Think about your favourite teacher. What set(s) him or her apart and how could we help other teachers achieve a similar level of performance?
I’m lucky to have had amazing teachers so far. The ones that capture my admiration are those who admit they’re human. They don’t just stand at the front and talk, but actually engage and generate curiosity. They take us out to experience what something actually looks/feels like. I find the teachers in the arts have a tremendous amount of passion for their students, and make time for us where none could possibly have been before. I also have phenomenal bio/chem teacher who is so passionate about what she teaches, I cannot help but feel the same. If teachers could just show to us students how they feel about something, we would respond by showing them how we feel. Learning is a two way street, but you don’t necessarily want to be going opposite ways.
Well said, Devon. Or as the Okies say, “Amen to that, brutha.”
Having our best and brightest mentor new teachers and collaborate with peers in order to model and teach best teaching practices is, of course, ideal. That being said, please keep in mind that many inspiring teachers are just that because they love what they do and work very hard at what they do. Consequently, it is not reasonable to place more demands on them without freeing them from other responsibilities and commitments. We risk burning our inspiring teachers out.
The best teacher I ever had taught English Literature 12. She was so renowned that my father (who was the vice principle) enrolled me in her class when I was in grade 11 because it was her last year before retirement. I enjoyed every class and even dragged myself to school when I was sick as to not miss a class of hers. She never assigned homework other than studying for tests. I remember being confused- yet thrilled- as to why she would do this. I could not think of how we would get marks or learn anything, but we did. The classes were so engaging that everything that was said was absorbed, and there were plenty of in-class assignments and essays. We also kept a journal where we wrote the significant information about each piece of work and reflected on it. She taught in a horse-shoe formation, which many of us had never experienced, and often used costumes, props and unconventional exercises like tossing autumn leaves in the schoolyard while shouting lines of Shelley’s “Ode to the West Wind”. By mixing it up, students were more likely to remember things. The most notable teaching practice this teacher was known for was singing. She wrote lyrics about each poem or work set to the tunes of well known songs. The songs all included pertinent information about the works and would often include central lines of the poems, for, as Alexander Pope said, “what will a child learn sooner than a song?” This was her mantra. We had all the songs memorized- songs for Beowulf, Paradise Lost, “A Valediction Forbidding Mourning”, Tennyson, “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” and every notable piece of English literature. There was even a song just to increase our vocabulary- a song that just listed synonyms in groups of four, to the tune of “Deck the Halls”. I still have all the songs memorized- except maybe Gawain and the Green Knight which I only remember the chorus to. She promoted self-expression and self-examination in the classroom, which, as sixteen year olds, we did not have many opportunities to do. She was a recipient of the Prime Minister’s Awards for Teaching Excellence in the school year of 2002 and 2003. She had the highest provincial participation rates and a pass rate significantly higher than the provincial average. In 2004 CBC did a special on her where they called up past students (from decades prior) and asked them to recite the lyrics to the vocabulary song. None of them even hesitated. That is most definitely a testament to the effectiveness of her teaching style. When we begged her to come back and substitute teach the year after her retirement, she smiled and replied “I want to go out with a bang, not a whimper”- a sharp inversion of the final line in T.S. Eliot’s “The Hollow Men”. She was my favourite teacher of my favourite class, and the reason I majored in English Literature. I think that by encouraging alternate teaching methods and perhaps providing teacher candidates with examples of ways to make their lessons and assignments more creative, their future students would be refreshed by an unfamiliar way of learning.
My favourite teacher was in History 12. He was passionate about the subject, he cared about our success, and he was willing to try things in new and inventive ways. He had high expectations but built the skills, tools and information we needed to be successful in each and every lesson. He was clear in his expectations and related the material back to his objectives. I remember participating in a mock UN, several group projects and learning how to write a research paper. The class focused less on content and more on concepts. As a new teacher myself, I try to incorporate what I enjoyed in a high school classroom into my classroom. I think we can help other teachers achieve a similar level of performance by creating a cohesiveness in departments as well as a working collaboration between staff, administration, and students. I think it is important to include students as equal parts of the learning process. If they are involved they will be engaged.
An inspiring teacher and a great teacher are sometimes, but not always, the same. And inspiring to one student might not be inspiring to another student. It is a difficult word to define and difficult further to develop this trait in others. While it is great to aspire to create inspiring teachers in every classroom this may be a little much to ask of them and also, quite frankly, setting them up for failure. It can sometimes be unfair for us to ask of teachers to be inspiring across all their working days and inside and outside every classroom. If we ask this of them, then they were probably born this way and not made.
