Jim Damico, 126
I think most of us, especially TCCS volunteers would love to teach, but we’re here as “teacher trainers” and that is a much tougher job. We need to share what we believe makes good teachers – because good teachers mold great students. Here are 5 things that I believe should always be in the back of our minds when working with our counterparts, regardless if we are English teachers or in any other way work with youth.
1) Student-Centeredness: A Guiding Philosophy
Students (and youth) are at the center of everything we do. That’s why we’re here; that’s our purpose, to make the world a better place by helping that most precious resource—children, and in turn teachers, by giving them the tools necessary to be the bright future we hope they will be.
Unfortunately too many teachers regard their students as an obstacle of some sort, but it’s important to bring humanism, compassion and empathy to the teaching and learning processes. Student-Centered learning is proving both superior to other methods, and a far more enjoyable teaching and learning experience. To really drive this idea home counterparts need to see their students as individuals who are tackling an objective, rather than as merely the recipients of today’s lesson.
This is a crucial idea that should permeate everything we do with our counterparts. We need to get co-teachers to ask students lots of questions and to genuinely check their understanding of new material. We need to urge more enlightened, thoughtful disciplinary measures and condemn the use of homework as a punishment.
2) Awareness of Our Students
During our lessons, while our co-teacher is teaching, we should ask “What’s happening in the classroom?” so that we can examine it a little further after class with them. Teachers, or anyone who works with kids, need to be aware of what’s happening at every desk, and in every conversation.
A quick survey is revealing. It might be that not everyone is paying attention when they should be; perhaps some are doodling or otherwise looking bored. Others are engaged and they may be monopolizing the teacher’s time and attention, while on the other side of the classroom another group has wandered off topic.
We can use these moments of 20/20 hindsight to remind our co-teachers, and ourselves, that we need to be aware of what’s happening at every desk, in every conversation, for as much of the class as possible. It’s a skill that needs to be developed steadily. Reflecting on one’s own teaching in this way helps develop a ‘radar’ for the classroom environment and eventually it becomes second nature.
3) Awareness of Oneself
This is where things can get really uncomfortable. In Thai culture one is rarely criticized, even with constructive criticism. We must always phrase feedback as positively as possible and in small doses. We should pick one thing that requires very little effort to correct and focus on that. Small, positive gains because of our feedback will make more critical feedback easier to discuss later in our service. For example, say to your co-teacher, ‘Feel free to move away from your desk for a while to see what’s going on’ rather than as an indictment, ‘Don’t just sit there while your students are doing whatever they want, ten meters away’.
For some teachers, going to work each day is little more than a means of paying the rent. But we should view the teaching profession as on a par with medicine or law as a (potentially) multi-decade career choice which grows from ‘vocation’ to ‘profession’, and eventually to a ‘lifestyle’. Some teachers end up truly living and breathing their work, undertaking a ceaseless search for new methods or techniques and talking about little else all day (probably to the growing irritation of their partners). They’re the backbone of global teaching and deserve our thanks and praise.
But for our Thai teachers this attitude may not make a lot of sense. Some teachers will tell you, “I just want to have fun in the classroom, help the students out, get my paycheck and go home.” What right do we have to expect them to view teaching the same way we do?
We don’t. But these little techniques and reminders will yield huge dividends:
- Thorough, conscientious lesson planning
- An open attitude to feedback and professional development
- Careful paperwork, records and attendance
- Good humor, a willingness to laugh at oneself (including when the teacher has made a mistake), and a ready smile. You can be serious about learning and still have fun!
- A genuine interest in language: how it works, why it changes, and how to express and explain it concisely.
Try to bring one or more of these into every feedback session.
Good preparedness is part of a contract all teachers should enter into. If we are to convince our co-teachers and our students to study, then we must be thoroughly prepared for the class. The sense that both teachers and students are working hard for each other is a priceless and hard-won aspect of the most successful classroom environments.
5) Techniques That Work
By the time we finish working with your counterparts after two years, it’s best if our co-teachers have a small but useful armory of tried and tested teaching techniques. From this initial basis our co-teachers can branch out, research, experiment, observe others, and build up their own repository of methods, materials, plans and examples. The basic package could includes:
- A reflective, honest method of self-evaluation
- A willingness to ask for help
- The habit of counting how many questions they ask and a resolution to ask more in each class.
- Systems for ensuring student equality, randomizing question patterns, giving suitable praise and monitoring activities.
We can’t hope to equip our co-teachers with everything they really need but we can instill a guiding philosophy of honesty, preparedness and openness.
Our co-teachers will make plenty of mistakes, as will we, and each mistake should be regarded as a learning opportunity and certainly not as a reason to give up and leave the challenge of teaching to someone else. A good plan, well-prepared materials and explanations, and a sense of humor will see our colleagues through some of the challenges. After that, they’ll be in a position to build their own professional competence and to begin to excel in the classroom.
The original article that this was based on is at:
Jim Damico is part of TCCS 126, extending a 3rd year, and on theT4D Committee https://sites.google.com/site/pcthailandwiki2/pcv-resource-groups/ict
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