The definition of a teacher is to define the indefinable. Almost as wide ranging, yet individualized as asking, what is a parent? A teacher is a guide, a mentor, a confident, a friend, a disciplinarian, an informer, a provider of inspiration and imagination. A teacher is someone who knows when to intervene, and when to stand back and allow them to try for themselves. Allow them to fail and learn from their mistakes.
A teacher is more than someone who passes on knowledge. It is the interaction, the relationship, the understanding and encouragement to enable a person or child to reach the full potential. This should not be merely being able to pass tests or exams but developing fully in all areas as a rounded person who reaches and surpasses their full potential and also develops a life long love of learning and discovery.
Being a great teacher means knowing when to assist, when to stand back and insist on independence. Doing too much for a learner leads to reliance and lack of perseverance, which will in turn lead to lack of self esteem. Reaching that goal with encouragement but no physical help will enable the learner experience the feeling of achievement that inspires further learning.
A teacher must therefore, provide the opportunities which allow the leaner to learn for themselves. Learners do not learn by being told, they learn by finding out for themselves. This may be a toddler playing with water, or a university student doing independent research the principle is the same. Jean Piaget (1896-1980) stated, In order for a child to understand something, he must reinvent it. Every time we teach a child something, we keep him from reinventing it himself.’ This is not meant to say we must not teach, but we should provide opportunities for children to explore and discover new things themselves. This provides an increased level of understanding than telling them about something.
A true teacher teaches as a way of life, they life to teach rather than teach to live. They never stop learning themselves as the journey of discovery is ever present. They are not teachers just in school hours, they are constantly looking for ideas to use in the classroom they often take part in out of school activities, clubs are other ways to support and provide for their learners. They are able to pass this enthusiasm onto their pupils, instilling the joy of discovery.
If you enter a classroom of a great teacher you will see learners actively wanting to learn, interacting with each other and the teacher. You will often see groups working independently, on differentiated tasks designed to stretch their individual abilities. You may see some pupils benefitting from one to one attention from a teaching assistant. They may be having difficulty in a certain area, or are above the ability of the rest of the class and are completing advanced work. It is this understanding and individual plans of learning that enable learners to keep on task, never feeling bored or unable to complete work. The balance of being supported, yet maintaining independence, is an invaluable skill that separates good teachers from great teachers.
We can see then that a teacher is not someone who is knowledgeable they know how to teach. Students taught in an inspiring way want to learn rather than learning for a specific test or reward. They know how to pass on, not just knowledge but love of learning, and most of all the care about the whole person not just exam results. A great teacher is a truly special person and will influence the lives of their learners for the rest of their lives.