BY PATRICIA MILLER
This article was first published in Volume 25, No. 1 (1987).
From time to time during the 15 years I have been working in the field of English language teaching and training, I have put myself in the position of language learner rather than teacher. In addition to enjoying language study and finding the process fascinating, I find it beneficial to view the process through the eyes of a student. Even though I have felt at odds with some teachers and their methods, I have learned something from every teacher I have ever had, even the worst of them.
The ten characteristics
There is a line in Saint-Exupery’s The Little Prince that applies to any endeavor, but especially teaching. It reads: “That which is essential cannot be seen with the eye. Only with the heart can one know it rightly.” The essence of teaching is difficult to qualify, but that line leads directly into my most essential criterion.
1. I want a teacher who has a contagious enthusiasm for his teaching—one who, as Richard Via says, loves his students and his work. Mr. Via is an educational specialist in using drama techniques to teach EFL at the East- West Center in Hawaii. I was fortunate enough to attend his teacher-training seminar in Korea in 1976. It was a pleasure to be in his audience. His enjoyment in transmitting knowledge and participating in the seminar was apparent and infectious. His passion for teaching instilled a passion for learning in all the participants. For me, the most crucial factors in effective teaching are who the teacher is and how he acts in the classroom. This influences the way the students react toward the target language and, therefore, their success in learning it.
2. I want a teacher who is creative. Teaching must be more than simply opening a book, doing exercises, and following an outline written by someone else. In the tedium of repetition, the student can go through the motions of doing the exercises without his mind being engaged. What can a teacher do to engage the student’s mind? There are a myriad of techniques that the creative teacher can employ—information-gap exercises, games, songs, jazz chants, problem solving, and other techniques that allow the student to utilize the skills he has already developed in his first language.
3. I want a teacher who can add pace and humor to the class. The humor of one of my teachers had the effect of alleviating my nervousness—of reducing my affective filter. There was a rapport among the students and the teacher because we were all laughing together. We had a good time learning, and we made a lot of progress because we were not afraid to make mistakes; we could take chances. As Krashen would say, the affective filters of the students were low, facilitating acquisition.
Another teacher that I had maintained an excellent pace in the class. She never lost an instant consulting a list or thinking about what to do next; she had prepared—that was evident—and she was going to capitalize on every second. I was somewhat nervous in her class, but I didn’t have time to worry about it because events moved so quickly. I was literally sitting on the edge of my seat so that I wouldn’t miss anything, and my adrenalin was a positive force.
I should add that humor is a double-edged sword: it can backfire, for what is funny to one person may not be funny to another. Humor across cultures can add a layer of difficulty to communication.
4. I want a teacher who challenges me. I had several teachers who always spoke to me in Spanish, both in and out of class. I felt they were showing confidence in me and challenging me to speak Spanish. The student’s passive knowledge of the target language is always greater than his active knowledge. There is no reason why a teacher should use any language other than the target language except possibly for purposes of expediency. When a teacher reverts to the native language, he is showing a lack of patience with the students’ struggles in the target language. In addition, switching codes is confusing. I was given a test in which all the instructions were read to me in English, so that I would be sure to understand everything. Then I had to answer in Spanish. But the test had three parts and I had to continue switching codes back and forth from English to Spanish; I found this very confusing. It is like going off a diet—once you cheat a little, then you want to cheat a little more. If someone speaks to me in English, this activates my English channel and I am prepared to think in English. Speaking in the target language to the learner prepares and challenges him to speak in that language.
In addition, I want a teacher who can maintain a level of difficulty high enough to challenge me, but not so high as to discourage me.
5. I want a teacher who is encouraging and patient, and who will not give up on me. Some of the teachers that I have had demonstrated incredible patience with all of their students, never allowing even a shadow of displeasure to cross their faces in reaction to continued incorrect speaking after endless correction (which may say something about the policy of correction). When the teacher is positive—encouraging initial and repeated attempts—the students will apply themselves more diligently. Motivation thrives on success.
One teacher I had appeared on several occasions to give up on me. She would struggle to have the other members of the class repeat the combination of an indirect object pronoun followed by a direct object pronoun—the nemesis of the Spanish-language student. They would have numerous chances to supply the correct combination in various tenses, but I often was given only one opportunity. For the life of me, I do not know why the teacher gave me only one chance. Was it because I was struggling and she wanted to spare me any unpleasantness? Or was it because in her mind I didn’t need the practice? I felt that I needed the practice and wanted at least a chance to try. I felt that the teacher was discouraged and had lost confidence in my ability to progress. As a result, I lost my incentive and became unsure of myself.
