To what extent is teaching just about personality? #ELTchat Summary for 27/03/2019
A collaborative summary written by trainee teachers at Université Grenoble Alpes
DU Formation des formateurs programme
This is the second time that trainee teachers from the Université Grenoble Alpes joined the #ELTchat. This time they also participated in the topic suggestion and voting process. Ten out of fourteen trainees attended the discussion and contributed to a dynamic chat shedding light on the topic from various perspectives. For many of them this has also been the first time they used Twitter, joined a global PLN of ELT professionals and used social media for exchanging information and shared practices. The chat sparked further thoughts which they have assembled in this collaborative summary.
We thank Marisa Constantinides @Marisa_C and Sue Annan @SueAnnan for accepting us and supporting our group of trainees in Grenoble, France.
To what extent is teaching just about personality?
This is the summary for the #ELTchat discussion from March 27, 2019, to which our #DUT19chat group from Grenoble was graciously invited to participate for the first time. This interesting academic opportunity was made possible thanks to one of our instructors, Ms. Csilla Jaray-Benn (@CsillaBenn), an active and long time participant to #ELTchat.
This topic received the most votes from #ELTchat members and an enthusiastic group of participants from all over the world shared their opinions, suggestions as well as their personal experiences during the 1 hour chat in an attempt to bring some answers to this challenging question.
While basic overall skills such as a good knowledge of the subject matter sprinkled with a healthy dose of pedagogy and effective classroom management are expected of most teachers, the issue of personality is also relevant because it plays a critical role at many levels in the business of teaching.
Many participants living and teaching in different parts of the world drew from their personal experience and cultural background to share how different personality traits, whether positive or negative, can be viewed and interpreted where they live and what is expected of them as effective teachers. Surprisingly enough, these expectations can be quite different from one country to another.
The discussion remained mostly focused on the valuable personality traits and qualities needed to make a teacher successful at his/her job in the sense of being able to promote a safe, supportive and nurturing environment for the learners.
If respect is definitely mentioned as the basis for any relationship between students and teacher, a strong emphasis was also put on the teacher’s ability:
- to show genuine interest in his/her learners (verbal, non-verbal, behavior)
- as well as in the job itself. Love and passion for teaching were used to define the level of professional commitment expected from a successful teacher
- be attentive to their needs and willing to respond accordingly
- provide a supportive, non-judgmental environment where openness and communication are always valued and encouraged.
- boost self-confidence as it will, in turn, help learners reach their goals and succeed. Important for unmotivated or anxious learners
- ability to show empathy, emotional intelligence. Crucial to be able to relate to any problematic situation, anyone, whatever his/her age
- always be mindful of people’s academic or cultural background in the process.
- be patient, not everybody learns at the same speed, be aware of differences, specific individual needs
As we all know, teachers can have a tremendous impact on their students, especially the younger ones who are looking up to them and the conversation stressed the importance of all these human qualities, often not taught or emphasized enough during teachers’ training courses.
Matching personalities on a one-on-one exchange may be challenging and certain adjustments may have to be considered when the match is not “made in heaven”
Other issues dealing with potential challenges faced by teachers were also brought up:
- they may not always feel motivated by their job because they do it for economic reasons or don’t earn enough to make a decent living
- this might, in turn, lead to frustration, a lack of commitment and performance as there is no genuine interest in what they do
- others might be so consumed with “sparkling” at the expense of actually teaching for real
- others might be shy, perhaps even introvert or simply uncomfortable speaking in front of a group
Drama and theater techniques were suggested to remedy to the problem as they can be quite useful to overcome a shy personality as well as add more presence to the classroom.
Overall, it seems like most of us reached the consensus that a nice, knowledgeable as well as engaging and dynamic teacher with a genuine, caring relationship with his/her learners, able to adjust to different situations and not afraid to wear many hats throughout the years will always be appreciated and long remembered by the people whose life he/she touched.
The personality of the T is crucial first to assert his authority as in a class, you will often meet with strong personalities which need to be controlled: so don’t miss it the very first day.
Personality is also essential to motivate and create an interaction. If a T comes in the classroom feeling tired, bored or not very engaged, the S will naturally feel less motivated and as a consequence start chatting (very common at middle and high school). The T is the leader, the one who motivates his troops! If he doesn’t believe in what he is teaching, who will then?
You can be strict (to be respected) and friendly as well, as it’s also necessary to loosen up during a course and make jokes. A charismatic T will leave his mark in the S’ mind and may the course be boring in the first place, he can still manage to create an interaction.
Teaching isn’t just about personality. However a friendly, outgoing and easy to deal with personality is always well appreciated; whether you are a Student or a Teacher.
I will talk from my own experience : I can say that my younger version was more impressed by strict Teachers who “knew how to handle a class” and at that time my classmates and I needed discipline. So I may think that (from 10 to 16 years old) I expected my teacher to teach me but I also needed them to give me “boundaries”.
