Teaching Is More Than Acquiring A Set Of Skills

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This essay aims to determine whether or not teaching is more than acquiring a set of skills. No doubt teaching requires certain skills but I think a caring, dedicated and positive personality suits the profession best. Firstly I am going to discuss what teaching is. We often ask ourselves “how” we are going to teach this or “what” the purpose for teaching this is. However, as Parker J. Palmer (1998,p.4, The Courage to Teach) said “seldom, if ever do we ask the “who” question – who is the self that teaches?” Secondly I will discuss the acceptable and favourable traits of a teacher in our society today. I want to investigate the attributes of an ‘ideal teacher’. As Mark K Smith (2008, p.59, The Art of Helping Others: Being around, Being There, Being wise, with Heather Smith) said “Education can be described as the wise, hopeful and respectful cultivation of learning undertaken in the belief that all should have the chance to share in life”. Thirdly I want to review home-schooling and whether a degree is necessary to become a teacher. I also want to zone in on the skills a teacher requires and the impact those skills have on one’s life. I will examine these various aspects of my essay with the help of Ron Clark (2011), John Dewey (1938), John Hattie (2009), Paul Hirst (1975), Liberman (2013), J.Palmer (1998) and Mark K Smith to mention a few.

What is teaching? In my opinion teaching is the difficult process of supporting people’s needs, experiences and feelings. Teaching is also the act of sharing knowledge and experiences with the class so as to develop them into responsible adults. The art of teaching aims to transform and grow student’s intelligence along with their moral development. It is vital that the act of teaching is understood as Paul Hirst (1971, p.5, What is Teaching?) concluded, “being clear about what teaching is matters vitally because how teachers understand teaching very much affects what they actually do in the classroom”. Teaching must have a focus and the teacher should be clear on what they want the students to achieve by the end of the lesson. Keeping a focus on learning intentions is a skill that requires time and hard work. Before becoming a successful teacher one must conquer this skill. Through research it is evident that clear learning intentions help keep students on track and become more productive (John Hattie 2009, p.6, Visible Learning). If teachers understand their profession then no doubt their students will be rich in knowledge. Teaching is certainly a slow process. Failing to attend to students’ feelings and experiences is very unsatisfactory- it admits a common lack of respect for the students. Teaching is also a process of careful timing. It is pointless exploring a topic if the students are not ready. This is why it is vital that student’s experiences are understood. Recent findings in the brain science sector have revealed that people learn from experience from the time in the womb (Lieberman M 2013, p.10, Why Our Brains are Wired to Connect). Therefore brining students’ experiences around the subject we are looking to teach is central to the learning process. It has been proven that we are constantly learning but we mainly learn by experience. As Cantor stated “the development of the brain is an experience-dependent process” (Cantor et al., 2018, p. 5). Teaching is also the provision of stimulus to the psychological and intellectual growth of a person. The aim of teaching is to grow students morally and intellectually and guide students on the right path to reach their goals. Teaching most definitely requires certain skills in order to give their learners the experience and knowledge they need to progress in life.

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Who is a teacher? The simple definition of a teacher as the Cambridge dictionary describes is – “someone whose job is to teach in a school or college”. In my opinion, a teacher is much more. A teacher is someone who is willing to give up their time to teach others valuable life learning lessons. The teacher shapes the future of every learner that passes through their space by providing the best education possible. Teachers are the builders of the dazzling future of our nation through education. In my experience teachers go above and beyond their duties to ensure that their learners receive the best education. In my view, the giving of time and energy for the benefit of others is not a trait that can be taught or a simple skill that can be obtained. A worthy teacher knows the ability of each and every student in their class and tries for them respectively. A teacher is someone who has supported knowledge about a certain subject or a variety of subjects. They also understand how students think about a subject and identify common misconceptions. This skill comes with experience and practise as the expression goes “Rome wasn’t built in a day”. Good teachers should have deep knowledge of the subjects they teach because a result of lack of knowledge can impede the students learning. (Cesare Aloisi, Lee Elliot Major, Robert Coe 2014,p.8, What Makes Great Teaching? ). Obviously, it would be exceptional if a teacher knew everything about his or her subject but that type of teacher is a rarity. Luckily there are many resources available today to allow teachers to inform their students with accurate information. It is evident that expertise in a subject is not everything once the teacher has passion for the subject, reliable sources to draw upon and wants the best outcome for the learners. As John Hattie (2009,p.22 , Visible Learning) detailed “It is difficult to find evidence that great expertise in the subject matter makes a significant difference within a lot of schooling”. To conclude a teacher is a great source of knowledge, prosperity and enlightenment to which anyone can benefit from. Their skills are both taught and inherited.

Do you need a degree to teach or does experience suffice? As I have stated above I believe a teacher is anyone who can inform someone with concrete knowledge without viewing it as a chore. However, to teach a group of learners about a specific subject I think the teacher ought to have obtained a third level degree regarding the subject on hand. Firstly the student teacher must secure an undergraduate teacher education degree in accordance with The Teaching Council. During this time the student teacher will obtain necessary skills required to meet the needs of their future learners. These skills include a creative mind-set to cater for the different needs of students, patience and innovation. On the other hand, teaching demands more than just a set of skills. It craves certain qualities such as leadership, self-confidence and a desire to learn. It is throughout these years that student teachers will encounter different experiences which will help them to become better teachers in their future career. John Dewey (1938, p.19, Experience and Education) recognised that student teachers have experience in the classroom but this varies greatly with each student. His aim was to give students more experience in the classroom so as to expand their thinking on traditional teaching methods within the classroom. Ron Clark preserved Dewey’s thinking and expanded on it. Clark’s goal was to create a revolution to help students achieve success academically and in their lives in general (Ron Clark, 2011, p.12, The End of Molasses Classes). He noted that more experienced teachers were able to “create a positive, expressive, and enthusiastic learning environment for all students” (Ron Clark, The End of Molasses Classes, p.33, 2011). This classroom setting allows students to feel at ease while being involved in the learning process.