If we give the teachers access to the resources they need then there is a chance that an inspiring teacher can allowed to flourish. However where most schools still don’t have internet access and computers are not widely available across all classroom in the province, how can we really let teachers reach their full potential?
Having expressed my concern in the use of the word ‘inspiring’ I can, however, tell you who inspired me. A particular couple of teachers in high school inspired me to be a teacher through their gentle encouragement of my meagre gifts, They were simply nice people who seemed to be knowledgeable in their subject areas and had a gift at making the class as a whole feel special and involved.
I cannot mention a particular trait. In fact as I look back on them I think they were excellent people but not super heroes by any means. In fact, having gone through the teacher education program at UBC I can say definitively that they were not great pedagogoists. Funny – but they DID manage to connect with me as a teenager for some ineffable reason. They had a warmth ad positive attitude – that was all.
Can you teach that or formalize it in any way? no.
Can you control for that warmth and caring nature when you hire teachers? Yes. The administrations hiring can allow for the ‘people’ persons to be hired if they have that discretion.
I just wanted to say “Well said”. A couple of specific points:
1) Regarding the lamenting of lack of technology in BC schools. I think technology is being overplayed in the BC Ed plan and that great or inspiring lessons can be delivered without computers. I’m not anti-technology, just a little wary of the views of technologists, realizing that their plans for technology don’t always coincide with those of educators. Education researchers such as Marzano and Schmoker argue convincingly that increasing the amount of critical reading, writing and discussion in classes is most important for improving both learning and thinking skills. In the information age, students need to be able to analyze, sort, and evaluate information and arguments. At the moment, most students (adults even?) are not skilled at this. Kids will use technology with or without us and even though ipads and such are all the rage in educational circles right now, it’s the thinking skills (which come from engaging students in reading, writing, discussion) that we should strive to promote in as many lessons as possible. Basically, I’m suggesting the technology is a great addition to classrooms but not a necessary keystone. What do you think of this?
2) Regarding the hiring of “People persons” as teachers. The value of this cannot be underestimated. The only thing I’d add to this is that it applies, perhaps even more so, to the hiring of administrators as well. Admin who aren’t people persons do so much damage to the morale of teachers… it’s shocking how much influence a key leader can have on a school, good or bad. Competency + people friendly skills are the 2 things that all educators, teachers and administrators alike, should have. I’m also not sure what hiring practices would have to look like to implement this change.
Your message contains, if I counted right,14 sentences.
I totally agree with you in all of those sentences, by 1000%.
As matter of fact, I am sure, this “tech thingy” has been what has bothered all of the older teachers (and some young ones as well perhaps), lost their sense of morals, and screwed up the public education.
My suggestions are, first of all, get rid of all the calculators, and then, get rid of all the overflowing computers from the schools.
And replace them with musical instruments as many as possible, in the way, perhaps, those massive number of computers waded into the schools for students’ use, and supply students with notepads and pencils handy to doodle around.
For the teacher training, music and art and moral course mandatory, never mind technology because, as you noted, they know more than enough already.
And how about restricting applicants to not-out-of-daycare culture, unless something has been done? Have I gone too far?
I am too excited, for the second time on this site.
Nonetheless, I hope you will take my suggestions seriously.
Thank you Greg for all of your sentences!
Mentoring new teachers is essential. There should be a mentoring program at every school, organized at either the department level or at the admin level. Older, soon-to-be retiring teachers are fountains of knowledge and unless that knowledge is tapped while they are still teaching, much of it will go unused. New teacher will need to spend much time struggling to rediscovered on their own, burning out and teaching some poor classes in the process. New teachers would benefit to have someone to talk to, ask advice of, and learn from (be it classroom management styles, lesson ideas, or help with useful assessment). A mentoring program needs to be given more status/prominence/importance within the school culture. Allow, for instance, one release period a month for the mentor and new teacher to discuss, share and workshop ideas. This will build collegiality, increase the sociability of the staff, improve school culture, and certainly improve the teaching of the students. It would be time well spent. To expect this to happen in stolen moments around the water-cooler isn’t realistic and would convey the message that administration doesn’t see it as valuable, when it truly is. A mentoring program would improve education for students and teachers alike.
What sets teachers apart is the combination of a caring and knowlegeable person. One characteristic without the other is not enough.
The second part of the question is how we could help other teachers achieve a similar level of performance. In my opinion, growing in the professional area is easier than growing as a person. The second part is a real challenge for which there are not so many schools other than the family and the deep desire to improve.
