Instead of answering it, I'll post a text which I think describes very well our roles. Maybe some of you already know...
In 1990, I wrote a book for trainee teachers who would be teaching teenagers on Holiday Courses in Britain. I used a different apprach to the 'list' quoted in the previous reply.
What do you think students need?
How do you feel about the statements below? Your reactions will help you to systematise your philosophy of foreign language teaching on holiday courses.
1 The students have come to learn about the theories of language, they don't want to learn how to use it.
2 They are more interested in the English of past centuries than present day language and life.
3 Beware of making your lessons varied and interesting, students are inspired by boredom and monotony.
4 When they first arrive they feel relaxed, happy and secure.
5 They are accustomed to learning English in small, informal classes with students of many different nationalities and a teacher who is a native speaker of English.
6 Students love listening to the teacher's personal opinions, they don't want to express their own.
7 They prefer teachers who are stern and severe, they hate smiles and jokes.
8 They enjoy sitting at their desks in the classroom for hours every day. They don't want to move around or go out and experience English at work in shops, post offices, railway stations, etc.
9 They find it easier to understand reading and listening texts about obscure topics rather than subjects in which they have some knowledge and experience.
10 Students come to classes hoping that the teacher will ridicule all their mistakes and tell them that they are lazy and stupid.
11 Teachers should not apply any system of discipline until anarchy breaks out. It is easy to impose discipline when it becomes necessary.
12 Teachers who speak in strong clear voices should try to become as incomprehensible as possible. It is the only way students will gain a real command of English.
13 Teachers can assume that all students know how to express politeness in English.
14 Language classes should never refer to social activities, sports, excursions, accommodation, meals, or any other aspect of the holiday course.
15 Never decorate your classroom. The students prefer the pristine beauty of bare notice boards.
16 Unplanned lessons are usually relaxed and effective.
17 Teachers should always stick to the text book and never introduce materials which may be more relevant to the students.
18 Teachers should present themselves to their classes as all-knowing beings who are incapable of error.
19 All students remember the days when the Beatles were together and 1968 was a turning point in their youth.
20 The purpose of language classes is to occupy the students while the sports specialists and other staff relax and plan their activities.
What makes a good teacher?
Ask this question to a number of teachers and students and you are likely to get answers that closely resemble the following:
A good teacher should be kind and patient.
A good teacher should really love teaching.
A good teacher should be lively and entertaining.
A good teacher is able to motivate learners.
A good teacher has a good knowledge of his/her subject.
A good teacher should have good rapport and interaction with the class.
A good teacher should be able to involve all students equally throughout the lesson.
A good teacher should be able to correct students without offending them or affecting their motivation.
A good teacher should know students’ weaknesses and try to give help
We can see that the first four examples above are concerning a teacher’s personality, whereas examples five to eight are more of a reflection on the relationship between the teacher and the students.
So, what exactly does make a good teacher? I think a simple answer may be, a teacher that really cares about his/her teaching, but cares even more about the learning of the students.
A good teacher should be prompt maker, involve the students,
and make them participate in activities.
A good teacher needs to be an artist, an actor, a psychologist, a manager, and a leader.
I agree that teachers generally should have these characteristics. In fact, we think of some sort of perfectionism (idealized version of teachers) which is impossible to achieve. It seems that one important element in learning is ignored, and it is the learners who will make a difference if they are willing. Unfortunately, psychology is on the learners' side rather than that of the teachers. Psychology gives the impression that learners are very sensitive creatures and teachers should "go by hog' to treat them as if they were mothers. Learners get spoilt and think that they can achieve their goals without pains (working hard). Teachers should never pressure them simply because they are easily affected and heartbroken. What I would like you to discuss is how learners could have a cooperative role to create an environment conducive to mutual respect and learning. Probably many of us, including myself, were educated based on a traditional system where there was not much affection, and things were done by compulsion and physical punishment. However, we learnt. I hope I am not giving impression that I agree to the traditional system of education. Rather,I think of a situation where there is collaboration between teachers and management and cooperation between teachers and learners.
Top 10 signs that you are a great teacher:
1. You see each child as a child, and not a diagnosis.
2. You see your class as individuals, not as a drawer full of case files.
3. You keep your sense of humor agains all odds.
4. You deal with upset kids, clueless administrators, and pushy parents with grace and dignity.
5. You're not afraid to be flexible and creative.
6. You know when to make a stand and when to choose your battles.
7. You see parents as allies, not enemies.
8. You never give anybody any doubts as to why you went into teaching.
9. You love your job and it shows.
10. Your students love you, too.
-by Chris Franek
That is a great question to which some very good answers have been given in response. I will give a more simplified answer that relates more to the character qualities that underly a great teacher. Specifically, there are three qualities I would like to highlight. Great language teachers: (1) have an innate ability to connect to their students (2) have a palpable sense of joy and passion when they teach (3) bring an incredible amount of imagination to their craft. There are other qualities I could bring up but those are the main ones Due to time limitations, I'll just spend a moment discussing the first quality (which is related to the last two coincidentally).
How many great teachers have you had in your lifetime? Think hard. In our lives, we end up having lots of teachers but how many of them really make a lasting impression on us? How many are unforgettable? If you are a teacher, have you ever made an impression on a student that they'll never forget? We're lucky if we can count on one hand the number of truly great teachers in our lives.
What is it that makes those select few teachers so unforgettable? I believe that one of the biggest fundamental ways that they do this is though their powerful ability to connect to their students. Great teachers always have a way of naturally connecting to their students. Their students are drawn to them. This is rarely due to their pedagogical skills or how much knowledge of language learning theories they possess. Being a great teacher is not about techniques nor is the learning process analgous to pouring knowledge into one's head. That's not to suggest that the skillful use of teaching techniques has no value. It's just that teaching techniques alone do not necessarily translate into great learning experiences. If following a recipe was the only prerequisite to preparing a great meal, we could all be great chefs. The reality is that we don't celebrate great menus. We celebrate great chefs because great chefs, like great teachers, are artists more than scientists.
The ability to connect is not a skill. That's an innate quality that the teacher either has or doesn't have. It can be developed but it can't really be learned because it is not a technique. It's part of his character. A great teacher has the ability to connect to his students because he, himself, is profoundly connected to his craft, to culture, and to himself. It's easy to connect to others when there is a deep sense of connection to what it is that you are doing with your life. We find great teachers interesting for the same reasons we find anyone interesting. Interesting people are sincerely interested in things outside of themselves. Great teachers are fascinated with their students' stories. In general, you will find the great language teachers to be xenophilic in that they have an affinity for all things foreign--foreigners, foreign culture, foreign cuisine, and foreign (new) experiences.
If you want to know a great teacher, you need not necessarily look at his resume but simply judge your own experience with him/her. There will be no need for a formal evaluation because you will simply be caught by him.
I couldn't agree more that good teaching is all about connecting with your learners, with their lives, their goals, and their learning styles. I also think it's important to help learners to connect with the material you're using, and with each other too, so it includes the facilitative way in which a teacher helps to create a good learning environment both inside and outside the classroom. We mustn't underestimate the power of a charismatic teacher, but I do think this ability to connect is something which we can develop however.
Not that hard to be a good teacher, but what does it take to be an exceptional teacher! Personally, I would want to learn with an exceptional teacher, not just a good one. There are many aspects to that, a key one being that they inspire me to be better than I believe I can be by who they are, what they say, what they get me to do and as importantly, by what I achieve.