Teachers are made, not born

Behind a decent grade or a thriving student is a selfless passionate teacher. Such teachers are not simply endowed with exceptional, innate inspirational powers; they are made!

“Big changes are needed in schools, too, to ensure that teachers improve throughout their careers. Instructors in the best schools hone their craft through observation and coaching rather than some fallacy that teaching is a call. Head teachers should hold novices’ hands by, say, giving them high-quality lesson plans and arranging for more experienced teachers to cover for them when they need time for further study and practice.”

1487707796Christine-Osae
Christine Osae

Behind a decent grade or a thriving student is a selfless passionate teacher. Such teachers are not simply endowed with exceptional, innate inspirational powers; they are made!

 

Surprisingly, efforts to ensure that every teacher can actually teach effectively have always been hobbled by the tenacious myth that good teachers are born, not made. The premise that teaching ability is something you either have or don’t is mistaken. Just as sports coaches help athletes of all abilities to improve their personal best,ordinary teachers can be coached to greatness.

 

Education has a history of lurching from one miracle solution to the next. At one point it focusses on the section of teachers it conveniently refers to as unqualified. At another, it pronounces take-home-peanuts for teachers every month yet expects ridiculous results from the same. It may also suffice to state that whenever poor teachers are fired, new ones are needed—and they will have been trained in the very same system that failed to make fine teachers out of their predecessors. Why then not coach the so called ordinary teachers?

 

The idea of improving the average teacher cantransform the entire profession. The fact is that teachers usually qualify following a long, specialized course. This often involves airy discussions of theory—on pedagogy, possibly. Some of these courses, including masters degrees in education, have no effect on how well their graduates’ pupils end up being taught.

What teachers fail to learn in universities and teacher-training colleges they rarely pick up on the job. They become better teachers in their first few years as they get to grips with real pupils in real classrooms, but after that improvements tail off. This is largely because schools neglect their most important pupils: teachers themselves. How many teachers can honestly say they have ever had a chance to learn by sitting in on another teacher’s lessons; or have been asked to give feedback on their peers?

If this is to change, teachers need to learn how to impart knowledge and prepare young minds to receive and retain it. Yet instilling these techniques is easier said than done. With teaching as with other complex skills, the route to mastery is not abstruse theory but intense, guided practice grounded in subject-matter knowledge and pedagogical methods. Teacher-training institutions need to be more rigorous. It is essential that teacher-training colleges start to collect and publish data on how their graduates perform in the classroom.

Big changes are needed in schools, too, to ensure that teachers improve throughout their careers. Instructors in the best schools hone their craft through observation and coaching rather than some fallacy that teaching is a call. Head teachers should hold novices’ hands by, say, giving them high-quality lesson plans and arranging for more experienced teachers to cover for them when they need time for further study and practice.

In conclusion, improving the quality of the average teacher is the best way to raise the profession’s prestige, setting up a virtuous cycle in which more talented graduates clamor to join. However, the biggest gains will come from preparing new teachers better, and upgrading the ones already in classrooms. The lesson is clear; it now just needs to be taught.

The writer is a Language Consultant

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