What is a “Whole Teacher”?

There is no simple answer. It seems that one answer misses out on a lot of other factors. This may be why the International Teacher Development Institute (iTDi) devoted two blog issues to the topic, The Whole Teacher and More Whole Teacher. From these experienced educators, I learned that it is a very personal topic. We all have our own perspective. For their 2014 TESOL Arabia presentation on the same topic, iTDi educators, Chuck Sandy, Tamas Lorincz, Hengameh Ghandehari and Bita Rezaei asked us to formulate our own answers to this question by responding to the following survey. Below were my thoughts, and I’d love to hear yours as well. “A whole teacher is someone who …. ” 

who can see someone else as a whole person full of imperfections and gifts and is able to hold these within the container of his/her own gifts and imperfections.

Take a moment and bring to mind the “best teacher” you’ve ever had in your life. What was it about this person that made him or her “the best” teacher?

He told stories about his life. I’m not even sure if it was connected to the content of the class – though I’m sure it was since it was social science class – but he was always willing to share the travel tales of him and his family. I really looked forward to those stories. After he told them I felt more at ease. I knew I could share almost anything with him. He was also the teacher who approached my friends and I to start a radio show. He saw something in us. He trusted us for some reason.

What was the most important thing you learned from “the best teacher” you described in your answer to the previous question?

I learned that it’s important to listen to your students. To see them as humans who want to participate in the world. I was just a teenager but he could see that we had something to share. We had so much fun with that Friday night radio show. It is a memory we still talk about. I also learned that it’s important to share my story. I connected to his stories probably because I could see the humanity in them. I saw his passion. I saw him as a whole person. If I compare him to teachers who never shared, it was much harder to connect to them and their lessons.

What three adjectives best describe the teacher you yourself hope to be for your own students?

considerate, patient, inspiring

What three things do you wish you’d learned more about before starting work as a teacher?

How to trust myself more. I don’t think this is something I could have learned at school, but I know it is something that would be very helpful in class now. I often second guess myself and I know that zaps the creative potential from my lessons. I tend to control the moment too much and I realize what effect this might have on my learners. I also wish I had learned a lot more about the finer details of grammar: think “grammar trees“. I think that would help my trust issues. :-) I know that’s just two things. ;-) I don’t have more. I think a lot could be added to the “trust” comment.

What was your biggest challenge when you first started working as a teacher? What steps did you take to overcome this challenge?

Learning how to balance what the language institute expected me to teach, and what I knew my students needed. They needed play and engagement, but I was often forced to just cover the material. With kids who had been in school all day and then back with me at night, I knew they needed more than just material. To overcome this I did my best to find ways to tuck in play/fun and when I couldn’t I tried my best to listen to the kids and be kind. It wasn’t always easy because I was frustrated and didn’t have great classroom management skills, but rapport was helpful.

Please tell about yourself. In what country do you work? How long have you been teaching? In what way are you changing as a teacher? What is driving this change? 

Korea – teaching for 10 years

I am learning to match the person I am outside class to the person I am in class. I think my outside self is a bit more easy going and values creative spontaneity.  Inside the class I tend to be more organized and in need of control. I’m trying to see why that is and learning to change that. Vital to this change is my ability to be compassionate with myself. To do this I am meditating and writing more often theses days. I am also interested in creating a community of teachers who need similar self-care. We have begun by starting a Facebook page called, Self Compassion for Teachers #redthumbforlove https://www.facebook.com/redthumbforlove
What does it mean to you to be a “Whole Teacher”?
Here are links on the topic I found interesting. They may help you formulate your answer:
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