I think discipline plays a vital role in the teaching process. I don’t think this is a skill that can be taught. No third-level degree could prepare you for teaching both children and adolescents. According to Dominique Smith et al “All human societies tend to thrive when they develop rules to structure interaction, ensure fairness and create a safe climate for all” (Dominique Smith, Douglas Fisher, and Nancy Frey, p.53, Better Than Carrots or Sticks: Restorative Practices for Positive Classroom Management,2015). Some student teachers struggle with implementing discipline in the classroom but it is critical as without direction the class will not succeed. Through investigating Clark’s book I have noted that the key idea is to “create a culture with high levels of discipline, manners and respect” (Ron Clark, p.27, The Excellent 11, 2005). Creating an atmosphere like this within the classroom is not a skill that can be acquired. It’s a natural element within someone. This paragraph employs that a degree is necessary by law to teach but there is certainly more to becoming a teacher than obtaining a degree and certain skills.

On the contrary, how do those who are home-schooled view teaching? Home-schooling is a type of education where children learn outside of a school setting under the supervision of their parents. The family determines what is to be learned and how it is to be taught. Some families choose to home-school their children as they place a great emphasise on family time and being together. Some parents also choose home-schooling as a method of eliminating stress from their Childs life. However this makes it difficult for home-taught children to deal with the stresses of the workplace and everyday life. Teachers are blessed with the skills to enable their learners to handle difficult situations. Coping skills are taught throughout school years as learners understand how to deal with varies experiences. Those who are home-schooled miss there necessary opportunities. In Ireland the law does not define a “certain minimum education”. The number of children registered as being home-schooled in 2018 was 1,434 compared to 439 in 2008. I think those learners are at a disadvantage once they go into the workplace. It is often spoke about by critics how they have poor interpersonal and communication skills. It has been confirmed by recent research in neuroscience that “our brains are wired to connect”, therefore we are wired to be social (Lieberman M 2013, p.10, Why Our Brains are Wired to Connect). Those who are being home-schooled don’t get a fair opportunity to connect with others outside their family. This can be a detriment to the connection they feel within society. But how effective is your parent as your teacher? In my opinion a parent usually fulfils the materialistic requirements of a child in a constructive manner so he or she transforms into a productive and responsible adult. To conclude I don’t think home schooling your children is the correct approach to learning. You most definitely require a certain set of skills and a unique personality to become a teacher. Teaching is not something anyone can do.

How can a teacher benefit one’s life? Without teachers in our lives we would fail to grow mentally, socially and intellectually. A teacher plays many roles in the life of a student including a learning facilitator, instructor and guardian. They have many qualities to make students successful in life. A teacher acts as a role model in students’ lives who brings out the best in them and encourages them to strive for greatness. Teachers aim to instil the importance of education in their learners’ lives which they hope they will keep with them forever. Dewey believed “the object and reward of learning is continued capacity for growth” (John Dewey 1916, p.100, Democracy and Education). Teachers must balance individual needs and wishes against what might be good for others. Teachers must constantly reflect on how they deal with certain situations and try improving the next time if needed. Teachers need to be adaptable to different students and situations. They must be creative in order to find a fun way students can participate in learning. As John Hattie (2009, p.22, Visible Learning) said “teachers using particular teaching methods, teachers with high expectations for all students and teachers who have created positive student-teacher relationships are more likely to have the above average effects on student achievement”. This suggests that being fair and equal in the classroom will lead to successful students. Some students may have a difficult life at home and it is vital that this is not continued in school. It may be difficult to understand but a teacher may be the only source of light and hope a student has that day. Teachers have a very significant, lifelong impact on all of their students. This impact involves not only the teaching of particular academic skills, but as importantly, the fostering of student self-esteem.

To conclude, it is clear that I both agree and disagree with the essay title “learning to teach; is there more to teaching than acquiring a set of skills”. It most certainly takes a skilful person to be able to teach a class of students while giving them the opportunity to enjoy what they are learning. These skills include confidence, awareness and patience. Some people are lucky enough to be born with these skills but others must develop them through experience. Experience and practice is vital to be a successful teacher. According to Parker J. Palmer good teaching “comes from the identity and integrity of the teacher” (Palmer 1998, p.226, The Courage to Teach; Exploring the Inner Landscape of a Teachers Mind). Yet, anyone that teaches us something is our teacher. Our first teacher is our parents or guardians and as we grow we experience more teachers every day. Our teachers should help us attend to our experience and feelings and help us build our understanding of the world around us. Most definitely teachers have a huge impact in one’s life. In my view, teaching is surely a vocation. Teachers aim to “generate enthusiasm for joint work on common goals” within the classroom (Farrar E, Neufeld B and Miles M , 1983, p.11, Review of Effective Schools programs). Teachers are god gifted people in everyone’s life who lead us towards success without greed.


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