The Characteristics of Good Teaching
You already know a great deal about teaching even if you've never had an "official" teaching position. You have been sitting in the classrooms of different teachers most of your life. Each one taught you something about teaching.
Think about the worst teachers you had. Think specifically about what it is they did or did not do that created an unrewarding learning experience.
- "He read his lecture to us from a script without ever looking up."
- "She droned on in a monotone and always kept her gaze slightly above all of us."
- "He talked way too fast and never left the overheads up there long enough to get the information down."
- "There was way too much reading in the course and half the time we never talked about what we were assigned."
- "We never really had discussions. There were five or six of her favorite students who dominated and the rest of us just sat there."
And how about this classic example of bad teaching...
"In 1930 the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, in an effort to alleviate the effects of the .....anyone? anyone? The Great Depression....passed the....anyone? ...tariff bill - the Hawley-Smoot Tarriff Act which....anyone?....raised or lowered?... RAISED tariffs in an effort to collect more revenue for the federal government. Did it work?.....Anyone? Anyone know the effects? Anyone?
It did NOT work and the United States sank deeper into the depression."
-Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Paramount Pictures, 1986
Every time you walk into a classroom it can be a rich learning experience. View each class you take as if you were going to be assigned to teach the course next term. With this in mind, you begin to pay close attention to the teaching. The minute you feel bored-- analyze the situation and try to figure what is or isn't happening to stimulate you, draw you into the dialogue, cause you to think and question, etc. And when all those things ARE happening--try to step back and figure out how the teacher is achieving this success.
Now think about the instructors you've had who were able to incite passion in their students for the subject, the ones who successfully held your attention for the entire period, inspired you to pursue the field you have chosen, and taught you how to be courageous in your learning.
- "There were 62 two of us, but I swear she knew everyone's name. I didn't dare come to class unprepared. She expected nothing less than our best."
- "I was in awe of his breadth of knowledge about Japanese history. I was inspired by his passion--how he made the material come to life."
- "I've never worked harder or learned more than I did in that calculus class and he never made us feel stupid."
"Now in my class you will learn to think for yourselves again.
You will learn to savor words
and language. And no matter
what anybody tells you...
words and ideas
can change the world."
Keating, Dead Poets Society
You have an opportunity this term to have an impact on your students' lives. Knowing who your students are and caring about their success matters. Listening well and inviting students to risk their thoughts to a community of learners can help tethered intellects break loose. This is especially true for fall term freshmen.
Much of what a good teacher does happens behind the scenes.