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Responsibilities of a Good Teacher

Paul grew up on a farm where moral virtues such as hard work and honesty were cherished. Each of his classes has a moral lesson.

Author on a field trip with his sixth grade students in Bangkok in 2010.

Author on a field trip with his sixth grade students in Bangkok in 2010.

January 16 is Teachers' Day in Thailand. In other countries, days are also set aside to honor teachers. Why? It is undeniable that teachers play a major role in the lives of students. Teachers are just as important as parents in the education of children. Therefore, it is fitting to give all educators their due honor and respect.

In 2007, while teaching English as a Foreign Language (EFL) in Taiwan, a Chinese teacher remarked to me that there are never really any bad students, but there are only bad teachers. At the time I was surprised to hear this because I firmly believed there were indeed bad students based on my previous teaching experiences. That was until I started to reflect on the relationship between teachers and students, and the true responsibilities of teachers to students. It then started to become clear to me that students would certainly be bad if teachers did not meet their responsibilities. What, then, are the responsibilities of teachers to students?

Author, Paul Kuehn, teaching at Saint Joseph Bangna School in 2009

Author, Paul Kuehn, teaching at Saint Joseph Bangna School in 2009

Responsibilities of a Good Teacher

All school teachers, especially those engaged in the education of K-12 students, have both academic and non-academic responsibilities to their pupils. Sadly and unfortunately, most people only consider academic responsibilities. They want their children's teachers to be the most knowledgeable of the subject matter they are teaching and also be the best in getting their kids to learn. Non-academic responsibilities, however, are just as important as academic responsibilities. Chances are that 20-30 years from now, the non-academic moral lessons learned in the classroom will be remembered more than any academic knowledge.

Academic Responsibilities

All parents want their children to have the best teachers. "Best" here implies that the teacher has the responsibility to be one of the best trained and knowledgeable in his or her subject matter expertise. It also means that the instructor can teach skills and facilitate learning just like a coach does in sports. Not every teacher, however, needs to have a Ph.D. or be an expert on the subject he is teaching. Many successful baseball, basketball, and football coaches have not been all-stars. What is important is for the teacher is to be a fair, dedicated, and honest motivator and facilitator who can get the most out of his students through concentration, attention to detail, and practice, much like a coach of a sports team.

Non-academic Responsibilities

I wouldn't be afraid to bet that most people remember their favorite school teacher for the non-academic moral lessons which they got out of the class. Teachers' non-academic responsibilities are so important to students because many of them spend more time each day with teachers than with parents. At private schools in Thailand where I taught EFL, many parents dropped their kids off at around 6:30 A.M. and didn't pick them up until 5:00 P.M. or 6:00 P.M. Because teachers spend so much time each day with kids, it is necessary for them to be a parent-like figure and also a role model inculcating moral values.

Teachers as Parent-like Figures

In many homes, a mother or father will only have a few hours each day to interact with their children. For this reason, teachers must assume parental responsibilities while being with their students. This is especially true for students in grades K-9. Just like a good parent, a good teacher must be loving, caring, compassionate, kind, fair, and forgiving. Students expect this from teachers. I have found that if I am loving, caring, compassionate, kind, fair, and forgiving to my students, they will treat me and their classmates likewise.

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Teachers as Role Models

All children and youth are searching for role models. Too often the role models that a lot of kids choose from today's pop culture leave a lot to be desired. Many of these role models are pop performers whose behavior should not be emulated. I find the lyrics of many pop-rap songs sexually suggestive and abusive to young children. This fascination with body art through tattoos and body piercing is also not setting a good example for kids. Therefore, a good teacher as a role model should outwardly and inwardly display no bad habits or behavior in dress, grooming, or body defacing for students to notice.

My ideal role model is a teacher who doesn't drink, smoke, take drugs, have tattoos, or display outlandish body piercings. If a teacher can't break the habits of drinking and smoking, he or she must never come to school drunk or be seen drinking or smoking by his or her students. If the teacher must have a tattoo, he or she must always have it covered up and never exposed to pupils. Professional dress should always be worn in the classroom, and casual sports attire worn only for school activities.

As excellent role models, teachers have the responsibility, to be honest, and hard-working, have an enthusiasm for teaching and learning, be punctual, and display cooperation and compromise in the classroom. Students do pay attention to the behavior of their teachers. If teachers are seen, to be honest, hard-working, and enthusiastic in class, their students will be less likely to cheat. Classes will be more lively with a quest for learning, and students will work harder to be recognized on the teachers' wall of fame in the classroom.

Students will not be tardy to class if teachers are also punctual to class. I have found that cooperation and compromise are necessary features of motivation. If a teacher models cooperation and compromise in the classroom, he can expect students to display it both inside and outside of class.

Finally, as exemplary role models, teachers must always practice and insist on good manners both in and out of class and make sure students are responsible. This includes giving greetings to all teachers and elders when meeting, not talking while other students or the teacher are talking in class, and not throwing things in class. I have found that many students are irresponsible when it comes to bringing their books to class and doing homework. It is teachers' responsibility through the consequences of actions to ensure that students accept responsibility for the basic student chores of bringing materials to class and doing homework.

The responsibilities of every school teacher are more important today than ever before. If teachers are to effectively train our future leaders of tomorrow, they must pay attention not only to their academic responsibilities but also to their non-academic responsibilities of teaching moral values to students.

Responsibilities of a Good Teacher

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

© 2012 Paul Richard Kuehn

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