Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Teachers Who Teach Teachers …

… can be some of the worst teachers. They really can; it is amazing. There is a pervasive belief among teachers who teach teaching that they need only lecture us about best practices rather than implementing those best practices into their own classrooms. Lecture, we know, is one of the poorest forms of teaching, and yet….

So I am rather irritated today. Yesterday I was plumb pissered off. My instructors seem to be more interested in due dates and paperwork rather than concepts and knowledge. This is not always true, of course. I’ve had a teacher a few semesters ago, a math teacher, who was concerned with knowledge and understanding rather than memorization of algorithms. He was amazing and I learned a lot. I wish more of my teachers were like him. He questioned our approach to teaching and challenged us to think about the art of teaching and why we do things the way we do.

This semester seems like a muddled mass of chaotic worksheets and busywork. I keep getting the feeling that I missed the last class period. We jump from idea to idea, page to page, without any congruency. We all have our bad days, but when the entire class is confused about the goals, then there is an obvious disconnect between teacher and student. Simply plugging ahead is not the best path. Good teachers care more about conceptual learning that they do the assignments and that master teacher will stop and re-evaluate to ensure that learning is taking place.

For example I had a resource book due yesterday. It is a three-ring binder filled with state requirements, teaching strategies, resources, and the like. A handy book without a doubt and I am thankful to have it. Yesterday we brought it to class and each section was checked off to ensure completion. Points were deducted for anything that was missing.

What’s the problem you ask? Philosophy. We are being taught about inquiry-based learning and how to make a child’s education meaningful and long lasting. A good teacher should always ask why he or she has required an assignment and what goal should be accomplished. Is the goal in this college classroom to get points for a binder? Yes, indeed it was the goal, but it should not have been the goal. The goal is the information and the learning involved. The notebook is a tool to be used not the end goal. The due date should not be the end goal. Rather, the content should be what we care about. Teachers are entirely too concerned with points and due dates rather than conceptual learning and understanding. Had it been me, I would have considered something more along the lines of having the notebook finished sometime this week or so. Anything out of place would need to be inserted. If I just had to assign points to it (which is up for debate) then it would be all or nothing. As soon as a student got all the required pieces in place then the points are given in full. It may seem an insignificant detail to non-teachers, but it is all about philosophy and how you teach overall, and it is very significant.

I am not happy about the state of teacher education today. Maybe tomorrow will be different. Lesson Learned: If the entire class has the blank look, then your lesson plan is not working. A different approach is necessary. Do something else. Try something new. Fine a new path. Slow down. Explain. Draw some connections. Define the end goal. Give examples.

Give examples! Teachers who teach teachers are notorious for not wanting to offer examples of what they expect. They give vague descriptions and esoteric responses to questions then count off when the final product does not meet expectations. It is maddening and I suspect it has more to do with control than anything else. Teachers tend to be a controlling lot.


Unknown said...

In my few eduacation classes, I had both types. It does seem to be a control issue. I can totally relate.

Bryan said...

Larry and I were just discussing this same thing about how my undergrad teachers, most but not all, were more concerned with Maslow, Bloom, or whomever they thought was the great "learned" one and how it was of absolutely NO USE once I got into the classroom.

At least in my graduate classes, there seemed to be some inquiry as to what does and does not work in the "real" classroom.

Keep up the good fight!