Friday, September 19, 2008


Dear Jeya,

1. Thanks for your letter which I received two days ago. I am very excited to hear that you will be a full-fledged English teacher soon. You asked me if I could give you some advice before you are sent on your ‘mission’. So, here is my two cents’ worth of advice which I have entitled ‘The Seven Habit of a Highly Effective Teacher’.
2. First and foremost, maintain a healthy relationship with your colleagues. Respect your senior. You’ll be surprise how a ‘good morning’ can change people perspective of you. Be friendly to everyone from the teachers to the gardener, the clerk (who determines when you might get your pay) and even the canteen folks.
3. Then, the first time you enter the class, sign a verbal agreement with the student. Let them know your expectations and agree on the type of punishment if they misbehave. Be strict with your students but be fair. Show them that you are approachable and friendly but draw the line. Do not show favouritism even thought it is natural like some students more than others. I have seen teachers who are so close to the students that they cannot carried out their duties without showing favouritism. Your students must know that they can come to you anytime if they need your help but you have to maintain a distance. I made that mistake in the first year I teaching. I was so closed to a group of my students that other students felt left out. When they left for further studies, I was devastated. I walked around the school trying to summon courage and strength to begin a new term. A part of me went with them. It was so difficult to start again.
4. Apart from that, know your stuff and present them well. Since you are teaching English, then you will need to be a great performer as well because you will be teaching them foreign language. Bring in some songs to liven up your lessons and to show that you are ‘hip’ as well. Tell them stories, capture their attention and make them laugh. The idea is to connect with the students. Some teachers know their stuff but they do not know how to reach the students. Once they love you, they will automatically want to improve.
5. As a class teacher, you will be required to handle your students’ money and if you are handling exam classes, this may run into a few thousand. Make it a habit to submit their fees immediately. Do not spend what is not yours. .Maintain a separate notebook as your students pay and make sure they sign in your book. Sometimes you may have students who insist that they have paid their fees and you may have no record. Keep account of all the money carefully.
6. Another advice is to invest in a computer if you don’t already have one, and throw in a good scanner as well. You will need all these when you are setting question for those monthly and term exams. Initially, it may be very troublesome to type or scan everything but it will save you some hair-pulling moments in years to come. After a few years, you will have a good question bank. You can reuse the questions in years to come or when you are required to churn out question for your students to practice. Type all your documents and project papers for your societies and club into the computer as well. This will save you lots of precious time and this year , all you need to do is to change the year and some names, and voila, you have a new project paper. Work hard but work smart too.
7. In addition, you should have a filling system with separate coloured files for different subjects or projects. Deal with your paperwork as they come to you. These paper are either to be filled away, acted upon or to be recycled immediately. Do not push them under your tray and forget about them till deadlines loom for those report and analyses. Get a file for personal documents and update the file. If you do any exercises, keep copies of it and file it up. I make it a point to photocopy 40 copies of effective exercises in a clear folder so that I can use it the following year or another class. These exercises come in handy when you are away, attending a course or you are simply to busy to prepare.
8. Last but not least, keep learning and updating yourself continuously. I know of lectures and teachers who use the same notes year in and year out. Sadly, some teachers boast of twenty years of experience and yet never been bothered to improve their teaching methods or upgrade themselves. Use the internet to do research as well as to contact other teachers around the world. Make it a point to visit a bookstore, either to rent a book or to buys book once a month. Take every opportunity to attend courses. Remember that once you stop learning, you stop being an affective teacher.
9. Well, I hope my advice will be helpful to you and I am confident that you will make a wonderful teacher. Do write to me and tell me of your progress.

Yours sincerely,


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