Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Dear Katie, (Volume 1 No. 1)

From time to time I plan to encourage my niece Katie in her pursuit of being a teacher.  She is currently a Sophomore in college.  These blogs will take the form of a letter.

If any of my teacher friends have any topic you would like be to write about or would like me to paste your own post on here for her or anyone else to read, by all means, please be my guest.

Dear Katie,

One of the questions I needed to answer when you interviewed me for an education course last year was:

"Describe one course you took in college that taught you the most about being a good teacher."

My response was, "NONE".

Now this doesn't mean that I learned nothing in my education courses. Listen carefully and ask questions, but it doesnt become a reality until you actually do it.

Let me explain.  I think trial and error is the best method there is in becoming a good teacher.  I was fortunate to work for two principals for most of my 20 years as a teacher who gave me the freedom to fail.  This allowed me to experiment with students and discover what works...and what doesn't.

One of my biggest complaints with some of the student teachers I have had over the years is that they "play it safe".  Student teaching is the best time to experiment because there is someone in the classroom giving you constant feedback.

When you do your practicum and student teaching there will be periods where you observe a teacher in action.  ASK THEM "WHY"? 

"Why did you raise your voice to that student for talking but only gave an angry look at another?"

"Why did you choose to end class that way?"

When you student teach (since practicum is a far shorter time period) there is typically time at the end of the experience where you have wrapped up being the teacher and have returned to being the student.  Ask if it would be OK to watch other teachers in the building, even ones outside of your discipline.  Most teachers would welcome that.

Do you want to become a good teacher?  Here is what you do.  Remember the teachers that made you excited about their course.  Study the professors you have in college who do the same.  Think of that one course or subject you dreaded, but the instructor you had made it come alive for you.  

Also remember those teacher/professors who you would rather have a root canal than be in their class.  What made the class so dreadful?

Make lists of the good and the bad and see those things that fit into who you are or what you are comfortable with in addressing a classroom.

To be a good need to be yourself.  Kids can sniff out a lack of authenticity.

Since my first year teaching, I always tried to place myself as a student when planning a lesson.  Sometime I even write my lesson plan from a student's desk.  The reason is this:

"If I'm bored with a lesson, how do I expect my students not to be."

That is just some of what it is to become a good teacher.

Have Fun!

Uncle Kevin

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