The teacher and his methods
Professor KM Wazed Kabir
Some of the most important and distinguished people in history have been teachers. The teacher's job is quite different from those of other professionals. An ideal teacher derives his/her pleasure from training a young mind. His/her job is not only to fill the mind with facts but also to help students understand facts.
|An ideal teacher derives his/her pleasure from training a young mind. Photo: Kazi Tahsin Agaz Apurbo
Teaching has three parts. First, the teacher prepares the subjects. Then, he/she communicates them to his pupils, and finally, he/she reviews his/her lessons to be certain that they have learnt what he taught.
The teacher knows exactly what work he will have to finish by the end of the week, but he is not careful to know how that part of his work will relate to the remainder of the work to be done. Many teachers discover two or three weeks before the examination that they have spent too much time on the first part of a subject, and, as a result, have to rush hurriedly to finish the last part. Teachers of literature are especially fond of remaining too long on the part of the subject they love which is more a virtue than a vice; because this is a subtle psychological means to establish a sympathy and understanding with students. But the next day or week, he must re-establish proportion. When the teacher tells the students what they are going to learn, he should at the same time show the relation of each part to the whole. It is generally observed that if a teacher
wishes to be interesting, he is likely to be superficial. Again, if he tries to be thorough, he may prove to become monotonous. But a good teacher can escape the dangers of both methods, if he is aware of them. If one wishes to be a good teacher, he will not use the same plans every year without changing them, because the world changes and learning must change with it. It is every good teacher's duty to know all the important arguments and discoveries that affect the subject. He should take notes on important and interesting facts and these notes should be kept and added to he lectures at the proper time. Sometimes it will be enough for him to mention a new book and discuss it briefly. The teacher may also decide to keep the information in reserve as an additional support to an argument of a variation of his usual discussion. By making changes like these, the teacher will keep his teaching alive and effective and his mind quick and active.
There are three principal methods of communicating knowledge, from teacher to pupil to the lecture, the tutorial system and classroom work. Every teacher must know the original sources of his subject. If the teacher teaches history it will not suffice to know what the book says about 'The Atlantic Charter' but he must know the words of 'The Charter'. After the teacher has prepared his subject, he has to communicate his knowledge to his pupils. If he fails to communicate, he will fail as a teacher. He may be an inspiration for a few pupils because of his erudite Scholarship and captivating personality, but he may fail to teach the majority of his students. Knowing the art of communication, a less brilliant student can be an excellent teacher. Communication, being one of the principal activities of human race, is a skill, an art and an essential function of human civilisation.
Memory is as essential for a teacher as for other professional men. A creative memory is one of the qualities that distinguishes the superior lawyer, doctor or teacher from the ordinary ones. If a question is asked and discussed, let the teacher remember and mention it again later in connection with some other facts. The students generally fail to bring different facts into proper relation with one another. The most difficult job a teacher with a good creative memory can do is help his students to relate bits of knowledge, no matter how widely separated they are. When the teacher succeeds in doing it, he will see the understanding reflected on his students' faces.
A Sine qua non for an effective teacher is kindness. Students should feel that the teacher wants to help them improve, that he is sorry for their mistakes and pleased by their successes. Few things will lessen the difficulty of learning like the kindness of a teacher. But his face should wear seriousness and his manner should be impersonal at the time of treating them with kindness. But it is devastating for a teacher to pretend that he likes his students.
Gestures, if carefully used, are often valuable in making important points clear. No one likes to listen to a lecture given without any variety. Pauses should be made as sentences should be punctuated to make it clear that a unit of thought is finished. Silence, sometimes, is more effective than speech. The tone of voice should change during the lecture as no one would be interested in listening to someone who seldom changes the pace of his speech and shows no change in his expressions.
One of the bewitchingly effective qualities of a good teacher is the sense of humour. But it should never be used to control a class. The covert purpose of humour is to create a close relationship between the teacher and the students. When a class and its teacher laugh together, they cease to be separated by age and authority. They become a unit, feeling pleasure and enjoying a shared experience.
The young are trying desperately to grow and become individuals. If a teacher expects to prove his efficacy as a teacher, he must to give them the nestling impression that he knows them as individuals. The first step towards this is recognising their faces and memorising their names. One of the worst mistakes made by some teachers is to boast of their inability to recognise pupils. Such teachers want to mean that if they burden their memory with the distinction between Ms Romana and Ms Sabana, they will forget Shakespeare's, "There are more things between heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in our philosophy."
A successful teacher does his duty to make learning the joint enterprise of a group of friendly human beings who like using their brains.
(The author is Chairman, Department of English, Jessore Government City College, Jessore.)