Tuesday, August 04, 2015

From NAIS: 10 Things I Wish I Could Tell My Younger Self About Teaching

From National Association of Independent Schools.  An interesting reflection!

10 Things I Wish I Could Tell My Younger Self About Teaching


Spring 2015
When I first began teaching, I taught eighth-grade English at a small private school on the East Coast. I started each class with a speed-journal question in which students were asked to respond in writing to a question posed on the whiteboard before a set amount of time had expired.
Here’s a speed-journal question for the teacher. Journal Entry #14: If you could speak to your younger self on your first day of teaching, what would you tell yourself?
  1. The hardest part of teaching a group of students is recognizing that each group, each class, has its own group identity. Each class is its own complex ecosystem. You will not recognize how your least attentive student impacts your most gifted; you will instead see fires that need to be put out, inattention, and distraction. You will attend to each as a thousand unrelated actions, not understanding how to first identify the group as a whole, how it thinks, what interests it; and the group must be befriended, understood, and made a partner in its own education. Only then can you begin to understand the parts — the students — adjusting to how each relates to the group.
  2. There are only two questions that matter: how and why. Everything else is just the stuff of quizzes and tests. There will be teachers who will applaud their favorite parrots and parade them around, believing borrowed insight is an education. But know that the highest-performing students can rarely think for themselves, trading their own voice for praise, left susceptible to failure later in life. You must always remember that you are not teaching them what to think but how to think. Stop listening for the right answer. Make them explain how they reached their conclusion. If you learn their tendencies and learn which steps preceded the next, you can teach them to find their own way out of the darkness. A real education means that a student no longer needs you after the conclusion of the course.
  3. Stop talking so much. The more you speak, the less they learn. They must do. They must experiment. They must learn to fail and try again and again. Just giving them the right answer is selfishness, ego; it’s the easiest path for the popular instructor, but not for the great teacher. Their learned response to failure is the most important and necessary component to learning — and probably to life for that matter. Creating an environment in which the answer to failure is anxiety, or fear, or tears intended to pry the answer from your lips is failure on your part. If you do not commit yourself to impart enough confidence to your students to risk their own fear of failure, then you will spend the year combating aggression or indifference.
  4. Forgive yourself. 
Read the rest HERE

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