What students value in teachers (from Stephen Brookfield)

Todays’ post is inspired by reading Chapter 4 of Stephen Brooksfield’s book The Skillful Teacher.

The Skillful Teacher. On technique, trust and responsivness in the classroom (San Francisco: Jossey Bass)
Stephen Brookfield (2006) The Skillful Teacher. On technique, trust and responsivness in the classroom (San Francisco: Jossey Bass)

What follows is a crude summary of the chapter entitled “What students value in teachers”. It is also inspired in the background, by a rather nonsensical article (in my view) in a recent ‘Comment is Free’ post in the Guardian entitled “Why do private schools attract the most memorable teachers?” This view is mostly backed-up the fact that Alan Bennett’s ‘History Boys’ has been voted Britain’s favourite play. The piece then goes on about as other teachers from fiction, yes fiction.

I am firm in my conviction that there are great teachers in all sorts of schools at all levels. Just because I attended a comprehensive school and have failed to write an award winning play centring on a character loosely based on one of my school teachers does not mean that I had no great (however defined) teachers. (Reminding myself write a piece about grammar schools in the near future).
To return back to where I started, to be valued by students Brookfield identifies two main attributes of skilful teachers, credibility and authenticity. These can be broken down into further categories:

  1. Credibility
    Having expertise about the subject
    Being experienced in what you are teaching about.
    Rationale: Being explicit about assumptions. Not sounding like you’re making it up.
    Conviction: Coming across as people teaching something important.
  2. Authenticity
    Congruence: This is congruence between our words and actions. Brookfield gives the example of claiming to value critical thinking, yet shutting down any sense of debate.
    Full disclosure: Making your criteria, expectations and agendas clear and explicit.
    Responsiveness: I suppose we could call this one responding to student feedback (not the same thing as capitulation).
    Personhood: Boing a real person with a life outside the classroom and not be an “institutional functionary”.
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