Sunday, July 20, 2008

5 Teaching Essentials

After 15 school terms, 30 assessments (involving the marking of no less than 50 papers each time), and about 1,000 classes (of 80 minutes each) I am confident of only a few things about teaching (none of which are very heavily covered in teacher induction):

1. You have GOT to make friends with the kids (yes, even those whose heads you want to use as punching bags). No friendship, no connection; no connection, no point. This means actively going up to a kid, shaking hands, saying how-are-you, asking them about life in general, etc. The child is a person and not a teaching project.

2. You have GOT to stop teaching sometimes (even in the middle of 'official' lesson times) and tell some great stories. If these stories are related to the subject, excellent. If not, then too bad for the subject.

3. You have GOT to make it a habit to use images. It's perfectly fine to stare at an image, look blank, say, "Now why did I put this there?" and ask the kids what they think. Seriously.

4. You have GOT to love your subject. Like fear and anger, the kids can sniff indifference or boredom from a mile off. How do you love it? Almost about the same way you learn to love people: act as if you do. So, if you absolutely loved Organic Chemistry, what would you be doing? Perhaps you'd be talking about it the way soccer fans talk about a great game, or reading up all the 'unnecessary' material on it, or collecting loads of websites, or - you get the point.

5. You have GOT to let the kids teach you a thing or two. Let it be anything. I suppose this is part of the whole friendship gig/deal. And c'mon, who's to say we 'adults' know everything, eh?

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