“Bore”! That is the severest stricture on a teacher. The words of wisdom may fall from his lips, his head may be full of treasures of knowledge, he may have drunk deep at the pierien spring, but if the teacher is boring, then he is not a good teacher. In order to impress, the teachers make the mistake of using high-sounding six-footed words that fall upon the ears of the students like strokes of hammer. They dazzle and stun the students rather than enlighten and impress them. For sometime the students tolerate, but very soon patience gives way. Students are not like the simple villagers of Goldsmith’s Auburn, who hear the heavy discourses of the village schoolmaster only to wonder how a small head could carry so much knowledge; they come to learn to understand and to grasp. When something goes continuously beyond their reach, they neglect it.
For such classes, whether they do not come or if they come they are inattentive. Complaints about indiscipline among students may decrease if teachers take care that their classes are not boring.
It does not imply that the ideal teacher is primarily an entertainer. Surely he is not a juggler, a puppeteer or a comedian. Classroom is neither a cinema hall nor a circus. It is a place for learning where the teacher comes to meet the students for imparting knowledge. The teacher is a custodian of knowledge and it is his first responsibility to see that the students receive at least as much knowledge as they are expected to do during the period they are with the students. The teacher has also to see that no ideas are distorted and the students develop a proper attitude towards knowledge. In his capacity as a custodian of knowledge the teacher should bring the students in contact with various points of life and learning. A basic honesty is essential for this purpose. No individual in this world can know everything on earth. So there will be moments in the class where the teacher himself may be ignorant of certain things. At such occasions, it becomes the duty of the teacher to confess his ignorance. Otherwise he will have to deceive and filibuster the students. Camouflage does not help for long.
Students are as much the responsibility of a teacher as knowledge. However learned one may be, if the learning does not reach the students, the teacher fails in his duty and efforts. Teachers are sometimes heard saying that the standard of the students is very low that they find it difficult to come down to their level. This is a bureaucratic and snobbish attitude. It is true that Mohammed must come to the mountain but let it not be forgotten that the mountain has first to inspire and attract Mohammed.
The students would try to approach the teacher and try to come upto his level only if the teacher has fulfilled the preliminary condition of evoking interest in his subject. Response is always a mutual affair. If the teacher responds to the interest and mood of the student he will surely beget the response he needs. The ideal teacher keeps in mind the aim which Addison prescribed for his paper the “Spectator” (i.e.) to enliven morality with wit and to temper wit with morality. Wit helps a great deal; with its help the heaviest and the most complicated things become bearable. In a dense forest of argument a flash of wit comes to give rest to the tired limbs of mind and lights up the dark path. Just as amusement and rest is necessary to carry out the business of life, wit and humour are essential to digest the heavy dose of wisdom.
Whereas a good teacher constantly endeavors to evoke interest of the students he himself also remains a student of life and literature. As a keen observer he sees all the movements of life around and tries to relate his observation to what he has to teach from books. Books are no doubt bloodless and they make a poor substitute for life. But if life is brought into books, they become a living experience. The teacher should constantly make references to that life of which the students are supposed to have a firsthand experience. Anecdotes from students’ lives and from the lives of authors can make things clear and concrete. It is always difficult to grasp an idea in the abstract form, but when it is concretised by a story or incident it becomes very simple.
A teacher is to have a wide reading experience without which he may be called a quack or a dead fossil. Attending the class should be an experience for students, different from that of reading a book. The personality of the teacher is also an important factor coupled with a rich voice and pleasant manners. A teacher is not only meant for classroom work but also for work that lies outside his classroom. A teacher is able to influence the course of the life of a student by interacting with him at a personal level with sympathetic approach. A good teacher is one who carries his learning lightly and is easily accessible to the students. A learned and popular teacher, when students begin to love and like him can prove as harmful as doting parents. The students then tend to approach him for every small thing and the teacher is always too ready with his opinion and solutions. Thus the teacher helps him in killing the students’ initiative and independent thinking.
To conclude the teachers should never lose sight of the fact that they are the builders of the society, who become teachers by choice and not under compulsion. To make the society, a sociable and a glorified one the teacher-student relationship should be that of the one that existed between Socrates and Plato, Plato and Aristotle and Aristotle and Alexander.