6. I want a teacher who will take an interest in me as a person—one who will try to discover discussion topics that interest me. When I was teaching, one of the first things I did was to try to find out what my students’ interests were: hobbies, past employment, family, travel, etc. The easiest, most accessible area of conversation is oneself. The initial and intermediate stages of development for the language student do not abound with opportunities for coherent self-expression. Most of the time, we language students feel fairly incompetent because we cannot express ourselves adequately, as we are accustomed to doing in our native language. Thus, if we can discuss some little accomplishment we’ve had, or something that we take pleasure in or are proud of, so much the better.
7. I want a teacher who knows grammar well and who can explain something on the spot1 if necessary. I also want a teacher who is realistic and has the simple courage to admit that he doesn’t know an answer if indeed he doesn’t. I have had some teachers who, probably as the result of the de-emphasis on grammar explanation in the structuralist tradition, did not provide enough explanations. It seems to me that a more eclectic approach would take into consideration the needs of the adult learner, who should be given some insight into the intricacies of grammar.
8. I want a teacher who will take a minute or two to answer a question after class, or who will take five minutes to correct something that I have done on my own. I had several teachers who did this willingly and who encouraged the students to do extra work on their own. I also had a teacher who made some corrections for me at my request, but somehow I felt as if I had encroached on her time. Is teaching to be exactly 50 minutes of the hour and no more? First, we as teachers need to encourage students not only to study what is required, but to pursue on their own areas in which they are interested. Acquisition is facilitated when it concerns information that we need or are interested in. And second, we need to appreciate our students’ efforts.
9. I want a teacher who will treat me as a person, on an equal basis with all the members of the class, regardless of sex, marital status, race, or my future need for the language. In some of my classes women were given discussion topics relating only to the home and family, and men were rarely asked to talk about their families. Men were also given more “talk” time than the women. This can be discouraging to the student, and that is not conducive to progress. As teachers, we must look carefully at our classes to be certain that we are including everyone equally. I know that I have probably been guilty of bias toward the brighter and more energetic students—they’re more challenging for the teacher and more interesting for the class. But now
1. Editor’s Note: on the spot = without further consideration; at once; immediately
that I have been a victim of bias myself, I will certainly be more aware of treating my students equally.
10. Finally, I want a teacher who will leave his emotional baggage outside the classroom. The classroom is a stage, and to be effective the teacher must in some cases be an actor. I do not want to interrupt my concentration by worrying about what might be bothering the teacher. Nor do I want a teacher who sustains himself through ridicule or sarcasm, playing havoc with the emotions of his students and thereby blocking any learning/acquisition that might take place.
The qualities that I have discussed can be separated into four areas—(1) affective characteristics, (2) skills, (3) classroom management techniques, and (4) academic knowledge:
interest in the student
A teacher’s effectiveness depends on his demonstration of the affective characteristics. These are inborn in some of us, but they are also within the grasp of most teachers. Most of us want to be encouraging, enthusiastic, and available, but we just have to be reminded once in a while. The classroom management techniques of peace and fairness are often overlooked, but they can be crucial to effective teaching. These are not techniques that require training, but again, simply awareness. The specific teaching skills of creativity and challenge are associated more with the types of materials and activities, and their level and appropriateness. Ease and facility in these two areas come with experience and familiarity with the syllabus and materials. Lastly, a teacher who knows his grammar gives himself credibility and stature in the eyes of his students. With a little training in how to explain grammar and how to teach it, teachers have an indispensable tool.
Name: Theodora Dyah Phitaloka
Student Number: 112010076
The critical reading of ten characteristics of good teacher:
I read a journal about the characteristic of good teacher. The article is first published in 1987 and the writer is Patricia Miller. She is a Republican member of the Indiana Senate, representing the 32nd District since 1983. She is the Chairman of Senate Committee on Health and Provider Services. Miller was a member of the Indiana House of Representatives from 1982 to 1983. She currently serves as the executive director for the Confessing Movement within the United Methodist Church.In the article, the writer mentions of ten characteristics of good teacher according to the experience she has.
