First, I’d like to give warm welcomes to all of the #DU19chat members who joined our discussion tonight. You positively contributed to the conversation, which helped everybody in critically engaging in these important ELT topics. We hope to see you again and again!
Second, I’d like to mention why this topic is important for me. Whilst teaching in the KSA, I have noticed that motivation is low and anxiety is moderate. This could be for a variety of reasons. Moreover, as teachers, we are all sometimes guilty of failing to inspire, motivating, or instilling confidence. There has been, perhaps, an idea that teaching is primarily about teaching language systems and skills. I argue, however, that the role of a teacher is more than this. In this #ELTchat discussion, we explore the role of a teacher’s personality on student’s learning.
I have found 5 common themes in this week’s discussion which I will use to organise this summary. They are:
- What types of personality are present in ELT?
- Why is teacher personality so important?
- How can we learn/teach personalty to ELTs?
- Is there a relationship between personality and ‘edutainment’?
- What research has been conducted so far in teaching personalities?
1. What types of personality are present in ELT?
@adi_rajan began the conversation by stating that he is a “tad suspicious of charismatic teachers”. It was discussed that charisma is sometimes used for negative reasons – for example, selling a product or a having a lack of substance. However, charisma is valued in the classroom in some contexts. A positive interpretation of charisma might be ‘passion for the subject’ or even ‘passion for the student and their progress’. How can teachers who lack or don’t have it, fake it? [1.1] @sandymillin stated that passion is ‘far more important than charisma’, although they are often together. Teachers need to both be interested in their subject and share that enthusiasm with students. Another negative of ‘personality’ might a risk of too much TTT. Further, whereas an assertive personality might motivate; a teacher should focus on the learner and not on themselves. In response, one commenter wrote that a strong, dynamic, and assertive teacher seemed like his idea of hell if he was the teacher [1.2]. @SamCoff72294423 commented that in his teacher training, he has had teachers who lack a ‘sparking personality’ but have other positive teaching skills such as patience. @Michael37093679 humourously stated that one doesn’t need to be Oprah Winfrey to be a good teacher. For him, ‘professionalism, stamina and resilience’ are the important aspects of the job. [1.3]
So what are valued teacher personality traits?
A teacher’s passion for their job, as opposed to an ‘in-between’ job, might also be popular with students. [1.4] For young and teenage learners: ‘Presence’, or the ability to appear in command, was mentioned. Students need to trust and respect the teacher. [1.5] For a teenage student, an important personality trait was strictness. However, it was also noted that a friendly personality encouraged speaking, perhaps by shyer students [1.6]. Moreover, for young or teenage learners, classroom management is important. Teachers with generally lower self-esteem might need more development on their classroom presence. This is particularly true of a full class of teenagers who have no English, for example. Sometimes, that authority is not a natural part of the teacher’s personality. @SueAnnan wisely reminded us that ‘presence can be gentle’. [1.7]
@Marisa_C gave an interesting metaphor:
To what extent is teaching about love, or other parental qualities?
2. Why is teacher personality so important?
@KLaperrouze noted that the teacher’s personality helps create interactions. If the teacher looks bored or unmotivated, the students mimic that behaviour. However, are these traits from personality or from daily behaviours? It was noted that the classroom atmosphere definitely affects students – which the teacher is responsible for. [2.1] @BnndC cautiously stated that there might some students have strong personalities. As a result, the teacher’s ability to lead is required. [2.2] Moreover, “a dynamic and motivated teacher will encourage his/her students if the learning process, which can be tedious for students” [2.3]. Aside from teaching, it is also good to think of students as human beings(!). Relationships between human beings are vital for learning [2.4]
In a 1:1 context, it was discussed whether it is important if the teacher’s personality should match the students. If they don’t/can’t get along, what happens next? It was advised that, although difficult, the professional approach might be to put our personality on the back burner [2.5].
