Saturday, November 13, 2010

It's all about relationship

So I've been thinking lately about teaching, and what is really important.  I increasingly think that it's not so much about handouts, excessive prep and fancy powerpoints.  I think it's about all the relationships you can build with students.  If the students like you, they will want to learn from you. 

I remember back to when I was a student, and it's not the material I remember, but about the relationships I had with the teachers.  My favorites were the ones that were kind, and funny, and gentle and who cared about me as a person.  And those were the classes I cared about.  The arrogant, bad-communicators, and those with no social skills?  Well, it didn't matter how good their presentation was, or how relevant their material was...I just didn't care and only wanted to make it through. 

So how does that relate to teaching in Korea?  I have some coworkers who I see, as I'm walking by classrooms before class who have these crazy impressive powerpoint presentations.  And I see handouts that are left in classrooms by teachers before me.  They are also most impressive.  Except the teachers that have this stuff are generally those that I would consider weak on the social skill end of things.  They are definitely on the lower end of the well-liked people at my uni spectrum.  I think they use technology to hide behind, as a way of avoiding real interaction and engagement.

On the other hand, those that I would consider the most well-liked kind of people, seem to not have so many impressive handouts or powerpoints.  But, I think that they actually engage the students in a real, interesting kind of way and I have a feeling that their students are actually learning English. 

So, not that technology, impressive handouts=bad teacher, and no technology, no handouts=good teacher.  It's way more complicated than that obviously.  But, I would definitely think carefully about your purpose behind using this stuff.  Is it to further student's learning or is to hide behind?  Teaching is all about relationship and I think it's pretty hard to have a relationship with a TV screen or a piece of paper.


John from Daejeon said...


I know I've lost a bit of my "teaching skill set" thanks to new technology and being forced to use more and more of this technology in my "now" much less intimate classes. Technology can also disrupt the flow of a class if everything isn’t in perfect working order or if it is used at inopportune times in the class.

And once you get to the upper echelons of academia, the professors at the top are most likely far removed from the classroom and teaching and are pure researchers who still teach a class here and there but are no longer even connecting with their students because of this “research” versus “actual teaching” chasm mentality.

Jackie Bolen said...

Amen to technology disrupting the flow of class! People who are bad at it, just shouldn't use it.