As I got older I needed more from a Teacher to advise me and help me improve my marks. A “ superior” figure to whom I could talk about school and some private aspect of my life. A more “ open” to discussion Teacher’ was more required at this stage.
Today I think that as Teachers, we should be able to wear different “hats”. Because we will have to adapt to different type of students. I’d like to encourage myself and others to be meticulous in our job while enjoying sharing something we are passionate about.
As said before, teaching is not only about personality, but it is one of the important elements. Indeed, I think that teachers need to ‘share’ a bit of themselves so students can feel at ease and share parts of their lives too: this helps having a more positive class atmosphere.
However, teachers (sometimes) may have to hide some parts of their personality or highlights specific traits in order to adapt to the different personalities of their students. For example, most shy teachers hide this trait to appear more confident and to gain the respect of their students. Teachers’ personality also evolve during their career: they will probably be more confident after a few years, and this will affect their teaching style.
Also linked with personality, it is important for teachers to be strong and dynamic so they can motivate their students. Indeed, I think that students come to like (or dislike) a subject/language essentially thanks to the teacher.
Teachers do not necessarily need to « sparkle » in front of their learner(s) as @SamCoff72294423 underlined, but it is crucial for them to be understanding and also patient.
This way, the students may feel more easily motivated. The teacher should let them express themselves and not try to intervene too often, in order to help them becoming more confident. He/she needs to be someone supportive more than having a strong personality. It is important for the learners not to feel inferior or left behind. The feelings of the teacher and his/her attitude clearly have an impact on the classroom and its atmosphere.
It is important for him/her to act positively, even if it is not always a guarantee of success. For this to be possible, the teacher should be ready to change and/or adapt according to the type of learners he/she faces year after year. The context of learning as well as the culture of the students and their expectations can also have an impact on the teacher’s behaviour, according to @jonjoTESOL: « I’m thinking about how contexts differ. Desirable T personalities in China I think are very different to a Saudi context. One thing I’ve found here in the KSA is that students want to see the T as their friend! »
It seems to me that pretty much everyone participating in this Twitter chat tend to agree on the matter of T personality.
Indeed, personality is crucial… but need to be adaptable to S personalities but also to their behaviours, ages, (somehow) expectations but also culture.
Younger learners might need a “stricter” frame… whereas older learners who may lack confidence regarding learning English might prefer a teacher who reassures them, makes them feel comfortable and helps them go beyond their trauma with English (which is often the case with French adults learners).
Cultural issues are also a big thing. During the Twitter chat, several participants wrote about their experiences and that, for instance, a Saudi Arabian learner has clear diverse expectations than a Chinese student.
Thus, age, culture and experiences towards the learning process are things to take into consideration when being a T.
An important word… or concept… came out at some point during the chat : LOVE !
Love for what you do… Love for the people you teach…
Being benevolent is – or should be – the key to a lot of things… not only in teaching by the way !
A very good life leitmotiv ! 😊
The first question asked to participants in this chat was on the importance of the teacher’s personality and how it may affect his/her students. It triggered many reactions from us. We all agreed that it was important, but not sufficient in itself for teachers; they also need to be thorough and master their field of study, to earn their learners’ respect. Some of us also brought up the ideas of structure, discipline and authority, to reach this same goal of respect. Personality helps to create a healthy and friendly interaction in the classroom that optimizes students’ motivation, the teacher’s Holy Grail. There was a little debate amongst DU participants about friendly/funny teachers opposed to strict/strong personality teachers, but we all agreed that tedious lessons led to bored and unmotivated students, who are more likely to fail. A distinctive personality helps engaging their attention. The word “presence” popped out, which is to link with the fields of theatre and cinema. The questions of creativity and passion were mentioned as well, as in the manner of how knowledge is passed on to learners. From the first interaction with students comes the making of a relationship, which was another key word in the discussion. A human relationship. (I have to insist on “human” even if this is part of an EdTech course 😊 ).
On the second question about personality compatibility between teachers and learners, the consensus was that different compatibilities would be hard to manage for the teacher; although it added to experience. There were other posts arguing the virtues of “kind” VS “strict” teachers. A compromise, a middle ground, appeared to be the right option.
The third question proposed to us was perhaps the most argued point of the whole discussion, although my judgment may have been blurred by the fact that I failed to send my posts correctly. Can teachers have their personalities changed over the course of their career? We all agreed that experience changes the way you teach over the years but not necessarily your personality; which, to some, seems to be more intimate, immutable. It is our job; we don’t change, we adapt to the learners in front of us. A lot of us are shy, so once again the alleged miracle solution of drama classes came up. But we were all on the same page on that; especially after the classes with Marieke. Teachers are often shy people, who manage to overcome their inhibitions in a classroom. With experience and encouragement.
A fourth and final question was asked, about the case of personality compatibility in the context of a one-to-one lesson. Both personalities had better correspond in this context; the key is compromise, again, but if even this is impossible it could lead to frustration on both sides.
As a conclusion to this summary the final word that I think we all agreed on during that Twitter chat is LOVE. Love for English, love for those willing to learn English, and try to love the job of teaching English as much as possible even if it is demanding, as Marie-Pierre put it during the discussion.
