Chapter 1: Teach well and impassion your students so they enjoy learning:
This book isn’t about textbook pedagogy or curriculum. I’ll leave that for the bureaucrats and other educational policy makers. Instead, it will:
- be straight to the point.
- provide you with ideas and tips I wish I had received earlier in my career.
- give you something that you can take away and use immediately in your classroom.
Let’s start with a question for you. Look at the quote below and think about what it means to you as a teacher.
“You can teach a student a lesson for a day; but if you can teach him to learn by creating curiosity, he will continue the learning process as long as he lives.” – Clay P. Bedford
Take as much time as you need.
Okay, we are back. What do you think? I think most will say, Of course, it’s like that “Teach a man to fish” proverb. We need to teach them to fish so they can feed themselves for a lifetime rather than simply giving them a fish to satisfy their immediate hunger. But I’d say that’s half the answer. I think what Bedford is really getting at is that, yes, it’s better to teach the person to fish than to simply hand him one. But if he doesn’t care about fishing or has no interest in expanding his knowledge past the ability to catch one type of fish in one particular spot at a certain time of day, he will never actually succeed as a fisherman.
We need to impassion our students so that they want to learn. To be successful in this goal, teachers need to keep one key thing front and centre: the difference between the subject specialist and the beginner. Teachers love their subject, of course they do. They are passionate about it. They’ve spent their whole adult lives honing their knowledge of it and they want to teach this important body of material to the next generation. So teachers try their best, but it can be frustrating—lots of kids just don’t seem to care. In response, the teacher may double down, trying harder and harder to get the information through to the kids. It can seem sometimes as if they are beating their heads against a brick wall. Sound familiar?
Meanwhile, some students may think the subject is useless, asking, “When am I ever going to use this?” This question comes up at the start of every year, especially for subjects such as math, which I teach. So this is how I prevent the question from ever arising. I tell the students that their first assignment is to play the part of the teacher and answer the question, “When am I ever going to use this.” Students must structure their answers in order to convince even the most sceptical individuals who, coincidently, just might be them. I elaborate on the criteria by telling students that they don’t need to explain why specific concepts will be useful—simply the general ideas and/or skills. I tell them that this assignment will be graded and will be an oral submission where we will discuss their answer one-on-one. Their grade depends on their ability to convince me why I should take this course.
In a nutshell, your job as a teacher isn’t just to teach facts; it’s about teaching your students how to learn and inspiring them to want to learn.
Will they ever need to find x? Maybe, maybe not. But the most important thing we can help our students acquire is how to ask questions, how to go about finding answers to those questions, how to evaluate the answers—in short, how to learn. It’s those skills that will survive long after they have forgotten what color is made when you mix yellow and blue paint or names of the important Generals in WWII. Do you remember studying all night for that test and having the facts nailed down to perfection allowing you to crush it the next day? How much of that content do you still remember?
As educators, we understand that course content and subject knowledge is vital, but it isn’t the only thing or even the most important thing we teach. We need to create passion, show them how to work well with others, how to problem-solve and, in the end, how to learn so that they may become life-long learners. As William Arthur Ward put it, “The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.” Let’s choose to inspire.
- about the hiring process so you can land that job. What do administrators look for in a candidate? How can you make sure they see why you are the right person for the job?
- about the process of effective teaching. Whether you are completely new to the profession or someone who has been around for a few years, the learning and improving never stops, there’s always something you can become better at to increase your students’ success.
- how to be a more effective communicator to your students. You can have all the knowledge in the world but if you can’t get your students to listen and become engaged in what you are saying, they’ll never take anything away from your class.
- about specific techniques I use to help students overcome their misconceptions so that they may acquire knowledge more efficiently.
- how to hook your students interests from the start, thus spending less class time getting your students engaged in the lesson.
- how to deal with classroom issues when things go wrong because they will. Computers stop working halfway through a lesson, fire alarms go off during your tests and sometimes you forget to buy that thing you absolutely needed for your demonstration which now can’t be done.
- the most effective ways to deal with behavior problems as well as students who just don’t care. How do you motivate these students to do their best and not disrupt everyone else? How do you peek their interests when they don’t want to be there in the first place?
- that pencil and paper tests aren’t always the way to go. They have their place, but assessing student performance properly requires a multitude of tools. I’ll review the tools I’ve developed and utilized over the years.
- how to effectively and easily, utilize technology in your classroom even if that isn’t a strength of yours. I provide a general overview of classroom technology as well as 8 simple ways you can implement it right now to better your students understanding and teach to their strengths.
- how to maintain your sanity over a long career and avoid the burnout which affects so many teachers early in their career and unfortunately, causes them to leave the profession.