For an assignment at Bridge.edu, I wrote a summary of my teaching beliefs. Might as well post it here, too.
I like learning. When you learn a new language, or learn anything for that matter, you are going on an adventure. I think most teachers like learning and that’s why they also like teaching. They enjoy the opportunity to go on the journey along with somebody else. It is true that many students approach this trip as an unwanted trek, one on which they are being dragged along in chains. The teacher’s job is to lead them to find the enjoyment and satisfaction which new skills and new knowledge bring.
Language learning involves not only new insights but new skills built on those insights. Once you know how to throw a baseball, you do not automatically become a great pitcher. That takes practice. Hopefully you have some friends with whom you can enjoy tossing a ball around until you are all more skilled. That is my view of a language classroom.
In addition to being a guide and a coach, a teacher must be an inventor. You cannot take skill or a fact or an insight out of your own head and put it in someone else’s brain the way you can copy-paste text from one file to another. You can only lead a person to go through the necessary experiences to perceive the facts and achieve the insights on their own. We already have available many exercises, games, kits, expert explanations, and other aids for this purpose. However, not all people learn by the same process. There will always be some who try very hard but just don’t grasp it. Now the teacher must find a series of steps that WILL work for such a student. Searching the internet and conferring with other teachers can help. But often it is the teacher who must put on his/her “Thomas Edison” hat and invent a process by which this, particular student can arrive at the “ah-ha!” moment.