Life. Education. Books. Films.

Thursday 3 January 2019

What Makes A Great Teacher

In my life as a student, I have met only a few great teachers. Who is a great teacher to me? First of all, a great teacher need not be working as a teacher. A great teacher transforms some of his students positively and inspires many more to new and greater heights. He cannot but be passionate about teaching, and it is likely he is always in a permanent learning mode. A great teacher creates impact although he may sometimes steer off the syllabus. If you were to ask him why he steered off track, perhaps he would tell you that positive transformation is at the core of the curricula, and therefore, he has stayed true to the purpose of teaching and the curricula.

Mr David Fahy, an Irishman in my secondary school, was more a lion than a school teacher. Much larger than most adult Asians, his size, voice and antics scared the hell out of my classmates. Thinking logically and being articulate in our thoughts was the path that led to a well of knowledge the lion protected. One not to shut his mouth in class, I asked intelligent questions and queried about many things. The lion nodded to me kindly. He knew I was hungry for the knowledge in his well, and he allowed me to lap up. This was about a decade before the birth of the global internet. The lion spewed knowledge, spoke about Aristotle, current world events, major events in history and many other new worlds to me. That single year in 1987, I was a chrysalis, in a bright cocoon, consuming knowledge and envisioning my future and the books I would write (although I could not yet write well!).

From CJC Facebook (2015)
– he still looks youthful!
A positive transformation was taking place, causing the class clown to become analytical and a serious designer of his future. To me, Mr David Fahy was a window to a new world. His knowledge, enthusiasm and thinking methods were what I needed then.  By the way, I just checked the net, and he is currently a senior English teacher at Catholic Junior College. Lucky CJCians!

Azul Terronez, the guy giving the speech below, collected more than 20 thousand responses from students in over 2 decades. He wanted to know from them what makes a good teacher great. Note the distinction between good and great teachers. (It is my belief that Singapore schools are full of good teachers but there is a severe lack of great teachers. By this, I mean that most of our teachers are competent to teach subjects and they may even empower students to score. But only some of them make a positive and transformative impact on the lives of their students.) Anyway, Azul presents students' perspectives on what great teachers are and dissect their statements to arrive at a finer truth. Insightful. Just by hearing what he shares, we can infer that Azul Terronez is probably a great teacher himself, a positive and transformative force in the classroom.

If you are a school teacher, a good question to ask yourself is – are you a good teacher or a great teacher? And if you are not yet great, maybe it is time to scratch your head and seek the path  of becoming a great teacher. Why? Our kids, like kids all over the world, are in need of great teachers.