Many of my posts could not be read by others that evening, because I didn’t put a space between the two hashtags…At the very end it did work for some reason. Silly me.
Teaching and the teacher is not just about personality. We can equally learn from Ts with very different personalities. We went through different T’s types of personalities in ELT. @CsillaBenn asked about charismatic teachers. Some were suspicious about it like @adi_rajan whereas @sandymillin stated that passion is far more important than charisma although they are often together. Accordingly we all agreed that the teacher needs to be a motivated professional so as to infuse his/ her enthusiasm into his/her class to create interaction and a challenging atmosphere @Klaperrouze. The teacher needs to show his passion for his job and share his love for the subject with his/her sts.
We also pointed out that the T needs to appear in command especially with young and teenage learners to be respected. Strictness was valued with these learners. @jonjoTESOL also referred to the importance of class management with teenage learners. @BnndC underlined the necessity to lead when facing sts with strong personalities. Although @jonjoTESOL brought our attention to the fact that we should not forget to consider that relationship with sts is vital for learning. This consideration leading to @Marisa_C metaphor «to what extent is teaching about love, or other parental qualities »
We also mentioned to how much does the context affect the T’s personality. He can be regarded as a personal friend in Saudi Arabia according to @jonjoTESOL whereas it’s very different in France for instance or Japan.
It was finally questioned how can we teach personalities to ELT’s. @CsillaBenn advised drama and theatre techniques although it’s not part of the CELTA’s syllabus confirmed @Marisa_C.
So to resume I will quote @Marisa_C : “So a motivateded and motivating T with a certain presence but also supportive and patient, able to get the most out of the Ss, all these seemed to be valued here.”
To what extent is teaching just about personality?
To the extent of context. Charisma, presence, shyness, passion and love were brought to the topic, but in the end the teacher’s personality reflects, most of the time, his/her context. Whe is he/she teaching? How often? When? Is the teacher struggling with too many hours? Are the students too young or lacking motivation? Does discipline need to be a part of teaching?
The chat participants clearly showed that their teaching evolved along with their career, we do grow while getting more and more experience. Flexibility is key along with the teacher’s will and love for the job.
Personality is clearly a part of teachers’ mission to share what they love, however, let’s not see it as a passive factor. Personality is all about adapting to what you’re doing, and mostly to whom you’re sending your messages. Compromise and experience seem to be the main tools to answer that debate question.
What comes out of this chat is that we all agree on the importance of the teacher’s personality in managing his classroom and getting his pupils engaged in the learning process.
A main important characteristic of the teacher’s personality that emerges from this chat is love and passion. The teacher must be passionate about his job; He must master his subject, prepare it well, be organized so that he can be able to keep students actively engaged in the course. He also must be friendly, encouraging and rewarding towards his pupils. His behaviour influences so much his pupils and consequently the classroom climate takes on the characteristics of the teacher’s personality.
It was argued by some participants that the teacher must set the tone from the first day of school to make clear objectives, expectations, acceptable and unacceptable behaviours.
Many participants who have an experience as teachers, state that the teacher’s personality is not static but evolves and is necessarily constructed in relation to student’s behaviours and expectations and in relation to their culture.
I really like the subject. I find that there is a lot to say about it and that 1 hour is not enough for all the participants to express themselves. However, I must admit it was hard for me to use twitter because it was the 1st time. I couldn’t read everything, so I couldn’t react in time but I’m sure next time I’ll be more comfortable. Apart from that, I think it’s an interesting tool to communicate and share opinions.
The first question of the chat session was : Why the teacher’s personality is important or if it is important ? Everyone agreed that it was in fact important because
the knowledge is delivered through what the teacher teaches but mostly how he/she says and transmits it. The teacher has to lead the troops and at the same time needs to have a strong personality to be able to lead the strongest personalities in the classroom. The teacher has to be able to impact the students’ motivation through his skills/behavior.
Concerning the following : ‘a strict teacher is a good teacher’, it might be true at some point but some of us prefer what we could call a ‘nice’ teacher who provides a good content thanks to a good mood.
After that we were asked this : Do you think experience can change the teacher’s personality over time ? Once again, everyone agreed on this point. Teaching changes your personality and you must adapt to your learners.
Moreover, a lot of teachers have a shy personality so they need to build motivating assets such as strength or dynamism on their own to gain confidence and the image it can reflect on the classroom later on.
The last question that was asked to us was : What about students’ personality and how much they match with the teacher’s personality (especially on one on one) ? As seen in the tweets, the teacher’s personality and the student’s personality have to match in some kind of way because if not, both of them will most likely lose their time.
Overall, it was an interesting topic with many interesting points discussed as well. The teacher’s personality constantly evolves and for that, experience and time are the best ways to improve your way of teaching.
(Paul Legrand @8dreadLock8)
All images are royalty free courtesy of www.canva.com
Well done everyone. Thanks for taking part and sharing your own impressions of the evening.
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