What I get after read the article is that she tries to share her opinion that ten good qualities of teacher are important to aware rather than to train teachers in teaching. In the article she makes, she compares the action teaching from every teacher she meets with her opinion about what should the teachers have and do in teaching. In additional to it, Miller letters the content of her writing to the teachers to aware of what they should or should not do in treating the students. The qualities she mentions are enthusiasm, encouragement, humor, interest in the students, availability, mental health, skills, creativity, challenge, classroom management, pace, fairness, and academic knowledge. She adds that the teacher effectiveness depends on their demonstration of the effective characteristic. So, when the teacher is good on their characteristic that the writer mention, the students will get much contribution in their learning process.
In contra of this, I disagree with the point of view from the writer because I think that she only thinks in one direction without looking at the general review of the students. It is true that every student has different ability, skill, and mental. Considering this differences, the idea from the writer can not be fit for such students. How if some smart students prefer the teacher who is firm and more serious to act only if the students can understand deeply the explanation from them??? What I mean is that to increasing the student’s ability and knowledge depends on the students itself. I have ever found that there are some students who have good teacher but then they tend to underestimate the qualities of the teacher. In other words, they are odd with the perfectionist teacher. So again, in my opinion, who is a good teacher is a relative for the student and they can choose which character of teacher they like.
Name: Theodora Dyah Phitaloka
Student Number: 112010076
Summary of ten characteristics of a good teacher:
Patricia Miller who has been working in the field of English language teaching and training for 15 years conducts an observation about a good teacher. She positions herself as language learner or students in some occasions. She also gets some benefit findings in the ten characteristics of a good teacher. In here, she writes ten important criterions which she gets in a line of a book Saint-Exupery’s The Little Prince.
The first criterion she mentions is that teachers must have a contagious enthusiasm. Miller has an opinion that the teacher’s passion in teaching can instill a passion for learning in all students. It is also important to the teacher because the passion will influence the students toward the target language in their learning process. She also notes down that effective teaching is about whom the teacher is and how they act in the class. The second quality is that teacher must be creative. In this case, teachers can engage the student’s mind with some techniques using information- gap exercise, games, songs, jazz chants, and problem solving. Those techniques are actually used to allow the students to use their skills they already developed in their first language. The next teacher’s characteristic is they who can add pace and humor. The writer of the article thinks that using humor and pace can reduce the nervousness and worry, make a good time learning, increase the progress, and make the adrenalin becomes a positive force. She also adds the negative side of humor which can add some difficulties in communication because it is funny to one person but may not be funny to others. Then, a teacher who challenges the students becomes the next criteria of a good teacher. In order to change the student’s passive knowledge into active, a teacher has to challenge the students not as high as they capability. For example the student will be given a speaking test which encourages them to speak English. Unconsciously, they will prepare to think about English in their mind. The fifth criterion is that teachers must be encouraging, patient, and will not give up on the students. The teacher should be patient to their students and they will not speak badly to correct the students if they cannot understand the teacher’s explanation so that the students will be more diligent and sure with their ability. The sixth quality is that the teachers should be interested in the students. In this case, the teachers should know the hobbies, past employment, family from the students or in other words, the teacher should analyze the student’s profile so that teachers can understand what the needs of the students. Thus, students will more confident and take a pleasure time in the class. The seventh quality is that teacher should have abilities in grammar, realistic and has simple courage to admit the perception that they cannot answer some questions. Patricia said that teacher will use their ability in grammar to give a clear explanation to the student and it will influence the understanding of the students. The next criterion according to Patricia is that a teacher should take one, two or even five minutes to answer a question after the class and appreciates the student’s effort. The teacher also should give some corrections and encourage them not only to study what is required but also to learn about their own areas in which they are interested. The next criterion is that teachers should treat the students as a human being on an equal. In here, a teacher should be fair to all of the students in every occasion. This can encourage them so that it will be effective to their progress. Lastly, teacher has to leave their emotional affair like outside the classroom because the teacher is an actor in the class. The students should not be interrupted because it will give the impact on their concentration in gaining the lecture and block any learning or acquisition may happen.
In conclusion, the qualities that the writer discusses actually can be separated into 4 aspects which consist of effective characteristics, skills, classroom management, and academic knowledge. The characteristics which the teacher should have are enthusiasm, encouragement, humor, interested in students, knowledge, availability, mental health, skills, creativity, challenges, classroom management, pace, and fairness.
These are my annotating pictures:
These are my annotating pictures: