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A Teacher Worth Modelling

Posted by Claudio on May 30, 2009 in Teaching in Thailand |

She is known to many as “Ajarn A” – as a peer, I call her “P’A”. When she enters the classroom, her students pay attention; real attention. They know that she will help them grow in many ways, not just in their English language skills.

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Her name is Pornpun Sukphol. She has been teaching at Bangpleeratbamrung School since 1978. Her colleagues will tell you that she is as energetic and enthusiastic today as she was when she started out. Her appearance doesn’t give away the fact that she’s been having a positive impact on her students for more than 30 years.

Ajarn A is a teacher who truly understands the principles behind motivation — and motivating students is what it’s all about for a teacher. She knows when to use the proverbial carrot and seldom needs to use a stick. This is unusual, especially in a country like Thailand, where the norm still is “tough love”, expressed by a bamboo stick. Ajarn A has different ideas though. She knows from experience that motivating students positively has proven more effective than forcing them into learning. As a result, her students will go the extra mile any day of the week to get her recognition –and perhaps some extra points — for displaying good attitude.

What makes Ajarn A such a great teacher? Most importantly, she has a genuine interest in her students as human beings. She knows they are students, yes, but inside they are persons. Each one different, with their own problems and feelings. Ajarn A builds personal relationships with her students based on understanding and esteem. This is especially important in the case of students who haven’t elected to study English, but are forced to because it is a required subject.

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Ajarn A also has another great quality displayed by all good teachers: she is prepared and has the skills needed to convey her knowledge in a elegant and effective ways. Her didactic style is based on positively reinforcing a student’s progress. In her spare time, Ajarn A created small, laminated notes with short praise: “Job well done!” “Bravo!” “Outstanding!” “Way to go!”, etc. Whenever she is assisting a foreign English teacher, she is observing the happenings in the classroom without missing a beat. When she notices a proactive student, she springs to action. She quietly approaches the student and places one of these praise cards on his or her desk. At the end of the period, students can then turn in the earned cards for some extra credit. This is so effective, that most foreign teachers initially are surprised at how proactive the entire class is. Ask a question and you’ll get forty raised hands.

I am convinced there is an Ajarn A in every school. That one outstanding teacher who understands that a student’s improvement will be much quicker when they like and enjoy their subject. I’d be delighted if you shared your own experience with an outstanding teacher in the comments below. What is it, that made them so memorable to you?

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