The Teacher-Student Interaction

“Interaction is the collaborative exchange of thoughts, feelings, or ideas between two or more people, resulting in a reciprocal effect on each other.”

–H. Douglas Brown, Teaching by Principles

As H. Douglas Brown points out in Teaching by Principles, interaction in class is not limited to the interaction that occurs between students. It also comprises the interactions between the teacher and her students. I like to think of my role as that of a facilitator and resource–although my role is fluid depending on the circumstances. This means that I do not simply talk at students; rather, I interact with them. Sometimes I interact with them as a group, and sometimes I interact with them individually. In each case the interaction often involves answering questions. I gauge how well I have taught certain concepts, and which ones I need to clarify further, based on the questions my students pose. In this way the class is not simply a curriculum that I impart; it is a more organic experience in which I provide students with tools and tailor the material and the way I teach it to the idiosyncrasies of the group.

I believe that as a teacher it is incredibly important to remember at all times that each student is unique and in many ways very different from the rest–in terms of background, education, learning styles, and more. It is of utmost importance to pay full attention to each student’s concerns, to look them in the eye so that they know you care. In the end, communication is something that happens between people, even though these days communication is often, if not most often, mediated by machines. If the ultimate goal of the class, which should be present throughout, is for students to learn to communicate in a second language (or third or fourth, as the case may be)–then this goal is also, really, about human connection. It is therefore imperative that the teacher establish a very real human connection with her students, without sacrificing her authority. And since interaction is a two-way street (as we can see in the quotation that begins this post), it is not only up to the teacher to establish and maintain this connection. The teacher can facilitate an environment that fosters student engagement, as I try to do, but the student, too, must possess some intrinsic motivation and care about connecting on some level with the teacher and his or her peers, in order to gain the maximum benefit from the class.


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