As my kids wound up the school year, we had come up with different activities they were going to be doing in the first few weeks of their long vacation. One of which is to catch up on movies they had not seen. We took a long break from going to the cinema for about 3 months because we decided to dedicate the final term to improving their grades…..it was a done deal.
So, our first activity was….cinema, cinema, cinema! We will catch up on all animated movies showing in the first weeks of their vacation period; then get into other activities we have planned. I will be sharing some of them here too.
On one of our visits, we caught up with children from one of the ‘above average’ schools (still in session) in Lagos. They came with a group of 4-5 year olds to watch the same movie just like us. Then I noticed so many things.
1. The children were neatly organised in straight lines as they walked into the cinema hall quietly.
2. Teacher-student ratio was appropriate.
3. Pupils looked rather happy.
Then came the disconnect.
Teachers used wrong languages on the kids e.g. “coconut head”, “slow-motion” etc to mention a few. They were not only disrespectful but demeaning. Some raised their voices, scolding students as they ordered them to their seats (oblivious of the rest of us who were already seated and watching because they came in minutes after the movie had begun). One teacher said in a loud tone to a boy, “who even suggested that you should join to watch this film….you won’t even understand what they are saying.” She had no excitement in her voice, was completely disconnected with the joys of the children she came with. This is supposed to be a fun activity for the young ones.
You see, almost anyone can become a teacher, but it takes a special person to be a great teacher. For a teacher to inspire not just a great student, but a great person, a teacher must rise above the crowd and make a lasting impression. So what does a student remember for years to come? What personality traits make a great teacher? I’d like to focus on two traits that resonate with me as concerning this event.
At the heart of empathy is the ability to love unconditionally, nurture hopelessly, care for others willingly, establish good relationships, show understanding, and communicate effectively.
A great teacher is sensitive to their students’ needs. On a child’s very first day of kindergarten, when they are crying for their parents and refusing to participate in class, a great teacher sits with them until they calm down. From late primary school to early secondary school, when a child enters adolescence, overwhelmed by learning — not just academics, but learning about themselves — a great teacher is patient, understanding and available to talk. In late secondary school and college, when faced with the task of planning their future, a student looks for a teacher to provide insight and wisdom. Teachers must have empathy for their students at all times because children go through a lot as they develop themselves. Empathy is a prerequisite trait to look out for by teacher recruiters. It transforms an average teacher into a great one.
Why should a student be excited about watching a movie, reading a book, caring for others or learning something new when their teacher does not show excitement about doing any of the above activities or teaching (basically doing their job)? No teacher can be great without loving what they do. To encourage, excite and inspire a student requires excitement and passion for the material itself. Enthusiasm is contagious. All it takes for a student to get excited about going on a school field/fun trip, read a book, listen or participate fully in class is a teacher who is excited and whose positive energy fills the classroom and the entire process.
Children can’t learn their best from people they don’t like. The mark of a great teacher lies in the ability of that teacher to bring out the best in their student….every one of them….. regardless.
Empathy and enthusiasm are traits that stand out for me even though there are more personality traits schools must seek out while hiring teachers. Traits such as discipline, dedication and creativity – which we would discuss in another post.
Which other traits do you think schools should look out for? The children we teach need their teachers to love what they do….to be passionate and caring…to celebrate their efforts…every one of them.