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Why Do You Ask?

From asking questions that require an answer To asking questions that require a conversation.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

On Becoming a Good Teacher

Perhaps I should use the term "lecturer," but that is not a highly accepted practice in the 21st century.

Many of you know, my son is entering his final year of teacher prep.  He's a good, quality young man (who will be getting married in June 2009).  He will become a good teacher I think, mainly because he has the personality, and the ability to teach math in ways that even I understand some of it.

Anyway, I have been cleaning out my home office to take things back to school (I head back to the classroom next year!).  In the process, I have come across some old notes and books.  So I am creating a list of things that are a part of what I believe make for a good teacher (lecturer in the days these books/notes were new).

  • HAVE SOMETHING TO SAY
    • If you want to teach, you better be a great learner.  Learn your subject.  Fall in love with the content.  As an old homiletics professor once told us, "Preach from the overflow."  As the leader (in the pulpit or classroom) you should know more than you are able to teach.  Will you know everything?  No.  But you should know your content well enough to be prepared to speak intelligently about it.  This way you are seldom caught off guard.
  • KNOW HOW TO SAY IT...WHO'S YOUR AUDIENCE?
    • Teaching civil rights to a 2nd grader will be different than teaching it to an 11th grader...or it should be.  In this era of "differentiated instruction" it behoves the teacher to have several ways to present the same content.  If you know your content, but can't deliver it on the level of the learner, then it doesn't matter that you know the content.  It is about the story, and the way you tell it.
  • EARN THE RIGHT TO BE HEARD BY YOUR AUDIENCE
    • Clche, yes.  True, yes.  Your audience doesn't care how much you know until they know how much you care.  If you have a class of 25 students, you will have to care about them first.  They must know, and to a deeper level believe that you care for their well-being.  When they know that you care, they will trust you.  Then they will be more willing to "hear" your message, not just listen to it.  Remember the Jimmy Hendrix dialog in White Men Can't Jump?  Can white people really "hear" Jimmy? [This movie was as much about race relations as it was basketball.  Great Social Studies movie. Language prevents it from being shown in classrooms though.]
  • SAY IT WITH PASSION
    • I recently read a quote in one of my quotation feeds that went something like this - "Passion is a mixture of frustration and a healthy dose of anger."  Think of the issues about which you are passionate.  Is there frustration that more people don't share your views?  Is there a little anger about the state of affairs surrounding the issue?  If you are passionate about the education of young people, you probably feel a little frustrated with the current state of policy, and you are a little angry that things don't change as quickly as you would like.  The bloggers I read tend to be this way.  They are passionate, which is why I choose to follow them.
  • EVALUATE THE RESULTS
    • All good teachers evaluate their day.  I try to do it on the drive home.  What worked?  Did I see the light bulb go on above my students' heads?  If not, what do I need to change?  Do I change my knowledge of the issue?  Do I change how to communicate it to my students?  Did I earn the right to communicate with the students the things discussed?  Did I really care, or was i just going through the motions?
  • CHANGE ONLY WHAT NEEDS CHANGING
    • Too many teachers I have known (and C.O. personnel with whom I have worked and outlasted) believe that if something didn't work, everything must be changed.  I disagree.  Could it be as simple as changing one thing in the scope of the many things it takes to communicate to a 21st century student?  Things that might need to be changed include: a) The teacher's knowledge of the subject, b) The teacher's understanding of the audience's needs, c) The teacher's relationship with the audience, and/or d) The teacher's presentation of the material.  See my evaluation questions above.  If all I need to change is my knowledge of the subject, issue, standard, etc., it would be a shame to scrap the whole thing. 
What led me to this post was finding Robert Mager's Preparing Instructional Objectives (1962, 1975 - and updated in 1997) and comparing it with Wiggins & McTighe's Understanding By Design (1998, 2005).  Teaching strategies really haven't changed much.  It appears that Wiggins & McTighe simply waited long enough for educators to forget about Mager (and others).  In other words, Wiggins & McTighe had something to say, they knew their audience's needs, and the said it with passion.  Good for them!  In doing so, educators around the world have relearned how to write lesson plans that make sense.  But UbD is nothing new.  As a matter of fact, it's already 10 years olds itself.  Who will be next to demonstrate how to construct a lesson plan?

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3 Comments:

At 6:08 PM, Blogger loonyhiker said...

I'm so glad to see someone else realized that a lot of this stuff isn't new. It just has a different name. A lot of terminology is being changed but the ideas are still the same. I don't care what we call it but if it still works, let's keep doing it!

 
At 7:39 AM, Blogger Ric Murry said...

Pat,

Thank you for stopping by. As you were (and still are) a 27-year veteran teacher of special needs children, you have my greatest respect. It is an honor to have you comment.

It seems to me that so many of the "new pedagogues" spent perhaps a handful of years in the classroom (K12), then theorized what they wanted to happen in their rooms (even though it didn't all the time) and found a way to get out of the classroom and make a living off the educational marketplace. It is difficult for me to "hear" them because I'm not convinced I can trust them. Especially as I read older texts that say the same kinds of things.

Peace,
Ric

 
At 5:48 PM, Blogger Celeste said...

Last year my granddaughter had a teacher that needs to read this.

 

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