The best teacher my daughter ever had had the following characteristics:
1. Was highly educated (MA level) in a wide range of learning styles and abilities.
2. Worked to find my daughter’s strengths, rather than focussing exclusively on weaknesses.
3. Was flexible about how knowledge/mastery could be reported.
Our district participated in an Appreciative Inquiry process we called Today & Tomorrow several years ago. Part of this process included Root Causes of Success. In this activity we looked at a variety of areas which contribute to success including teachers qualities. We then categorized responses and built webs for a Student, Adult, and First Nation specific sessions. The three webs are available at http://mu.prn.bc.ca/blog/2009/05/05/root-causes-of-success/
During my children’s school years, I’ve met 3 absolutely amazing teachers and 1 definitely off-track teacher.
While all those 3 teachers seemed to be indiscriminately well aware of their students’ “emotional and mental” status during the class time and beyond, one of them being a lady teacher, I once noticed her resolving a dispute with her student, by saying calmly, “Let’s see what Mr. S (another teacher across the hallway) would think about this problem.” The atmosphere was soothed immediately, as if the problem was already solved. Her “nature-intended” way of carrying on with the student was so impressive to me that I can’t help it but I recall the incidence from time to time.
The other teacher, I call “off the track”, seemed to be too proud of himself and his ancestry–I don’t remember how these traits were connected–but he had given the parents tremendous difficulties with so much of lengthy sophisticated homework for his G-2 students. He said, “At the end of G-2, these kids will be good to be completion of G-3 or early G-4. He didn’t have ears to my concerns, which were “They are so difficult, I can’t help my son in my limited time”, at which he told me, “You are not supposed to help him.” And showed me a book of flawless assignments done by G-2 students. This teacher was, I’m sure, loved by only one student, whose sister was a UBC student engaged in teacher program and had been teaching her brother high school math already.
I told him that it’s O.K. if all the teachers were doing the same, but there would be problems if only a few teachers were doing it. Honestly speaking, having only one teacher done that, I feel my child’s G-2 year was lost by both of us, my son and myself and all those who couldn’t help.
While it is fortunate that we have more good teachers than awkward ones, I think the teachers’ egotism and idealism create a great deal of problems that interferes individual student’s learning and public education.
a teacher likes his or her students. and cares about teaching them. and does not bully. and does follow the rules just like students have too.
I’ve just met a high-school science teacher that blows my mind. I so wish I had her for science.
What makes her unique?
Her genuine interest in what she’s teaching. And her committment to motivating kids through showing how excited she is about science. Project based learning is just part of how she naturally works with the students. And granting significant autonomy to her high-school students as they develop projects that are part of her “assessment”.
Likely what sets her apart is her engagement with the students as interesting people that may share her passion for science (or may be motivated to have at least some level of curiousity).
To have other teachers engage the same way, it may be necessary to change the way we assign to classrooms/subjects. This science teacher (and all the similar teachers I’ve encountered), is teaching a subject she is truly engaged by. I imagine her passion would not be quite as apparent if she were teaching a German class. But someone who is passionate about language could make that subject come alive.
Although I understand the need for teacher job security, it seems to me that shifting teachers around so that they are passionately engaged in what they are teaching is equally as important.
Perhaps the best way to help other teachers achieve a similar level of performance is to balance the teacher job security with placement in classrooms that match teacher passion. Not easy – but perhaps critical.
all my favourite teachers treat the kids like equals (unlike many teachers) and will allow whole class discussions about the subject and matters in the real world. None of the hand-up/permission to speak question answer now shut up
My favourite teacher enjoyed teaching the subject that he taught. He loved it and loved teaching others about it, he was funny and engaging. He was the kind of teacher that made me want to come to his class so that I wouldn’t miss his awesome lessons or any funny stories he would tell in between. He loved to teach us and he cared for his students.
Mr Harley Cunningham!
He cared, challenged, supported & LISTENED to our struggles. High School is an incredibly dynamic place (social,political…) and he understood that the phronetic “practical wisdom” part of the job was equally as important as leading us through curriculum. He got to know us as individuals, (arguably) something I find harder to do in today’s education climate.
I had two favorite teachers. Rosemary Odermatt, who loved all kids, all the time. (And she taught us to play harder when you weren’t as skilled as the other kids – hard work vs talent & all that…)
And my other all time fave was Larry Espe, who taught me how to dance in grade 8 PE –
And later, metaphorically, as a teacher, when he inspired our schools and our community with the “Today and Tomorrow” (T&T) talks. (Hats off to Leslie Lahaye here. Larry was her ‘right hand man’ for T&T).
