Teacher or Friend?

I've seen many different teaching styles, some more effective than others. I have my own opinions about what the habits and practices of good English teachers: what they do, what they don't do; what they say, what they don't say. What they wear, what they eat... OK, the last two we can leave up to the employers.. but all-in-all, I felt sure I knew what was 'good', when I saw it.

Recently someone who works for once of the main English test conductors told me that one of the questions she asked the candidates was 'What makes a good teacher'? The answers, she said, were often surprising.

Does a student know what's best for them? Does it matter of the student doesn't like the teacher?

I always thought of a teacher as being like a doctor. Someone who knew best for the 'patient'. The expert, with specialised knowledge that could be called upon to 'treat' the subject, and make him or her better. I usually felt that it didn't really matter if the student liked the teacher, or not. Of course there is something deep inside which wants to be liked, but then perhaps there is something else which wants to be good and to dish out what is right for that person in front of us, regardless of whether it is a bitter medicine, or not.

My friend told me that not a single candidate mentioned ability to teach, and certainly nothing as specific as methodology or teaching techniques. And interestingly, no-one, at least within the small number of candidates she interviewed, mentioned knowledge. They all ranged, she said, within the realm of the subjective, even from the most rational of candidates. Passion for the subject, was often cited, as well as charisma and personality more generally. But most, she told me, said: showing that s/he cares about the student.

How a teacher shows that she or he cares, I can't tell you. If it really matters, or helps students to learn, I couldn't say. But I am sure it is worth listening to students, and we shouldn't train teachers without a consideration for the emotional aspects of language, teaching, and learning.


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