Five Things That Make A Great Teacher

a longing student

I attended the Miami Book Fair a few weeks ago  and took a workshop in fiction writing.  I chose this topic because our teacher, Colin Channer,  was the great teacher I am referring to above.

So what in my opinion makes a great teacher?

1.For starters,  he or  she  is truly enthusiastic about what they are teaching. There is a joy in the involvement that is infectious and in our case was contagious. I know that Colin’s enthusiastic examples made us really want to jump in and do the assignments.

2.There is a focus, not on how much information can be given but on how a few key concepts can be imparted, then practiced and;  hopefully, realized by the student. For example we had been shown how  a story is simply a number of scenes. Seen from this perspective, a short story might consist of an opening scene, three or four intermediate scenes and a closing scene.  By seeing the context in this manner, we could embrace a greater dimension by understanding there was the physical environment, the character descriptions, and the narrative in each scene. Understanding the nature of a scene thus enriched the story telling. Each sentence must be designed to move the story forward. To drive that last point home we were asked to break off into small groups and to describe the opening scene we had created. The members could then ask questions or suggest ways in which the character’s flaws for example could be used to create other possibly  more interesting scenarios. By so doing we learned the benefit of seeing our character through a variety of lenses. This was actually quite fun. It could be a great parlor game.

3. There is encouragement for the learning process. Each person knows  they will have to account for their participation, but will be recognized for anything they have attempted.  Seeing the standard others are achieving is a more compelling incentive than to be embarrassed or humiliated.

4. The teacher makes a connection with each student by acknowledging their name or with a gesture of any kind which shows that it is an inclusive atmosphere: the teacher feels appreciation ahead of time for their students and the potential they represent.  This sense of inclusiveness is felt by all present and strengthens the bond between teacher and students.

5. The great teacher makes  learning fun for the student. This may be the hardest, but they design exercises or tasks which create desire on the part of the student. The end result can be  a revelation. We, for example, were asked to stalk a person for fifteen minutes and  make up a story about this person.  Somehow the process of finding a person and following them consciously acted like a catalyst, and enhanced the creative process.

I am sure there are many more attributes, but these certainly are five.  Thank you Colin.

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