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Sunday, July 13, 2014

Wizards, Buddies, and Laid-Back Dudes

Teacher Archetypes in Real Life 

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A couple of weeks ago, I came up with a list of six teacher archetypes, broad categories of teacher attitudes and behavior.  For purposes of illustration I gave an extreme example for each one. 

Today I’d like to give real-life examples for three of the archetypes.  (I'll follow up later with the remaining types.)

The Wizard Archetype

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It often happens that two schoolboys can solve difficulties in their work for one another better than the master can. The fellow-pupil can help more than the master because he knows less. The difficulty we want him to explain is one he has recently met. The expert met it so long ago he has forgotten.
C.S. Lewis

I was watching a Painting for Beginners video recently and was baffled by the instructions:

"All you have to do is grab a brush, load it with two different shades of green, dab it on the paper a few times, and voila!  You've just made a cluster of pine trees."

Er, no.  You've made a cluster of pine trees.  I've made a blotchy oval blob.  That's probably because I have no idea what you just did.  This is a beginner's video, remember?

Contrast that to the step-by-step lessons by Frank Clarke.  They're designed to help beginners build skill and confidence, clearly showing what materials to use and how to use them.  In his bio, he describes being told that he didn't have a "gift" for painting; he realized the problem was that nobody had ever taught him the basics.  

I wish someone had told me that back in high school.  The teacher just handed out materials and spent her time with the "gifted" students who'd presumably gotten basic instruction elsewhere.  The only time she paid any attention to me was when she suddenly grabbed the brush out of my hand and told me I was so stupid I couldn't even mix paint.  

Ironically enough, thanks to that "beginner" video, I now know that what I was doing is called double-loading a brush.   Too bad I had to wait twenty-five years to find that out.

How to Be a Teaching "Wizard":  Develop expertise without losing sight of the needs of beginners.

The Buddy Archetype
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My co-teacher, “Samantha,” was wonderful with our college-aged EFL students.  She took them to movies on the weekends, had them over for Thanksgiving dinner, and did everything possible to help them practice their English and feel at home in the U.S.

One morning, a student came yawning into my 9 am class at around 10:30.
“I’m sorry. I couldn’t wake up this morning.” 
“Why couldn’t you wake up?” 
“Because I was texting until 3 am.” 
“Don’t your friends know you have class in the morning?” 
“It wasn’t my friends.  It was Miss Samantha.”

How to Be a Good "Buddy" A little friendliness can go a long way… but if you’re texting your students in the middle of the night, you’ve probably gone too far.

The Laid-Back Dude Archetype

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I had a great experience speaking at a national conference with one of my most laid-back friends and colleagues.  We shared the workload, met to discuss what we’d be presenting, and did a final run-through an hour before the presentation.  I tend to feel quite nervous about presenting (especially to fellow teachers!), and his relaxed demeanor helped me feel a lot calmer.

Another colleague definitely did not make me feel calmer when we were assigned to give a teacher training workshop together.  I waited and waited for him to do our run-through, but he didn’t show up; I called and he said he was in his office typing his handout.  I had to take each page as he printed it and dash it off to the photocopier, then run back to the seminar room so I could collate and staple everything as the teachers were arriving. 

Yes, the workshop went “fine,” but it would have gone better if we’d had time to coordinate.  I also didn’t appreciate his criticizing me for being frazzled—easy for him to feel “relaxed” when I was bailing him out!

How to Be a Popular Laid-Back Dude:  Go ahead and let go of the stress.  Just don't lean back so far you need someone else to prop you up.

I hope this has helped illustrate the pluses and minuses of these three archetypes. In a future post, I’ll give examples of the remaining three types: Perfectionists, Cops, and Energizer Bunnies. And to be fair, I’ll share a couple of my own less-than-stellar teaching moments.


Related posts:

What (Arche)Type of Teacher Are You?

The Perfectionist, the Cop, and the Energizer Bunny: Teacher Archetypes in Real Life

Mountains and Molehills: Introduction to the Enneagram