By Afe Babalola
Who is or what makes a teacher?
There are good, average and bad teachers. It is not however everybody that holds School Certificate or University degree that is ipso facto a good teacher. In the colonial days, teachers were categorized as CD, C, CA and A. Colleges were established for the training of teachers. Nevertheless it may still be said that the first factor in the making of a teacher is qualification. This is why there are several academic programs designed towards the production of teachers. Many Universities in Nigeria today offer degree programs in Education. Some years back the government of Ogun State scored a remarkable first when it established Tai Solarin University, the first University of Education in Nigeria. This institution was designed to produce quality teachers to impact positively on the nation’s drive towards academic excellence. In addition to these there are still several leading Colleges of Education scattered around the country.
Constant training and retraining
However, the making of a teacher does not and cannot end at the point of acquisition of academic degrees. There must be constant training and retraining of teachers. Teachers must constantly acquaint themselves with modern teaching methods so that they do not turn out half or poorly educated students. A teacher after all can only teach what he knows and in a manner in which he knows how best to. Indeed the government of the then western region in introducing free education placed a high premium on teacher education and retraining such that a significant percentage of the budget was earmarked for teacher training. The manner in which they went about it was captured by S. Ademola Ajayi in the article titled “The development of Free Primary Education in Western Nigeria” in the following words: “the Minister of Education for the Western Region, Chief S. O. Awokoya, presented a comprehensive set of proposals calling for a free, universal and compulsory education otherwise known as the Universal Primary Education (U.P.E.) for the Western Region by January 1955 (Awokoya’a Proposal 1952). To make such a programme possible without lowering standards drastically, the minister included in his proposal a massive teacher-training programme, the expansion of teacher training facilities and secondary schools, the introduction of secondary technical education and Secondary Modern school (Western House of Assembly Debates: 30 July 1952).”..
“Between 1954 and 1966, education attracted the largest share of the Western Region’s recurrent budget, having varied between 28.9 per cent and 41.2 per cent during the period (Table 4). In the 1958-59 financial year, for instance, 41.2 percent of the total recurrent budget was devoted to education alone. This, undoubtedly, represented one of the highest proportional expenditures on education, the world over. That was an ample demonstration of the great importance that the regional government placed on education.
Rules and methods
After qualification and constant training, the teacher must also put in place rules and methods aimed at achieving the best results.
The teacher must firstly know himself. There are fast-talking teachers, slow-talking teachers, audible and inaudible teachers, temperamental teachers, lively, charismatic, approachable, introvert, extrovert, pleasant, quarrelsome and a host of others. Each person, has his own peculiar characteristics and attributes. A good teacher should know first which attributes and or deficiencies he has. It is only then that he will know in what ways to exploit the virtues to proper advantage in the performance of his duties or how to overcome his inadequacies.
An important aspect of the teacher knowing himself is also knowing why he wants to be a teacher in the first place. While some take up the profession out of a love of children some take to teaching simply because all other avenues of employment have failed. Whilst it is good to love children, I must say that this alone will not qualify a person as a good teacher. Teaching has specific demands which a love of children may not be enough to satisfy. It is well known for example that teaching children who have just reached school age requires skills which a teacher accustomed to teaching undergraduates may not possess. Thus I feel that a love of teaching itself and a desire to impart knowledge should be the driving force or only motivation in taking up teaching as profession.
A good teacher must know his students, possibly by name. Most students, if not all, will be happy if the teacher knows their names and calls them by those names. A student who is called by his name forms the right impression that he is an integral part of the class and that he matters to the lecturer.
Know the ability (or I.Q) of each student: The teacher must know those who are brilliant, those who are of average academic capabilities, and those who are below average among his students. This knowledge will help in knowing how to help each student by identifying their specific areas of needs and especially those on whom to focus more attention. This will lead to grouping of the students based on an assessment of their ability (or intelligence).
Apart from his own learning, the teacher must have a good knowledge of the subject-matter and must know a bit of every subject or most subjects under the sun. To acquire this, he must do his research very well before going to class. He must properly educate himself. He must always have it at the back of his mind that there are some among his students those who are intellectually endowed and who may be well ahead of the teacher himself. He must know that we are living in a world with remarkable technological advancements such as the computer and internet. Unless the teacher is current therefore, he may discover not only that some of the students are well ahead of him through research or the use of internet but that he has embarrassed or ridiculed himself by his inadequate or obsolete knowledge.
A good teacher must appreciate that his primary duty is to impart knowledge. This means that he must be able to communicate with the students properly. The best teacher communicates in very simple English. The best way is to communicate is short sentences instead of winding compound sentences and or bombastic English designed to impress the students.
A teacher’s delivery of his lessons must be interesting. There are many ways of invoking the students’ interest and a good teacher must know and employ these. A good teacher must also make the lesson interesting and lively through the use of analogy and stories, live cases and apposite practical examples.
Interaction and Participation: There must be interaction during the course of teaching or else the students will lose interest with their mind straying elsewhere. Although they are physically present, yet their minds are not with you. A teacher who teaches a non-listening student is wasting his time. Active participation of the students in the teaching and learning process will arouse their interest and sustain it. A good teacher must keep observing the students to see whether he is carrying them along. He must ask questions from persons who seem not to be attentive. All others will be forced to pay attention.
To be continued