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What makes a good Chinese teacher?

To understand how Rebecca, Grace and Thomas identified themselves as TCFL teachers, I first examined how each participant defined what TCFL meant to them. I did this by asking them to name the qualities required to be a good Chinese language teacher.

I truly believe that a good Chinese teacher should have a broad scope of knowledge in every aspect, including knowledge of pedagogy and psychology; moreover, he/she should know how to respect students, and he/she must be both extroverted yet patient. Personally, I believe that I am a transmitter of knowledge and an instructor of Chinese language knowledge. (Thomas)

I think it is important for TCFL teachers to possess the following competences. First, they should have good communication and interaction skills. Second, they should have a solid knowledge of the Chinese language, including knowledge of vocabulary, grammar, phonetics and characters. Third, they should have knowledge of pedagogy and teaching methodologies, including an ability to improvise classroom activities and incorporate these into practice. Fourth, good TCFL teachers should have a high degree of commitment and self-discipline, and, in addition, they should have high aspirations for lifelong learning and research. (Grace)

Good TCFL teachers should have a theoretical understanding of language acquisition, general pedagogical insight, teaching experience, and the ability to reflect upon their own and others' experiences. They should be both structured and flexible in the organisation of their teaching, and they should be passionate and creative. They should also be able to incorporate different teaching methods and to make the learning process interesting and fun. (Rebecca)

In the excerpts, each participant describes what being a 'good TCFL teacher' means to them. For example, Thomas claims that 'a good Chinese language teacher should have a broad scope of knowledge in every aspect, including knowledge of pedagogy and psychology; moreover, he/she should know how to respect students, and he/she should be both extroverted yet patient'. This committed stance leaves little doubt that he values a solid knowledge base and personal integrity as essential qualities of good TCFL teaching. Grace and Rebecca also list factors that determine good TCFL teachers: 'experience . .. and the ability to reflect upon their own and others' experiences' (Rebecca) and 'knowledge of pedagogy and teaching methodologies, including an ability to improvise classroom activities and incorporate these into practice' (Grace). These factors implicitly outline the participants' awareness of investing in both their teaching practices and in their relations with students.

In these excerpts, each participant uses the modal verbs 'must' and 'should' in order to underline their conception of a good Chinese language teacher. The use of these modal verbs expresses not only their aspirations of what NCLT teachers 'should' or 'could' be, but also their commitment to the type of teaching that, from their perspectives, 'must' and 'will' be implemented. As Fairclough argues, 'What people commit themselves to in texts is an important part of identity construction, and the texturing of identity' (2003, p. 164). Grace and Thomas depict the professional identities to which they commit themselves by naming personal moral values; for example, they say that a good TCFL teacher should be highly self-disciplined. By appealing to moral values, Grace and Thomas claim to have these moral qualities. For them, a teacher's moral qualities and conscience form essential parts of the definition of a good TCFL teacher.

 
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