Teacher Characteristics That Affirm Learner Potential

Adapted from M. Finocchiaro, The Crucial Variable in TESOLD: The Teacher
Speech delivered at the Lackland Air Force Base, English Language Branch, Defense Language Institute
March 1974

Superior teachers are committed to the principle that all normal people can learn. They modify curriculum content as they ascertain the strengths and weaknesses of learners and–with older students–their aspirations. They make every effort to help these students achieve their aspirations or redirect them into more attainable channels. With relation to aspiration, they realize that what one student considers success may not be important for another.

While they do not neglect suprasegmental features of language, they know that other factors in learning are of greater, of supreme importance, and that these should permeate the total classroom environment. Learners must feel loved, respected, and secure. They must be made to feel that they are important members of the group, that they can assume responsibilities, and that they can achieve success.

They keep the motivation of students at a high level by using their interests, their lives, and their communities as the starting point for the introduction of all material; by adapting teaching procedures; by using a variety of instructional materials in addition to the basic text; and by reassuring students of the normalcy of reaching plateaus in learning.

They provide for individual differences in class and in out-of-class tasks. They know that individuals learn in different ways and at different rates; some learn by intensive repetition and over-learning; some learn best by trial and error; younger children learn through play activities, through tasting foods, through touching, through hearing and identifying noises around them; older students generally learn best by applying generalizations to new situations.