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TEACHING AS A CAREER
An Interview with Michael Beresford
- Well, Michael, is teaching as a career popular with young people?
- Well, it's hard to say. I think, teaching of some kinds is still popular as it ever was, and I think, teaching small children, teaching in nursery schools and in primary schools - that is still quite popular. More, of course, among women than amongst men, and the vast majority of teachers in nursery schools and primary schools are women. That is still a career which many take up with enthusiasm. And I mean that they are good at it, and that women are probably better teachers at this level because they're a kind of a substitute for the mother. When the child is learning to go away from the family, a woman figures more than others, like a mother figures for the child, and I think that's a natural development. When we come to secondary education, I think their position is rather different. I think, until very recent time, teaching in secondary schools of all sorts was still regarded as a good career, because it is a good career if it is a good school. But there is no doubt, that these days, the life of a secondary school teacher is harder than it was, say, 20 or 30 years ago, when I started my teaching career. Those who have been in teaching for a long time, tend to put up resistance, they know how to cope with problems better than the young ones, who often get disillusioned and give up teaching. So, we are short of good teachers. This is not true, of course, of the independent schools. There they can recruit people and pay them better salaries, and so they have few problems of recruitment. So, it's really the main problem in the state secondary schools and the comprehensive schools, I would say.
—And what is your idea of a good teacher then?
-It'll take a lot of time to describe. I think, a good teacher has not only to know his or her own subject, to be skilful with the subject he or she is teaching, but also to be a good person, to be a person with a pleasant nature, pleasant personality, sympathetic, particularly sympathetic to young people and their problems, to be kind and good, and understanding and also not to be full of sarcasm. In the old days, and too quite recently, like the time when I was being educated it was fashionable among teachers to put scorn on children even if they made a slight mistake. They were taught with great scorn and contempt, as if they were fools: children were made to look foolish and ignorant and shown in class in front of others. It made children feel uncomfortable. The opposite approach is required with children who are most lacking confidence, I mean, to encourage them from the part of a teacher, which will improve the child's learning. The child will not, of course, learn from a teacher he or she doesn't like. And I think, that is because the children want to learn, they want to please the teacher when they like. So, the matter of personality, I think, is the most important problem of teaching. Even a teacher, who doesn't know the subject perfectly well, can be a good teacher, if a pupil wants to follow him, and this is the essence of it. I think that being a good and sympathetic person is first and foremost; training and skill and knowledge come second, in my opinion.
(Interviewed by V. Kirichuk)
Ex. 1. Speculate on the following:
1. What problems are British schools faced with? Compare them with the problems facing
2. Michael Beresford says that a good teacher should have a pleasant personality, be
sympathetic, kind and understanding. What other personal qualities should a good
3. Michael says that a teacher should not be full of sarcasm. Can you name a few other traits of character a teacher must not possess?
4. You surely have come across two types of teachers, kind and mild persons, and very strict, even authoritarian ones. Whose lessons did you enjoy more? Where did you show better standards of achievement? When were there fewer breaches of discipline?
5. What makes many young people take up teaching as a career? Does teaching appeal to you? Give your reasons.
6. Why do many teachers quit their jobs? Make a list of advantages and disadvantages of the teaching career.
7. Now in Belarus we have 'schools of a new type' (lyceums, colleges, private schools, etc.) Would you like to work in one of these schools?