The performance of students has far-reaching and significant interest to any progressive nation. It is vital that persons who emerge from the school system are able to function effectively and efficiently in the wider society. Furthermore, as nations position themselves within a fiercely competitive and highly globalized marketplace, the persons who will be best equipped to provide leadership in many significant areas are those whose reasoning, problem solving and critical thinking skills are best developed. The startling truth is that despite the vast virtual resources of this information age, students often deplete their energies chasing online mirages. It is only when they progress along developmental paths, guided by caring and efficient teachers, that they will emerge in the light of maturity as positive forces for good.
Teachers, therefore, should have the necessary expertise to provide the required learning environment. Having an abundance of high interest, high quality learning material is critical to the development of adequate learning motivation. However, it is not only the availability of books – rather it is how the books are made accessible and what teachers do with the books and other materials. Bond, et al (1989) explains that one of the most complex problems facing the teacher is that of adjusting instruction to address the individual differences among students. This requires great skill, as this process involves organizing the class so that each child can perform at optimal capacity. It is also the skilled teacher who will build and enhance the motivational level of students.
Rubin (1993) suggested the definite relationship between a teacher’s attitudes towards a child, as the child perceives it, and the child’s self-concept. One of the best ways to make children feel accepted is for the teacher to share their interests, utilizing those interests in planning for reading instruction. Second, the teacher can help children feel successful by providing activities that are simple enough to guarantee satisfactory completion and build positive self-esteem. Studies have shown that teacher expectations about their students’ abilities to learn will influence students’ learning. Teachers who are aware of the effect that their expectations have on students can use this knowledge to help their students to become motivated.
Jacobsen, et al (2006) sees effective teaching as essentially connected with how best to bring about desired pupil learning by some educational activity. Many people teach. Some are effective: they maintain student interest in the subject matter. Then there are the few that are truly great; they have spent much time in learning to be effective. The most effective teacher is, therefore, one who is so enthusiastic and skilled that students are empowered to take charge of their own learning and to rise above learning challenges.
Another characteristic of the effective teacher is to be a lifelong learner, “continually growing in his own mental development” (Knight, 1992) and seeking always to remain relevant. Teachers have the tremendous task of gaining and transmitting knowledge and attitudes with such enthusiasm and clarity, and in such meaningful and innovative ways that they facilitate positive changes and lasting relationships. Their example of proactive leadership is critical if students, who often seek to emulate them, are to function effectively in a constantly changing world where “openness to change and diverse ways of looking at and approaching material and situations can mean the difference between success and failure.” (Murray, 1999)
It is also important for teachers to interact successfully with students, parents and other stakeholders in the education process. Meaningful relationships bring out valuable insights of human nature that can be beneficially utilized in the classroom to enhance learning at different levels. This interaction will dictate how teachers, carefully and prudently, decide on the values worth being familiar with, the concepts important to know, and the most critical attitudes which they want to teach and then design the curriculum to achieve learning objectives. In so doing, the teacher creates a physical, social, spiritual, and emotional environment that takes into consideration the general learning needs of students – handicapped, average and gifted – in terms of their differing interests, developmental levels, aptitudes, personalities, socio-economic backgrounds, and learning styles, and addresses them successfully with the right choice of instructional programs.
Education, at its best, is a preparation for life. As an agent of change, promoting positive relationships, deep understanding of information and social skills, the importance of the teacher has never been more obvious than today. Teachers act as the glue that keeps our society together. A strong education system with effective teachers will give rise to competent empowered citizens and a prosperous future.
Bond, Guy L, et al (1989). Reading Difficulties: Their Diagnosis and Correction. Boston: Allyn and Bacon
Jacobsen, D., Heggen, P., & Kauchak, D., (2006). Methods for Teaching: Promoting Children in K-12 Classrooms. New Jersey: Pierson Educational Inc.
Murray, Harry. “Teaching Behaviours Inventory”. The Teaching Professor. October 1988. (p. 3-4) Retrieved April 13, 2007 from http://www.wmich.edu/teachlearn.html
Rubin, Dorothy (1993). A Practical Approach to Teaching Reading (2nd Edition). Boston: Allyn and Bacon
Knight, George R. (1980). Philosophy and Education: An Introduction in Christian Perspective. Barien Spring: Andrews University Press