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Summary and Review of Webinar – “How to Be a Reflective Teacher”

March 25th, 2014

On March 12th, 2014, the American Embassy in Peru hosted a webinar about “How to Be a Reflective Teacher” lead by a professor at an upstanding university in Lima, Giovana Risco. The webinar was effective in giving insight on practical ways to be an effective educator to students of all ages. The lesson taught about how to meet the academic and social needs of students in ESL classrooms while keeping the material engaging and stimulating. In the following brief recap, the main points of the webinar will be outlined.

A good teacher:

Firstly, a good teacher cares about the students. Being an educator requires a sense of passion for the material sold (information) and the clientele served (students). Without this sense of passion, the remaining aspects of teaching have nothing upon which to base themselves. First and foremost, an educator must care about the students at a fundamental level. This will ensure that the instructor will do whatever possible to aid in the students’ learning process and sacrifice effort, time and small amounts of sanity in order to support growth for the students.

Secondly, a good teacher listens to the students’ concerns. It is easy, at times, to grow tired of excuses and tall tales from students. There seems to be a never-ending supply of stories about why they didn’t do their homework or why they are using their cell phone during a test. Despite this thrilling aspect of teaching, teachers must listen to their students concerns keeping in mind that they are people with needs, too. It is essential that educators use a discerning ear while listening to students’ concerns to know when to exercise flexibility or when to “put your foot down”, so to speak.

Thirdly, a good teacher is flexible. Being an educator is impossible without being flexible. Snow days, sick students, early dismissals, difficult-to-grasp topics taking a longer time than planned, unexpected meetings with administration, topics taking shorter than planned, student arguments, no-show guest speakers and even teacher illness are some examples of the millions of unexpected things that could happen during a “normal” day of teaching. A good teacher is flexible and can quickly adapt and make changes to his/her lesson plans to flow with the curveballs that are thrown at them throughout a school day.

Fourthly, a good teacher is motivated. One must be motivated to be the best teacher one can be and to instruct to the best of one’s abilities. Students know when a teacher is motivated about their work or lazy and unsatisfied. Students are more likely to respond to a teacher with motivation rather than to a teacher who simply reads from the book, gives the minimal possible passing effort and goes home for the day. Without teacher motivation, students will not be encouraged to be energized about their studies, which will lead to boredom, which leads to failure.

Fifthly, a good teacher is disciplined. Disciplined is a multi-faceted word. To be disciplined means to have good time management. It also means to be prepared through concise lesson plans and ample knowledge about the subject. Being disciplined means taking the job seriously and completing the tasks at hand to the best of one’s abilities. A disciplined teacher takes charge of a classroom with authority and care and establishes a solid foundation of knowledge for students.

Lastly, a good teacher knows the material well. This is a given in the teaching world because without a complete understanding of the material, an instructor cannot instruct people with less knowledge about the topic effectively. A teacher should be an expert in their field. Some people believe that a person best understands a subject when he/she can teach it. This idea expresses that an instructor must have the highest level of understanding of a subject in order to instruct others.

Giovana Risco goes on to mention that instructors must not only be “good” in and of themselves, but they must also present “good” activities to engage students. She mentions that engaging class work stimulates curiosity, permits students to express creativity, makes them think, is challenging and fosters positive relationships. Keeping this in mind, a teacher knows that activities should not be repetitive, require little thought, nor be forced onto the students. Learning is more effective when students are in charge of their educational process. Ms. Risco encourages educators to allow students to develop their independence in the classroom and that by reducing teaching time, students take more responsibility for what goes on in the lessons.

This webinar was educational for teachers, specifically ESL teachers for whom the lecture was created. Giovana Risco demonstrates a solid understanding of what makes a reflective teacher and what instructors should do to create a positive learning environment for students. Her insight was invaluable and she will hopefully produce more webinars in the near future.