Adequately funding education so that a reasonable class size and adequate support for special needs students would help other teachers achieve a similar level of performance.
What set my favourite teachers apart for me was how they made me feel – valued, intelligent and skilled. They related to me on a personal level. They earned my respect, not demanded it. The teachers that were not to my liking made me feel the opposite of these qualities. Interestingly, some of my friends felt differently about these same teachers. Different strokes for different folks. A student may not remember exactly what a teacher taught them but they will carry how a teacher made them feel for a lifetime.
I had many favourite teachers and they all had three things in common: their obvious passion for the subject,their knowledge of it, and their enthusiasm for teaching.
How to help other teachers with this…
1. The annual lay off and movement of teachers sometimes prohibits mastery knowledge of a subject.
2. The fact that teachers back then had to deal with a homogeneous class and could teach and that level, I don’t think can be replicated in today’s educational climate. Too many students, too many levels in each grade.
She was my grade nine english teacher. She figured out that I was challenged at reading. She found a book that interested me and I read the first book of my life. She was the girls counsellor, she knew what the signs were and I was unable to fool her that I was reading assignments when I was not.
I can only assume she had more training or experience that my previous teachers who all simply said I was not working up to my potential. Back in those days the only testing was IQ and I did very well on that. sooooo I must not be trying. Hmmm. Don’t really know what she knew but it was life altering to finally be diagnosed with dislexia. At least now I understook why I had a hard time reading, therefore avoided it. I was given strategies and over the years I have become much more proficient at reading, with the right tools, that were not given to me in the first 10 years of my education.
My favorite teachers were
Here are some things that would encourage me to maintain my enthusiasm for teaching
1) giving recognition/appreciation for teachers who do extra things
2) not running ads on the radio and tv that demean teachers
3) having more prep time
Always the teachers who have made the greatest impact are those who are in it for the students, not themselves, who model integrity and other characteristics that they believe to be important, and above all , who enjoy their jobs.
My grade 5 teacher Mr. Fletcher was a gentle disciplinarian who had a paddle hanging on the wall above the chalkboard. Written on this paddle was the phrase “The board of education applied to the seat of learning”. This was used sparingly but on the occasion of a disruptive or disrespectful student they were called to the front of the class and caused to bend over and received a single whack to the seat of learning. Needless to say the class was peaceful and we all learned a lot.
Well now you can’t even say something that ” Jonny” might find hurtful to his feelings. We could solve a lot of problems by making everyone responsible for their behavior (teachers, students, and parents).
The greatest joy I get in being a parent volunteer is putting some of these disrespectful little rascals in their place; and, when the classroom teacher gives me a disapproving look/comment (which seldom ever happens), I simply plead ignorance …
But, on a more serious note, I usually go home grating my teeth as I realize that these same little rascals are no doubt negatively interfering, on a daily basis, with my own child’s learning. But, this is Canada where the rights of the individual trump the rights of the collective majority …
The best teachers create a friendship with a subject. They are able to effectively deliver content, model ways of learning, cultivate ways of thinking, facilitate student confidence and self-efficacy and generally motivate and enable students to seek their best in themselves. This indeed is exemplary teaching. Other teachers could be helped to achieve a similar level of performance by having our school organizations and systems provide time for teachers to jointly plan and deliver lessons together. Teachers often work in isolation and have few relative reference points to know really how they are doing or to learn on the job in their own classrooms from each other.
My favorite teachers where the ones that had easy to understand expectations, ones that had a sense of humour, ones that fostered creativity and and a growth mindset, ones that I knew cared about me longer than the school day lasted, ones that did their best to create an atmosphere where I felt I could excel, and ones without bad breath. That’s all it took to please me. Unfortunately while going through my university days this was rarely discussed with us. Good thing I had some great role models to draw from…probably why I hope I am, and strive to be these things to my students now.
Reading all the responses to the question, I cannot help but feel that we are talking mostly about talents of some people who took the position, and in my opinion, the thing we call “talent” is next to impossibility to be taught.
However, characteristics you list, I think, are found in some selfless people, and the people with these traits are rare species nowadays. We are mostly selfish, and the teachers and professors are not exception, the reason these are not talked about even in universities that are responsible to foster generations of good teachers. You are lucky that you’d had some such teachers for you to take after.
Now, how are we to raise such traits in our teachers to be? I think it is morality issue. I see there are a few high school students participating here. Do you students understand what moral is?
