'Extra effort' doesn't mean remedial classes

In her letter ("Mark of a good teacher"; last Saturday), Madam Fong Ching Min critiqued Mr Paul Heng's assertion that a good teacher should be willing to spend extra time outside of class to ensure all students comprehend material taught in class ("What makes a good teacher?"; March 11).

She argued that an inability to ensure all students understand a lesson's content in class is "a sign of an ineffective teacher".

Madam Fong appears to have misunderstood Mr Heng's remarks, characterising the "extra effort" he espouses as "remedial classes".

At no point did he indicate that the "extra effort" he has in mind is anything as pre-planned and organised as remedial classes.

I interpreted Mr Heng's comments to simply mean that good teachers should consider themselves perpetually "on call" to address whatever needs students approach them with.

As Mr Heng rightly pointed out, "every student learns differently". While teachers can and should make every effort in class to provide a variety of modes of engagement to appeal to different learning styles, some material will inevitably not be fully comprehended by some students.

In every class, there will always be students who are not comfortable asking questions and drawing attention to their lack of understanding in front of their peers. Such students might approach the teacher for clarification outside of class - this could be after class, at the end of the school day, or, for older students, via e-mail.

Students are likely to do so only if they perceive the teacher to be a genuinely caring one who will be happy - and indeed eager - to dedicate extra time to clarify points that were not crystal-clear to them the first time around.

Students can easily distinguish teachers who possess this "caring spirit" from those who would view requests for clarification outside of class as an imposition. Students of the latter are the ones who are more likely to be left behind.

Mark Fifer Seilhamer (Dr)

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