good teacher
information literacy:
definitions & discussion
information literacy:
learning & thinking
information literacy:
ICT & learning online

Click to go to

Please contact the editor,
to lodge material in the Information Literacy Archive

©The articles on this website are copyrighted by Metacog Ltd. Permission to reproduce any article in any form must be sought from Metacog Ltd.


Gwen Gawith: Re-defining research

Opoho School: The Opoho Possum Hunt

Lester Flockton: SOAPBOX

Martin Burgoyne: Kiwi grass is greener

Neil Burton: Kidsline

Gwen Gawith: Thinking digital readers

Jennie McRobbie: Diary of a NEMP author

Stephen May: The problem with literacy

Alan Cooper: Learning styles

John Hellner: We can all be leaders



We Can All Be Leaders

John Hellner

I used to teach high school students. I used to think I could teach any pupil, anything. I think different now. I teach teachers now. A lot of it is "how to" skills. I used to think I could teach anyone to be, at least, a reasonably good teacher. I think different now.

I have just finished a book on using humour in the classroom. I can write jokes. I can tell someone the steps in how to be funny. I used to think I could teach a person to use humour in the classroom. I think different now.

Much of what I write for Good Teacher is "how to" skills. That’s why Gwen prints it. I used to think that was enough. It’s not

I can "teach" it, but it isn’t learned unless the learner has the "attitude." They have to be able to think, "I want to change". They have to think, "I am going to do something about what I want to change." They have to have an attitude that is predisposed to changing themselves. Without attitude, it’s all gobbledegook.

For example, teaching communication skills to teachers is hard yacka…tough going. The 'abc’s' of communication skills are easy. "Here’s six steps for using language to gain co operation….blah blah blah."

People can even think, "Oh, that would be nice." But the crunch comes when the learner has to abandon:

• theway they have always been spoken to themselves;

• authority; criticism; judgment; control;

• being the source of all knowledge.

In the place of all that they need to nurture equality, respect, empathy, suspending judgment. They have to be willing to abandon power. They have to unload the mind set that says, "This ain’t the way it was done to me, and I’m cool, so why muck around."

Taking on communication skills is as big a paradigm shift in our thinking as it is to accept that teachers must teach learners in the way learners learn, not necessarily in the way that we learned. It’s hard. People often can’t, or won’t, change. I often fail when I teach communication skills.

"Change." From my vantage point it means three stages. First, being able to reflect on what we do or know and, recognising it can be done differently or better. Second, an inner "channel," an attitude, which says, "let’s do it." And thirdly, doing it, maybe even with enthusiasm and passion.

Reflection, Attitude, and Passion (R.A.P.). And all of those can be rolled into the Big "A." I can’t teach that. There’s no easy formula, no simple steps. You’ve got to have it dudes and dudesses! What I’m not sure about is, can a person "will" himself or herself into the attitude?

Sounds pretty bleak for the "Big A," eh? Yet, it is so important.

Our attitude is the only thing in life we can unequivocally control. We can’t control luck, fate, world events, the weather, or, other people’s actions. Ask the victims of the holocaust; ask the dead from the World Trade attack.

But we can control how we chose to look at what befalls us. We can choose to be negative, reacting with anger, jealously, bitterness, or frustration. In which case, whoever or whatever caused it, controls our lives.

Or, we can positive in our responses by being optimistic, confident, accepting, light hearted…seeing problems as challenges and every experience as an opportunity to grow or to learn or to make us better teachers.

A positive attitude has some very cool by products. In many areas of human activity, success and achievement are more a result of attitude than of knowledge or of technical skills. Maintaining a positive attitude makes a challenge a growing experience. "The Big A" makes immovable obstacles endurable. Attitude makes us confident that we can solve the problem. It makes us able to fail, to lose, but to never be beaten. Attitude makes us superior to everything that befalls us.

But, now the jackpot question: can we choose our attitude, or are we wired from birth to have a certain attitude?

Attitude has another characteristic. It is contagious. Others can catch it. Maybe that’s the answer, attitude can’t be taught, it’s caught.

If that’s the case, in a classroom, in a workplace, we can use this communicable aspect of attitude. We can all become "leaders." Catching a dose of attitude and then use own new "disease" to set the tone, to create the environment, to establish relationships, to be who we want to be.

Give the disease to someone else. We can make a difference. We can be agents of change by demonstrating the "attitude." So, step one is to find someone with the "attitude" and see if you can catch it.