I am sure that the same goes true with the parents. If you’ve had such parents as well, you are double lucky to inherit such mind to observe.
I met a lot of great teachers, but my favourite teacher was my daughter’s grade 2 teacher about 11 years ago. I had the opportunity to volunteer in her class. This teacher taught almost everything in small groups and centres. Of course, her class was quite a bit smaller than they are today, the composition of the class was not as challenging, and she had more time and energy to organize her wonderful lessons. I heard from someone that she recently retired early. Who could blame her? It must have been very difficult to witness everything she worked so hard for taken away from her when her contract was stripped illegally.
It seems often when I hit the thumbs up button it takes away the point — hmmm.
I noticed this too; I am hopeful that it is simply re-tallying the results …
We will have a look at this and see if it is a problem from our end. Thanks for bringing this to our attention:)
Update – there appears to be something odd with the “Thumbs Down” functionality. Our web team is investigating & we hope to have the issue resolved ASAP.
Having said that, I want to assure folks that the thumbs ARE being counted correctly, but it is not immediately displaying the new count on your screen. Hitting refresh on your browser will allow you will see the accurate new count. If anyone encounters further issues with the Thumbs Up/Thumbs down feature, please email me with the details. The email address is email@example.com =)
Teacher/Parent/Member of the Public
One of the best ways for teachers to learn is by observing another teacher teach and then talking with that teacher. I know in some districts that is possible but for most teachers who teach full-time it is never possible. Allowing one day per teacher per year for observation of other teachers allows opportunity for greater growth.
While I agree that the knowledge base must be strong, and it must be STRONG for students to respect the teacher, the one thing that got my attention was a sense of humour. My two favourite teachers were funny. I ended up teaching in the same subject area, and use a similar style. No accident there. It showed me that I could enjoy learning important information. It gave me perspective. For young teachers, the key is to keep this perspective. Be human for your students while also being a portal to a vast area of information. Draw them to your area of expertise with a warm heart.
And don’t be afraid to let your students know when you are upset. For example, my class (back in the 1980′s) watched our new (and young) Grade 10 Physics teacher have a meltdown one day and put his fist through the chalkboard (after one of the jerks in our class pushed another student into the scientific contraption that the poor teacher had spent countless hours setting-up). This teacher then proceeded to tell us, tears welling in his eyes, that he would likely have to forfeit his first two paycheques to pay for a new chalkboard. Most students in the class showed great empathy for this teacher, and I noticed that the students in my class (even the bad ones) treated him with greater respect and kindness from that day forward. Students sometimes need to be reminded that teachers are human and have feelings too …
the best teacher I had taught Greek Mythology – he was passionate,an outstanding expert in his field, and brought history to vibrant life for us.
The best teachers I have encountered in my children’s public school system have been organized, respectful of children and parents, excellent communicators, and command the attention of the children in their class through by being engaged and having expectations of their students, and have few classroom management issues. Most of the educators who achieve this have been science and math teachers.
Strong knowledge base made accessible by the teacher’s character and interest in students.
If the teacher was caustic, all the knowledge in the world didn’t matter. If the teacher was kind but not intelligent, then the environment was pleasant but not educational.
Ongoing evaluation of teachers of knowledge base and classroom management that carries with it consequences.
I agree with many of the comments below; “absolute passion for the subject they are teaching” is definitely key. I had a grade ten history teacher who was so passionate about history, that he inspired a passion for history in me. He was so absorbed in his history lesson one day that he stood in front of the class lecturing wildly/passionately (as he always did) on the building of the Egyptian pyramids, only to be interrupted by a student who said: “Excuse me Mr. Peets, but do you realize that you are wearing two different shoes today?” Mr. Peets looked down briefly at his mismatched shoes, blushed slightly and said: “Oh my, you are right Darcy” … and then returned, as if nothing had happened, to his passionate lecture on the Egyptian pyramids. I thought he was the coolest teacher ever!
Thanks for sharing Heather.
I had a wonderful history teacher who posed the question: “does history make the man, or does man make history?”. It’s a bit like the chicken and the egg analogy, because there IS no right answer – but it is a great starting place to encourage learners to challenge their assumptions and to consider situations from a different perspective.
That’s a great question your history teacher posed Rebekah, and I am so glad that you also got the opportunity to learn from such a great teacher. I will remember my history teacher always, with the fondest of memories.
