Is there a monumental difference between those who do an average job and those who strive to become the best teacher they can be? No, certainly not. The difference lies in absolute minimal changes they bring in their daily routine of teaching, the small details they give preference to, and the seemingly unimportant topic they give a second thought to. Here is what these five great teachers think about teaching differently, nurturing students, and polishing their life as an educator.
Excerpts from their viral TED Talks.
Sugata Mitra, a Professor of Educational Technology, asked how do we prepare the students for the future when we ourselves don't know what they might encounter?
“Why not prepare for something in advance? Why do we need to wait for another blow to change methods overnight?
Education should have the involvement of the internet for children to learn by ‘Self Organised Learning Environments’ (SOLEs), an academic method.
Children, in contrast to adults, are quick in learning gadgets, technology, the internet and basically anything. Introduction to the world-wide-web as a formal topic/subjects to study and to know more about should be beneficial.
There can be steps existing schools could take to prepare themselves & the students for the changes that are, inevitably, going to come.
- Introduce the internet into the curriculum
- Introduce complex dynamical systems
- Divide existing curriculum into 3 parts
- Teach what is necessary for life
- Teach about things that feel good to know
- Teach what might come in the exam
4. Allow existing internet during exams
The teacher/parents can't keep up with the learning speed that children have with respect to the internet or technology. Rather what can be done is to tell them ‘You go there, I'll go with you’ and make them lead the way.
A different kind of curriculum will also need an update in the assessment system that prepares the kids for the real world. The authentic style of teaching is trustworthy, dependable, convenient, hands-on and more, yes it is, but children are not going back into the past. They are moving forward and so should the evolution of education. Hidden inside there somewhere is the future of learning!”
Lisa Godwin, an elementary educator, spoke about how teachers can help children navigate through trauma. The answer was a rather easy one – talk to them.
“Everyone has chapters in their lives, some chapters are the ones that define us the most. It has been mentioned in statistics that 50% of children experience some sort of trauma in their lives.
What is important is to talk to these children, ask them all sorts of questions and really listen to them. Help them create mental images to push through fears, teach breathing techniques to handle anxiety and make sure the child could stand up for himself if needed.
A teacher would never get a direct straight answer. Students will be reluctant to talk about their deepest fears, their most shameful moments, their vulnerability; but it is still a teacher’s responsibility more than anyone to keep trying to get through.
Those seniors kids you think have it all together might need you the most. Take the time to be curious and ask them ‘Why’ you may find out there's a reason behind it.
How to be a better teacher to help your students? Develop relationships with them, a part of their life, be aware, pay attention and most of all, help kids find their way back to you if they need you.”
Sydney Jensen, a high school teacher, raised an important issue in a Ted Talk – ‘Why do schools need to support the emotional well-being of teachers as well?’ It is primarily because teachers work every day to provide social, emotional and academic support to the children, who go to them with diverse circumstances.
“But what happens when the teacher, who is supposed to be strong for their student, feels weak? Who would support the teacher? It is natural for humans to get absorbed in anguish, even if all they are doing is lending an ear to someone who needs to speak of their pain. It is very easy for educators, after hearing traumatic situations in students' lives, to take the trauma home with them.
Teachers need someone to listen to, to support so they can eventually support their students too. And this is not about a particular sect, community, nation. It is a universal struggle across all grades.
Every school needs social and emotional support counsellors for the faculty. It is understandable not every institution can afford that but start small. Why not start with acknowledging that what teachers do is hard, and make space for conversation that matters amongst each other?
It is not an unusual thing to ask for help. All everybody needs is someone who would reach out to them and ask ‘are you okay’ and remind us that everybody here is linked together, we all just need a little help and reassurance now and then!”
Azul Terronez is a teacher, speaker and author. He spoke about how he has been collecting answers to one particular question for 24 years now. “What makes a good teacher great?” He has collected several thousand answers from students who have come up with the most creative answers.
“I have collected data from 8 schools, students of different backgrounds, over 20,000 responses, 24 years of teaching children and this question still perplexes me. There have been some great insightful moments as well, and I have realised a lot can be achieved if only we listen to what students have to say; without presuming they won't take it seriously.
- A great teacher loves to learn: Teachers are meant to be content experts, they should not be needing to learn and that is why they get hired. But when students are just told about a topic in contrast with when they learn about it along with the teacher, the latter makes more impact. Kids want to be inspired by the idea that learning is important and a continuous process.
- A great teacher isn't a teacher: This simply means a great teacher is not the constraints of the classroom. Teaching in a theoretical manner that the teachers themselves do not value is not helping them, and children know that. They do not want to be taught like that.
- A great teacher helps students if they notice a struggle: Teachers should not presume that the poor performance of a student is because he isn't capable of it. A teacher makes it his job to find the capability in the student. A great teacher looks for signs of struggle within the student, to help and not judge.
- Great teachers make themselves humble before the students. They take risks and put aside their fear to try because they trust that they are going to be supported if they fail. What if the teachers don't become content experts anymore, that they don't show a deep understanding of the subjects they are teaching, rather they understand the students. In this way, the school will change and transform.”
Dr. Mariappan Jawaharlal, a teacher of Mechanical Engineering, author and speaker. He mentioned the ways a teacher can be better at their job and help the students more.
“For the first 12 months of a child’s life, we teach them how to walk and talk, and for the rest of their student life, we tell them to sit down and shut up, isn't that ironic?
When I couldn't find the connection amongst my students, I tried to come up with a few pointers for the teaching technique. They are:
- Be Original: Good thing about good teaching is to not copy anybody else (another teacher’s style). It will not help your case.
- Renounce Teaching: Recognize the fact, teaching is not learning, rather learning occurs independently of teaching. Teachers can support and help the students in learning but can not transfer knowledge. When the idea of teaching is not helping to learn, it is not good teaching.
- Get to the eye level of the student: The communication should not take place from the teacher’s desk to the student but at their eye level. That means understanding the subject matter from the student’s perspective, which is very simple; making them understand the reason behind what they are learning.
- Help students make mistakes: Without making mistakes, one can not learn. The idea is to let the children make mistakes in a safe environment and find a solution where a teacher is present to help and support; so they know how to be prepared for life ahead.
- Help students to reinvent the wheel: If you want students to learn, let them create their own experience. Do not only teach about what has been hypothesised, formulated, proven. Let them reinvent it all. Otherwise, they will just memorise the content without any understanding.
- ‘What do you think?’: Ask them what they think of the subject/topic/problem/solution, and understand how much they are understanding it. It is a common phenomenon where students sometimes do not get the concept or do not believe in it but answer for the sake of it. Breaking this cycle is necessary.
When you ask the student and really listen to them, it starts a process of discovery for them and reduces the unnecessary workload for teachers, along with increasing the learning graph.”