someone their own age.

Grades matter, but…

There’s a school of thought that if you only score straight A’s, your lecturer is not good enough. If there are brilliant students in your class, don’t bore them with average knowledge that you are imparting to the rest of the class. Pick them out and challenge them with more difficult assignments. Don’t make them problem solve in their sleep. Make their job tougher. That’s how you keep them interested in your class and also help them raise their standards. Use different strokes with different students to make them learn what they need. Importantly, help them fail, so they can succeed. If they don’t learn to fail, they will be pampered silly about straight As that they may get into depression at the first sign of a job loss. Prepare them for life. Teach them the equal joys of failure and success. Both are stepping stones to balancing work and life.

Stop droning on… and on…

Disciplining children is top priority for several lecturers, but little do you realise that this will again become a monotonous exercise that will upset even the most studious in class. Keep your disciplining to the minimum, and instead work on why you failed with one student. For all you know, you could come across a solution. But by just saying that the student is dumb or a rebel doesn’t make you learn anything in return. In any educational class, one or the other party should learn something. If the students don’t get it, the teacher should learn to do something differently or new. If the students get it, then the lecturer should learn to do something novel to take the learning to the next level.

Observe, observe, observe

Some teachers are unmindful of what’s in front of them and keep droning on and on. Stop it right now and read on. Keep a watchful eye not just on the problem makers but also on the collective wakefulness of your class. The moment you notice that the students have got bored of it or feel overloaded with what you just taught them, bring down the temperatures by cracking a joke or asking the students what they would like to do in the next five minutes. Or you could just talk about the weather. Be an intuitive teacher and you will always know the pulse of your students and your pupils will love you for it.

Don’t publicly shame them

Disciplining students should be done in private. This is no ego battle. At least, it should not be between you and the student. Then, you have fallen into the pupil’s trap. They want it and you are giving it to them. Don’t and they would have lost the battle. If you have to reprimand, take them aside or speak to them later about why it’s best for them, not because they are disturbing your class but because they are spoiling their career, and that you worry about their future growth and care little about their antics in class. If the students understand that you really care about their educational growth, they will eventually come around, atleast some of them. However, don’t get too emotionally involved with your students. It’s important for them to step out of your shadow and mark their own territory. Just be there to guide them when they need it and show them that you care just enough for them to march on to their own beat.

Teaching is a lifelong learning experience. Keep teaching, and keep learning.


Also published on Medium.

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