Friday, October 17, 2008

Becoming a Great Teacher: Part 7

The second and third most important attributes of great teachers, as indicated from our personal interviews of students are: personable and knows students.

Personable: Students want a teacher who they feel comfortable with. They want a teacher who likes being around students, who maintains an open door policy, and never hesitates to help a student or engage in a friendly conversation.

Knows Students: Students appreciate teachers who take the time to get to know students, and they return the favor by trying harder in class. Recent research of mine utilizing hard copy surveys instead of interviews suggest this is the NUMBER ONE most important attribute of great teachers.

An Interesting Class Activity: Here is how I get to know students. Students love this activity, when I forget to do it at the beginning of class they are obviously disappointed.

(a) The first day of class I ask them to fill out an information sheet containing their name, cell phone number, favorite music they are currently listening to, career aspirations, favorite TV program, and similar items.

(b) At the beginning of class I hold a Meet Your Classmates activity. Before each class I select one student to feature. As the students are coming in I play music from that students' information sheet. You can easily purchase individual songs from Itunes.

(c) During the Meet Your Classmates I introduce the student, their song, and tell a little about the person. I always find something to pick on them about, but I wouldn't suggest doing this unless you think you have the personality to pull it off. I get away with many things most people would get in trouble for :)

(d) I always make a point to comment on the person's career aspirations, and how the topics in the class can help them achieve those aspirations. Sometimes I give them advice on achieving these aspirations, and give this advice publicly in case others may benefit.

As I said, students absolutely love this activity, and they appreciate me taking the time to get to know each of them personally. I highly recommend it!

Sometimes if a student does not come to class I pull their info sheet out and call their phone number and pick on them for not being in class. I teach in the afternoon, and they are often at the bar. Again, I can pull this off without getting in trouble for some reason, others may not.