Students come First, No excuses accepted.
I couldn’t get through NPR to give my two cents worth on the subject being discussed: teaching
This would have been my contribution with a few suggestions:
1.To the parent whose gifted twins’ passion for math is not being met because the teacher feels caught within the system called curriculum, testing, and has a whole classroom of kids to teach. Not acceptable.
Math was always my weak area so I worked with the math dept at the College of Education.
Whenever a student needed advanced math and I knew I couldn’t meet that need, I asked a math professor to come in to have one-to-one lessons with these students. He often told me my students in third grade, understood math better than many of his college students. My classroom had no walls and teaching was individualized as much as possible. Decision making and being in control of their own learning were core to our classroom.
2. No, no, the best of materials and books do not result in better learning. Teaching training needs to look at teaching as an art. Teaching is not about knowledge of subject matter alone, we need to understand how children best learn. I had a rule: whenever a student wasn’t learning, or loving school, or lacking the passion to learn, the teacher was either doing something or not doing something. The minute we blame the learner, or the system, we stop teaching.
3. But…but…it’s difficult to teach with children at different learning levels. Create an environment where students will resolve their own problems by making creative decisions about their own learning. One of my best moments came from a student who asked, ” Why is Ryan ( a gifted student) so smart and I’m not? I think my parents aren’t doing something right.” I suggested we ask Ryan and his answer was, ” I guess I read a lot.” To make a year long story short, we had many parent-teacher conferences, that student became an avid learner and would test me out with the Farmer’s Almanac and felt smarter than the teacher when I couldn’t answer all his questions.
Students had to read two or more books of their choice a month. They added their book titles to a filing system in the class, along with their analysis and honest personal reactions to each book. They felt liberated to say, “I hated this book because …” Students began to go to these files to read books recommended by the above average students. Everyone wants to be smart. I also read daily to the students and explored all the literary elements and devices and they in turn, used these tools to discuss their books. We all became poets and writers in every subject area.
4. Students are capable and want to learn beyond their designated grade level.
We brought Shakespeare into our classes…they loved it when I introduced William with: Macbeth is usually taught in high school but I think you can handle this.
No, I guess there was a reason why NPR didn’t accept my call…. I couldn’t say all this in a few minutes.
The rest of my views on teaching are in my Teacher, You Look Like a Horse book.