A few weeks ago, this video was released of a teacher in Georgia willingly and maliciously kneeing a special needs student while we stood in a doorway she was trying to enter. Since the video went viral, the teacher has resigned and been arrested for assault, very rightly so.
This blog isn’t about this heinous act, because there’s not space enough to vent my bile, nor would it be productive to do so because I’d probably suffer a coronary in the process. Instead, this whole situation got me ruminating on the role of the teacher in our lives. It may not even be a teacher at a school or college, but I have often thought about what makes a good teacher and what breeds a bad one (of which, sadly, there are many.)
There are plenty of psychological and academic theories, actually too many to recount here, that explain the philosophy of a teacher. The abstract idea of teaching is one of the most difficult to define. If you strip it down to its basics it will read thus: Teaching is the act of imparting knowledge from one individual to another. When we’re learning, we don’t often factor in the people around us and what they’re thinking. Therefore, the bond between a teacher and a student is one of the most uniquely personal to exist in our live experiences.
To be a good teacher, in very broad terms, you have to have three things:
No matter what you teach and where you teach it, there will be differing levels of intelligence and cognition. There could be people with physical or mental needs that differ from any other human being and need special methods of explaining ideas and concepts. There are kids with ADD and developmental disorders that can try one’s patience. It’s up to the teacher to calm themselves enough to the point of being able to control their emotions, which is easier said than done. Too many teachers nowadays teach too much with emotion and with not enough rationality. Grading is based on whim and not a set rubric of expectations and the preferred students will always score a higher grade than the ones that are socially awkward or wallflowers. To be able to teach, you need to be able to unfold ideas slowly and not rush through material. An extra few minutes on a subject that might be glossed over could save a student’s grade and even inspire him.
The mark of an effective communicator is being able to boil down an idea into its very essence and in very simple terms. Any definition and concept can be explained in simple terms with no buzz words and pointless rhetoric. Never has there been a more frustrating experience than when a teacher is vague and ill-prepared to present the idea in a cohesive and mainlined fashion. Students don’t want to have both feet in quicksand while cement is being poured on them from above. If the student understands the basics, it’s that much easier to add the supplementary concepts on top. If you build a house with a weak foundation, the structure will collapse. But if you take the time to lay the basic tenets of the subject as best you can, the student has a better chance of gaining appreciation for the material.
Passion often thought to be a concept driven purely by emotion, but passion is an idea that can be informed by good and bad. If you inform passion using emotion, your arguments will lack focus and the emotion will cause you to forget key concepts and rules. But, if you base the idea of passion on rationality, you can use you natural love for the subject to enhance the subject matter in a positive way. There is nothing worse than a teacher with the personality of a dial tone and the vocal inflection of a Kardashian family member. Passion about a subject, and even teaching in general, can pay vast dividends for the students under your tutelage. There’s something interesting to grasp in any subject, even in one that you dislike violently. My bête noire happens to be math. For years I struggled with even the most basic concepts but, one day, I encountered a teacher (who would later become my academic team coach) who was able to present the basic functions of math in a way that was clear and was filled with love for the basic ideals of the subject at hand.
These three things are the cornerstones, the pillars, of a good teacher. These things, which are basic, broad concepts are the key to unlocking the world of ideas and inspiration for a student, whether they be five or a hundred and five. Every one of us learns every single day throughout our lives, whether it be able nature, love or how to bake the perfect apple pie.
Using these three tools, even if you’re not a teacher, can improve your life vastly. Teachers are intelligent, brilliant and dedicated individuals who are often responsible for the student becoming a successful thinker. With these three pillars in mind I ask all of you, teachers, thinkers, and everyone in between, to apply these concepts to your life.
And, as always, never close your eyes, because there’s a bright, wonderful world out there that’s just waiting to be discovered.
And these three concepts are your lighthouse.
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