THUNDER BAY – Through my job at Confederation College, I had the unique opportunity to be involved in the interview process in a search for some full-time faculty members at the College. As part of the interview panel, myself and multiple other students sat in on a mock lecture, where the potential teacher came in and taught us an hour-long lesson, treating it like it was the first day of class.
Being a Business – Marketing student I know close to nothing about civil engineering or computer programming. That said, I was impressed with the teachers who were able to actually teach me something about these two topics within only that hour. Throughout the day we were able to assess multiple teachers with a wide range of experience and success in their field, with only a few actually being able to teach us something.
So that raised the question…what makes a good teacher?
Is it being brilliant in their field of study? Is it the amount of work experience they have? Being knowledgeable about the topic they’re teaching is clearly important when someone applies for a teaching job. Add real-world experience on top of that and it sounds like we’ve got a pretty good teacher right?
Not necessarily… In my opinion, the teachers who were most successful in the interviews, and the teachers who are most successful during the regular school year, are the ones who really connect with the students. Connecting with students can be done in a few ways – some teachers use humour, some use ice breaker activities, but no matter what way they choose, the teacher begins to build a relationship with the students. Building a relationship isn’t easy – like any relationship there needs to be a sense of mutual respect and connection. When teachers are able to incorporate their personality into the lectures, students are better able to relate and are more likely to interact in the classroom. When teachers are able to connect with students on that personal level, the students feel more engaged and we like to be engaged. Overall, when teachers show their personality they seem approachable; they show that they care for us and our grades.
I asked a fellow student what she thought and she agreed, it’s all about the connection.
“The teacher who I can say ‘Hi’ to in the hallway or when I see them in public, is a teacher who I want to show that I can do it, show that I can be successful,” says Brittany Favot a third-year Business – Human Resources Administration student at Confederation College. “When I know that I’m not just another number, I actually enjoy going to their class. I learn the most and do the best in class when I know the teacher cares; it’s a huge motivator.”
Interacting with the students is hard on its own, but the teachers must maintain a sense of confidence and respectability while still being relatable and engaging with the students. When these needs are met, a teacher facilitates a comfortable atmosphere for all learning styles. A comfortable environment accelerates learning, because students are not afraid to ask questions or start a class discussion.
Another student perspective comes from Cheryl Leinonen, also in her third year of the Business – Human Resources Administration program. “When teachers have the ability to accommodate different learning styles and not just lecture, they are able to really engage the students. Having a class discussion allows for students to express their opinions on the topic and that not only creates a connection, but allows for students to remember the content.”
From my experience with classroom discussions, I feel students are better able to retain important information when they’re involved in the learning, versus acting like a bystander during lectures. I get that lectures are necessary, that the information has to be told to us somehow, but I think the more opportunities there are for us to participate in class, the more opportunities there are for us to internalize what we’re learning. Class discussions help by offering relatable examples that will be easy to recall while doing a test or applying our knowledge in a career.
In the end it is all about balance. If a teacher is too relaxed and easy going, we do not learn; we are students and are in school to learn. If a teacher is too strict, we do not enjoy going to their class, and we still do not learn. So where does that leave us? The best teachers are the ones who are able to really connect with their students on a professional and personal level, all while providing us with a quality education.
Before I get back to the books, I’d like to send a shout-out to all of my teachers, who take the time to connect and who therefore continue to make my time at Confederation educational and memorable!