By Elisabetta Lando
I came across this question when looking at this infographic (http://elearninginfographics.com/what-type-of-teacher-are-you-infographic) and it got me wondering. I think we all look back and ponder which teacher taught us or inspired us the most. When I think of all the teachers I have had, the best one is actually one I met when I was already a teacher myself. However, as a teaching observer, if I reflect on his actual teaching methods I would probably have had to grade him a 3 – in other words ‘needs improvement’. Boxes on my observation checklist would not have been ticked; such as whether he had ensured our SMART targets were in place or if all teaching and learning activities had been clearly stated at the beginning of the session and so on. So, thinking with my student hat on, why did I think he was such a great teacher?
Well, I felt supported in a non-judgemental way. With gentle steering and clever questioning by him I remember moments where it seemed as if the scales fell from my eyes and my understanding of the subject fundamentally shifted. These types of breakthroughs were incredibly motivating and made me carry on learning with more enthusiasm and confidence, not only for the subject itself but also for my own self- development. I suppose this kind of teacher is most probably what could be termed as a ‘motivational leader’ but what makes a motivational leader?
Well apparently it’s about being more informal and open with a high emotional intelligence but for me it seems to be ultimately about focusing on the learning rather than ‘performance’ or behaviour of the learner. The focus on teaching the learner how to learn, wherever or whatever they are doing, takes precedence on teaching the learner on how to perform, which is still the focus in much of education. So the observation tick boxes that I mentioned before would probably naturally suit the more ‘perfect manager’ type of teacher in the infographic; this is the teaching model that is possibly more culturally ingrained in all us. A model that focuses on the learners’ results and scores, checks that work is completed and makes sure that all the stated aims are achieved by a certain point in time. Now, I personally think that not all the ‘perfect manager’ elements should be thrown out of the window. Obviously within the current structure of education it is still necessary to work within this framework. However, as in all things balance and flexibility are probably the best approach.
As a teacher myself it was exploring the potential of digital technology for a creative and inclusive learning experience that shifted my ways of doing things. I strongly felt that here were tools that could help me offer more to the learners in supporting their development. For example, increasing inclusion, presenting information in different ways, using the power of gamification to engage, developing online learning for access everywhere, developing virtual communities for peer learning and support, as well as letting learners create their own interesting resources. If done well all of these can really support learning in exciting and fundamental ways.
Since then as an elearning trainer working with teachers, I have often sensed that some teachers felt that using technology because senior management wanted them to, was taking them away from the real work of teaching. Many of their learners weren’t actually interested in using technology so what was the point? What I always try to show is that indeed, technology itself is not that important. It is not so much about the hardware, the apps or the shiny new tablets but it is actually more about creating a shift; there are some powerful tools that a teacher can use creatively to empower the learners in so many ways, so why not use them?