I am lucky by favourite teacher was my mother. She inspired her students. She was worshipped by parents and the community. She was a leader. She made her students feel like they could succeed at whatever they chose to do. She treated everyone like they had a purpose in life and they were valuable. It is not about subject content it is about validation of one’s life.
I also wanted to say that I went to a small town school and I got a great education by great teachers that were accountable to their community for the education and by leading and learning by example. Teachers in small town have a vested stake in ensuring a viable future for their communities.
My favorite teachers had these things in common. 1)Genuine respect for their students- taking the time to care about my perspective. 2) Finding joy in their students’ learning. Without that drive, mastering the subject matter and artful delivery are unlikely.
For me, the most inspiring teachers were the ones who were passionate about the subject matter. Content was important, and they took what they taught seriously. They were also – to use these overworked phrases again – sages from the stage, rather than guides from the side.
So much of the talk about “new education” (aka rehashed Rousseauianism) reduces the teacher to a tepid technician. Ugh!
The best teachers I have had were experts in their field and passionate about what they taught.
While I strongly believe in having and adhering to curriculum, I think it is important for our education system to leave room for teachers to deliver the content and teach the skills necessary for student success in a way they find interesting. When a teacher has the space to be passionate, the students tend to catch their enthusiasm for the subject matter and learning in general.
Just like students, parents and everyone else, teachers have their strengths and weaknesses. And for any particular context, we can find individuals who perform exceptionally. And they are few.
Just like students, every teacher I have met has passions and strengths that really make them shine when they are in the right context. In those more suitable contexts they are exceptional and it is something that is wonderful to witness and experience. And it is understandable to want to replicate such wonderful examples of learning and teaching.
But our education system is not ideal, and teachers are, more often than not, required to teach in contexts that are not ideally suited to their strengths and passions.
In those less than ideal contexts, teachers are fully trained and capable of doing an acceptable job, perhaps even better than acceptable, but they might not be exceptional. And it is pretty well a certainty that a teacher will never become exceptional in all contexts. That’s just reality.
If we want our education system to be the best that it can be then we need to design our education system such that any qualified teacher will be capable of succeeding. If we design our education system such that every teacher is expected to perform exceptionally with respect to other qualified teachers, then the system will be designed to fail.
There is a lot of “hero-worship” in the popular culture. We have all seen plenty of charismatic “experts” pushing the latest “breakthrough” in pedagogy, self-help, dieting, etc; and those people may often be truly exceptionally successful; but that doesn’t mean that most of their students will be as exceptionally sucessful themselves. And for our education system, we need most, ideally all, of our teachers to meet or exceed our realistic expectations. So we must be careful not to fall into that hero-worshiping trap as we strive to improve our education system.
Clearly, teachers are capable of learning from others and improving their own practice. That is one thing teachers are trained to do, and I think it is safe to say that it is one thing teachers love doing – we love learning and teaching.
But since our goal is to have an improved education system that employs tens of thousands of qualified teachers we need to ensure that it is successful by design.
One way to better optimize our education system is to strive to ensure that teachers are placed into contexts that best enable them to leverage their own individual strengths and passions for the benefit of their students.
Another way is to incorporate as much flexibility as possible into each teaching context so that each teacher is capable of adapting that context into something more ideally suited to the teacher and students.
Rob Slanina posted a related comment here.
Well said, Richard! There is much talk about flexibility for the sake of students, but it seems even more important that flexibility be available for teachers to contextualize the learning environment in such a way as to share their own passions and to relate their own learning to both the living and the learning experience of the student.
There has been much said about changing things so that the passions and strengths of the students can be reinforced and built upon, but it seems obvious and much more practical that we should first apply such approaches to the context of teaching itself. Flexibility in teaching will naturally accommodate different learning circumstances, while flexibility for learners doesn’t necessarily empower anyone besides the learner(not to mention the fact that such flexibility for students is entirely impractical).
My favourite teachers are like Socrates…not necessarily ‘wise’, but autonomous, integrous, and engaged…and we can certainly facilitate a system that is designed not to interfere with these qualities…a system which empowers teachers to develop and employ such qualities…
…flexibility for teachers is very important…
My favourite teacher was a teacher who absolutely knew his content but had the freedom to deviate and work with his students. He was teaching a course with a less than prescriptive curriculum (religion) and therefore had the opportunity to really delve into issues that students found interesting.
In addition to changing the curriculum, teachers must be trained/taught/brought to a point where they are comfortable allowing students to drive learning for at least some of the time.
“She promoted self-expression and self-examination in the classroom, which, as sixteen year olds, we did not have many opportunities to do.”
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