Moreover, regarding teacher types, how much does context affect what is a good teacher ‘personality’? In Saudi Arabia, for example, it was noted that the students want to see the teacher as their personal friend. Would this also be true in China? Teacher personality is a difficult and multifacted concept, which might need more bridges to general educational studies [2.6].
Lastly, it was commented that it can be disheartening that some students remember a teacher’s personality without remembering or understanding that they didn’t learn/produce any English. Conversely, a negative persona might block learning [2.7].
3. How can we learn/teach personalty to ELTs?
@CsillaBeen advised that ‘drama and theatre techniques are very useful for learning presence in the classroom [3.1]. Teaching ‘personality’ might be difficult and is often not in teacher training programs – however teacher rapport is. @fionaljp shrewdly pointed out that we should help trainees gain confidence in the classroom ‘so their best personality traits shine through’. @jonjoTESOL asked CELTA trainer @Marisa_C about the content of personality on the current CELTA. She replied that whereas it isn’t part of the syllabus, but the teacher’s personal traits in different contexts and teaching approaches is covered [3.2]. It might be the case that personality cannot change, on the other hand ‘soft skills’ and emotional intelligence can be learnt, which should be apart of CPD [3.3]. Moreover, role modelling might be preferable on some teacher training syllabuses in hopes to avoid directly the teacher’s persona. Perhaps, a more personal 1:1 feedback is more preferable because it is a personal and tricky area to tackle [3.4]. Self-reflections also seemed to be a better way to shape and mold teachers – as opposed to barking orders like ‘be happier!’. However, it was rightfully noted that teacher reflections need to come from a pedagogical standpoint rather than a personal opinion [3.5]
4. Is there a relationship between personality and ‘edutainment’?
Edutainment was a word that was often used in this discussion. @evelynreverhart notes that some parts of the ESOL industry want teachers to put on a show rather than teach language [4.1]. This isn’t beneficial for students, but is perhaps beneficial for the school itself. But, then, shouldn’t all lessons have some aspect of edutainment? There are unacademic, anxious, and unmotivated students who need entertainment to encourage positive learning traits. This might include games or jokes, depending on age and context. It was noted that the suffix ‘-tainment’ is often a derogatory term (for e.g., information being superior to infotainment). As such, is edutainment bad? [4.2] For one, engaging materials that meet learners’ needs will trump edutainment. He was firm to assert that students being entertained doesn’t always equal learning [4.3]. As such, what is the difference between a fun lesson, an interesting lesson, and edutainment? [4.4].
5. What writings and research has been conducted so far in teaching personalities?
- @lauraahaha has written and spoken about introverts in ELT. This might be important for introverted teachers in and out the classroom. She also occasionally uses #introvelt. One of my favourite tweets from that hashtag:
Zoltán Dörnyei has research about teacher rapport and student motivation. https://www.zoltandornyei.co.uk/
- What kind of teacher are you? Are you in your students’ “Hall of Fame?” – Marisa Contantinides 14/2/10
- Lion Tamers and Circus Clowns – Troy Nahumko 23/12/11
At this stage of my teaching career, I am beginning to wonder where the teacher’s personality is the elephant in the classroom. It is a difficult topic to discuss with teachers but it might be an obvious and simple answer to problems in the classroom. Whereas it is easier to comment on the helpful and unhelpful actions of a teacher (e.g. boardwork, instruction giving, TTT/STT), discussing their personality might be seen as an attack on the person themself. Like other art forms, the teacher can invest a lot of themselves in the class and their students. Teaching is a personal action. Luckily, some of the advice and solutions given above regarding teacher training and feedback seem helpful. As other #ELTchat commenters noted, it is difficult to systematically identify and categorise ‘teacher personalities’ – this is made even more difficult as different teaching contexts value different teacher personalities. However, if it truly is as big as the elephant, further research into this topic would definitely be valued.
Featured Image: https://blog.rendia.com/patient-personalities/
The elephant in the room: https://wronghands1.com/2018/01/12/parts-of-the-elephant-in-the-room/