By: Ibrahim Sorie Bangura.
Every student has his or her favorite teacher, but that teacher may not be the best qualified person on the teaching staff. In other words, although the mastery of the subject or subjects taught, plus an enthusiastic approach, is an essential prerequisite in a teacher, it is far from being the only qualification. There are some who know their subjects but totally fail to put them across to the students.
Let us first examine the negative side. Unless the teacher has a voice which carries, without shouting, there will always be inattention at the back of the class. There are teachers who cannot stop talking, and who will lecture a class for forty minutes. Most students will be asleep after the first fifteen minutes. There are teachers whose manners and dress are eccentric; they may be popular, but few students take them seriously. There are teachers who either shout at or speak sarcastically to backward students. They are disliked by the whole class. There are teachers who prefer to talk about the football team or a certain television program rather than the subject they are paid to teach. While this again may achieve popularity, it certainly evokes no respect. There are teachers whose lives are marred by drink, drugs, or sexual deviation. These cannot begin to be effective teachers. So what are the positive qualities the student looks for ?
A good teacher must be able to exercise discipline. Teaching cannot begin in an unruly class. In the past, class discipline has usually been strict and inflexible. The more modern approach is to allow more freedom of speech and movement, though no individual can be allowed to dominate proceedings by rough and noisy behavior. All teachers know the difference between a lively and a disruptive student. To be able to exert the right kind of discipline can be learnt, but this is often by bitter experience. There are a few fortunate men and women who have only to walk into a classroom to create order. Unfortunately there are more whose entry is a signal for chaos.
Students are always ready to work to the best of their ability for someone whom they respect, for two reasons. The first is the desire to please that person. The second, more important reason, is the knowledge that the teacher has the student’s best interests at heart.
Study has two objectives, and a careful balance between the two must be kept by the teacher. The first is the ability to instill a love of the subject taught, which will be maintained in adult life. The second is to prepare the students as well as possible for the next examination, be it O or A level or university entrance in some cases. On the other hand, if, say, English is taught exclusively to cover the examination syllabus by means of learning context passages and model answers by heart, the subject will become boring. If there hadn’t too much attention paid to generalizations about literature and its place in social evolution, then the lessons may well be interesting but the student will go unprepared into the examination room.
There should also be a balance between how much work the teacher does and how much the student does. Some modern educational theorists disapprove of any talking by the teacher beyond the bare minimum. Unfortunately, if students’ work is not carefully guided, and if they are given free expression in their approach to any subject, most of them will learn nothing of value. Avoiding the lecture habit, the good teacher, who has already done his or her lesson preparation, will help the student to achieve certain objectives in each lesson by, a mixture of verbal instruction and class work. Television, radio and other visual aids are only marginally helpful, and should be kept to a minimum.
In schools which are not streamed, there will always be class members who are sometimes incapable of doing the work which others find easy. A good teacher will help them individually, sometimes after school hours, and if they are non-achievers, set them simpler work.
To a certain extent, a good teacher needs to be a psychologist, able to detect and advise on mental blockages, which are sometimes due to outside emotional disturbances. A good teacher should be someone you can trust and talk to, and whose sane advice on your personal problems is worth listening to.