This blog post was inspired by a conversation I had with a close friend of mine (also a graduate student but at a different institution). She is in the process of deciding whether or not serve as a Teaching Assistant for a lab course and expressed a deep concern about not being a “good enough” teacher to make a good TA. She echoed sentiments that I had heard from other colleagues who have struggled with confidence in the classroom because they just “didn’t have the flair for teaching.”
My curiosity grew and I began looking into whether or not effective teachers are born or made. To my delight, this turns out to be a very popular conversation among educators over the years. From my readings, I find myself leaning towards the argument that effective teachers are MADE/RAISED/GROOMED. I have included some of my readings below for your reference.
Great Teachers: Born or Made?
Natural Born Teachers
Teaching the Teachers
Excellence in Teaching
I must say that I came across a number of valid arguments for the contribution of an innate gift to an individual’s teaching abilities. However, with the proper tools and training, the lack of some innate ability should not be an obstacle that prevents an individual from achieving teaching success. Even the most naturally talented teacher would fail to be effective in the classroom without implementing practical elements such as preparation, organization, knowledge/love of content, clarity, stimulating student interest and being respectful. Furthermore, this article highlights nine characteristics of great teachers and it is reassuring to see that 8 out of the 9 highlighted characteristics are skills that an individual can learn and put into practice. This concept ties in very nicely with what we do at the CTL; we provide students and postdocs with tools that allow them to become effective teachers irrespective of natural gifts/predispositions.
Moving on to my dear friend’s dilemma, I wanted to provide a starting point for her and other individuals struggling with the fear of not being effective teachers, to begin to tackle this challenge. I have compiled a (very) short list of resources below that provide helpful information/tools to help one navigate the apprehension that could come with teaching, especially for the first time.
Chapter 1: Teaching the First Class
Tips for First-time Teachers
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this discussion. Are good teachers born or made? Please also feel free to suggest other resources you have found helpful along your journey as a developing teacher.