Top 5 Warning Signs the Teacher isn’t yet a Teacher

I know I’ll take a lot of flak for this and I know it isn’t the standard way to go when talking about “teaching” (the standard approach being to talk about what is “good” teaching), however, during my years of helping teachers, I’ve come upon some warning signs that set off alarm bells and signal A) the teacher really isn’t fit for teaching B) the teacher has potential but really needs some “basic training”.

Our profession is unusual. We are experts (us native speakers), we all have scored 100% on our final thesis and have a PhD in English. We are curriculum masters and know our subjects better than any professor of engineering, math, better than any medical specialist. All this without studying a thing!!! BUT, this does not make us a good teacher. It is a start but the proof is not in the pudding but the eating.

The Top 5 Warning Signs of “bad” teaching”.

#1 The photocopier is overheating!!!

Many insecure and weak teachers fill their classrooms with pieces of paper. Instead of “teaching” and communication, they substitute a “thing” — thinking this will represent teaching and learning and students will have confidence they’ve learned because they have “paper”.

English language acquisition is not about acquiring words on paper! It is about acquiring the tools to convey meaning in said language. Do not think that books/paper/things = language learning. In fact, after class, most of this paper goes in the bin, the dustbin of history…..

#2 Playing “word” games

Word games (scrabble, hangman, word searches, matching exercises, bingo) can supplement the language teaching but are not a means of acquiring language. If a teacher is using these for their lesson, they are ineffectively using class time and haven’t yet acquired any idea of the what/how of communicative teaching methodology. If you ask a teacher for an activity or teaching idea and they give you something that is about “playing with words” – tell them that you’ll save it for Sunday morning and your coffee and morning newspaper. Language does not = words! Language is much more than words and fully is about conveying meaning between two or more principles….Let this be the engine of your classroom, not guessing words.

#3 No preclass chatting or post class chatting

Teachers that know how to form a solid and functional classroom environment, come to class early and engage in student casual conversation. This is a great time to get to know your students more (for designing lessons, assessment) and for creating a supportive social atmosphere in class. Same with those 10 min right after class. Teachers who think a lesson is X o’clock to Y o’clock are not taking their work seriously nor comfortable with it.

#4 Too much teacher focus / directing.

Alarm bells should be roaring if a teacher is spending too much time talking, especially in front of the class. Students do need input, in the form of speech but they also need a variety of speech input (video, audio, other classmates). Also, Comprehensible Output, is much needed especially in the EFL classroom and it is crucial teachers give the students a lot of time to practice speaking. Teachers who spend a lot of time chatting up the class, who are not pacing the lesson properly and never directing the lesson towards the lesson objective — need some “basic training”. Too much time by the teacher at the front of the class, waving a piece of chalk is another warning sign. Teachers need to monitor and move around the classroom. Anxious, skittish, nervous behavior by the teacher in the form of focusing attention on themselves, is a no no. The best teacher is often an invisible teacher….

#5 Too friendly

From my years of teaching, a big warning sign goes off if a teacher is too friendly. How can that be, you say? Well, it is a fine line and a balancing act but good teaching is about sticking to the objective of that day. It is about professionalism and organization. Teachers that are constantly chatting with students, going off on tangents during class etc….. have really crossed a line. A line that should be outside of class. There is plenty of time for that outside of the classroom and I applaud it. But inside, it is our job to teach an objective and use skilled means for the students to acquire and practice that.

Agree or disagree? These warning signs are something to digest…….

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Teacher trainer, technology specialist, educational thinker...creator of EFL Classroom 2.0, a social networking site for thousands of EFL / ESL teachers and students around the world.

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