I have often asked myself what are attributes of a good teacher? What kind of a teacher do I want to be seen and remembered as? What are some of my strongest attributes that shine through when teaching?
When I think back to my early years in grade school the teachers that seem to stand out to me from my experiences as a learner usually always shared the following attributes ( in no particular order)…they were patient, kind, had a good sense of humour and were open about themselves ( including their flaws) towards their students. These teachers I remember with fond memories had an honest yet confident air about them and each one was unique in their own way.
One teacher in particular, who I will always remember for their keen interest in adventure would often share with the class he and his family’s exciting weekends away. Whether it was mountain climbing, kayaking and/or camping he would let us get to know a bit more of a personal side of him (without sharing too much) as this helped students see him as a person and for many of us who lived in a small town and had not yet had much adventure in our lives it helped to supplement our learning. As described in Brookfield’s book ” The Skillful Teacher” ( 2015) the above mentioned quality can be referred to as ” Disclosing Personhood”, “…the perception students have that their teachers are flesh- and – blood human beings with lives and identities outside the classroom” ( Brookfield, 2015, p. 52)
Although, I often remember this particular teacher showing the class photos and mentioning a particular activity that involved a local field trip that he wanted to take our class on – I also remember the fact that for some reason the school year went by and we although we did in fact go on the field trip we were never able to complete the follow up activity which I believe this teacher spoke often about. As a young person I was crushed that we didn’t get to complete the activity as I was really looking forward to it and remember the class talking about it weekly (almost daily at one time). When I finally got the courage up to asked my teacher about why we didn’t get to complete the activity he simply shrugged his shoulders and responded nonchalantly that we just didn’t get around to it. This brings me to another point that Brookfield makes in his book “Keeping Your Words and Actions Congruent”….”Nothing destroys students’ trust in teachers more quickly than seeing teachers espousing one set of principles or commitments (for example, to democracy, participatory learning, critical thinking, or responsiveness to students’ concerns) and then behaving in ways that contradict themselves” ( Brookfield 2015, p.49) Even though the scenerio mentioned with my grade school teacher was not a particularly life altering situation – I do to this day ( nearly three decades later) remember the lack of follow through on something that we were promised. It is because of this experience I have vowed to myself to ensure that if I am speaking to something or getting students excited about an activity I will make every effort possible to ensure it comes to fruition as I believe this is an essential part of being a good teacher – following through with what I say we will do.
Brookfield, S.D., (2015). The Skillful Teacher, On Technique, Trust, and Responsiveness in the Classroom. (3rd ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.