One special teacher can make a student feel inspired, as though he can do anything in the world if he sets his mind to it. Unfortunately, this student may enter another teacher’s class with a sense of overarching dread. One teacher can make a spirit soar while the other seems destined to destroy. The difference between the two teachers is soft skills.
Depending on whom you ask, soft skills are loosely defined as people skills. Kate Lorenz, an editor for CareerBuilder.com says that soft skills “refer to a cluster of personal qualities, habits, attitudes and social graces that make someone a good employee and compatible to work with.” The most important of these skills are Professionalism/Work Ethic, Oral and Written Communications, Teamwork/Collaboration and Critical Thinking/Problem Solving. These are the very skills educators seek to impart to their students.
On any average day, teachers work with a variety of people. Soft skills translate into the ability to successfully navigate the needs of those individuals. A teacher must use her oral and written communication skills every day to effectively pass on information to her students. A teacher uses teamwork and collaboration at any school-wide function, including faculty meetings. Without critical thinking and problem solving skills, the teacher cannot effectively manage classroom behavior or student progress.
A successful teacher will find that his voice and vocabulary do the marvels which no other device can do. Another important thing to mull over is his attitude which comprises proper planning and zeal to stir sensations in the classroom. A teacher has to adapt according to the situations; he has to bring in himself a proper blend of rigidity and flexibility allowing him to create humor at times to drive away the monologue. One should be wary enough not to hurt anyone’s cultural and religious beliefs. Challenging though such things are, they are not devoid of satisfaction if practiced earnestly. If teachers remain aware of the importance of such soft skills in teaching, it not only will establish proper rapport between the teacher and the taught but also ensure our competence and bring admiration.
Teachers have various roles. The main role is the content expert. However, this role alone is not sufficient to describe the work of teachers. Teachers are also consultants, managers, motivators, and counselors. Teachers are also decision makers. Each teacher has to engage in an ongoing series of decision-making. The areas are planning decisions, teaching and managing decisions, and assessment decisions.
Educational institutions are looking for various soft skills in teachers, besides technical competence and work experience. The twenty-first century workplace does not require teachers who are “walking encyclopedias” but rather self-reliant and resilient individuals who are achievement-oriented with high self-esteem; persuasive and effective communicators; emotionally intelligent; good problem solvers and decision makers with analytical and creative minds; fast and lifelong learners; good team players; and ethical with a high standard of integrity (morally intelligent).
For teachers, the ability to use effective soft skills can make or break a career. While it may seem obvious that such skills would factor importantly in a classroom, soft skills are also paramount when working with parents, administration and other teachers.
Author: Ajit K Singh has a Masters in Economics from Delhi University. Among his varied interests he has a passion for Philosophy, Psychology, Soft Skills and related subjects. Following the family tradition, he got commissioned in the Indian Air Force as an Administrative Officer. He specialized in selection of Officers for commissioning, having done a course in the Defence Institute of Psychological Research, Delhi. Post retirement he researched and became a trainer in Soft Skills and Emotional Intelligence, including Life Skills. He is an avid writer and occasional poet.