Why should we bother to teach well?

Tonight’s session marked the end of this year’s PT PGDE Primary SCT course, and also the end of my teaching in 2014-15. The Teaching Practice supervisions will then proceed in full swing.
The SCT is a subject-teaching-major course which every PGDE student has to take. The 50 hours of SCT English are all about ELT approaches, methods, and techniques. There was a time in my career in L2 teacher education when I was obsessed with training teachers in the application of ‘scientific’ methods of teaching. But in the last few years, my orientation has changed. I have come to realise that all the training on teaching methods will have no significance if the teacher’s heart is not there. On the contrary, if teachers go about their work with passion, even if the training they receive is not first-rate, they will keep looking for better ways to teach, and their teaching quality will always improve.
Hence, today, I will often finish a last SCT session in this way. I’d say to the trainees: “We have spent 50 hours learning how to teach English more effectively. But at the end of the day, why should we bother? Why should we bother to be good teachers? Why should we bother to teach well?”
I then play the “Make a Difference Movie: The Teddy Stallard Story”, to remind the teachers that in our position as teachers, sometimes we may be making a difference in our students’ lives without our own knowing. That is why we should bother to be good teachers.
My MA professor and dissertation supervisor was the world-famous TESOL scholar Professor Jack Richards. He spent his entire academic career training teachers in the methods of teaching English. Yet, his maxim has always been: “There is no such thing as good teaching; there are only good teachers.” Of course he doesn’t mean that in second language teaching, anything goes. What he means is that educating the teacher is always more important that training them in the mechanical application of teaching methods.
Professor Jack Richards’ words have stuck with me forever. He has made a difference in the way I go about second language teacher education. He has made a difference in my life.
In a similar vein, Miss Thompson learnt from her relentless effort to help the once at-risk Teddy Stallard improve his school work that what mattered most was the human connection; and from that day onward, “she quit teaching reading and maths, and started teaching children”.
The scene that touches my heart the most in the Teddy Stallard Story takes place during Teddy’s wedding. Teddy confides to Miss Thompson, “Thank you for believing in me. Thank you for making a difference in my life.” With tears in her eyes, Miss Thompson replied, “Teddy, you’ve got it all wrong – I didn’t know how to teach until the day I met you.”
I didn’t know how to teach until the day I met you.


In our capacity as teachers, we have the opportunity to make a difference in our students’ lives. But through conscientious teaching, our students can also have the capacity to make us better teachers, and perhaps even better human beings.



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