Monday, July 5, 2010

Great teachers come in many forms

While reading an excerpt from The Courage to Teach, I came upon a quote that made me stop to think. The author recounts several anecdotes about teachers and students, adding that the stories "remind [us] of many facts about good teaching: that it comes in many forms, that the imprint of good teachers remain long after the facts they gave us had faded" (22).

I am particularly inspired by the idea that good teaching comes in many forms, because it celebrates the diversity of technique and practice that is present in the classrooms of effective teachers. Even within a highly effective school team, while commonalities are no doubt present, each teacher will likely have a unique style. And that's a good thing.

I'm reminded of a particularly fabulous class I took in college, which by almost all definitions of best practices and buzz words in education, the professor would be deemed terrible. The class met once a week for a lecture with 300+ students, and was held from 7 - 9:50pm. The professor lectured for the entire time, without the use of visual aids or multimedia.

But the class was fabulous, and possibly one of the most engaging courses I've taken in my entire educational career. I'm trying to reflect on why that class was so engaging, and why I still have the notebook from that class that took place over four years ago.

The professor was engaging and charismatic. He shared his personal experiences and made the content come to life. But most of all, the course was relevant and he was knowledgable. Entitled Media, Money, and Power, the class focused on the way corporations controlled media outlets and how general public opinion around current events was formed in deliberate ways by those who had a vested interest in the outcome. He talked about issues we cared about, particularly from a perspective we had never heard before. And while attendance in most college classes typically dwindled as the semester went on, his lecture hall was consistently filled. He didn't enforce attendance by taking it for a grade, or offer pop quizzes to force students to attend lecture. Instead, he provided an incredibly relevant curriculum in an incredibly engaging way.

As I move toward my third year in the classroom, and think about my former students in the past two years, I wonder: will my class be one to remember four years down the road? and how do I make the content so relevant, that students can't wait until the next class? if my class was held in the evening, and attendance was optional, would students show up?