How Does One Define A Good Teacher?

800 words - 3 pages

'Where there is much desire to learn, there of necessity will be much

arguing, much writing, many opinions; for opinions in good men is but

knowledge in the making.' --John Milton

The epigram above goes a long way in providing an answer to this

oft-repeated question. Of course, we must make a distinction between

Aristotle instructing passionate disciples on the definition of happiness

and a humble foreign language teacher attempting to familiarize a horde

of boisterous adolescents to the intricacies of the English interrogative

sentence. Whether adolescents back in the 4th century BC were radically

different in demeanor to today's is for the anthropologists and historians

to decide; in any case, Aristotle taught at his own establishment, the

Lyceum, which was populated with erudite and eager scholars, many of whom

had traveled great distances to study there. Few would deny that a teacher

must teach according to his pupils. Professor Stephen Hawking would explain

the concept of black holes to his Ph.D. student rather differently than

he would to an inquiring GCSE student. Nevertheless, there are a number

of universal features that bind all first-rate teachers. The astute but

weary teacher would point to the first clause of the epigram and dismiss it

as quixotic. The even more astute good teacher would then explain where

the fallacy lay: the desire to learn is not a precondition to successful

teaching, but a consequence. The majority of students do not initially

enter the classroom with a genuine desire to, say, describe a picture

in English. The teacher must instill it in them. This is the most

important task he faces and this is largely achieved by his own enthusiasm.

The teacher must be the most enthusiastic person in the room. Enthusiasm

is eerily contagious.

Waiting for my first lecture on "Advanced Word Morphology" last year, I

feared the worst. The lecturer, a plump and immaculately dressed man,

stormed into the room and, from that moment on, never lost our attention.

To think that someone could be so excited about the irregular plurals

in English was a little odd at first, but it nevertheless made us listen

to find out what could induce such animated grimaces and gesticulations.

In the following week, the attendance doubled. The good teacher then, has

a veritable passion for what he teaches or, less romantic but equally

effective, can pretend to be. To assume that a human being can be

veritably fascinated by the...

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