Friday, July 2, 2010

Practice what you preach

I was inspired by fellow teacher and friend, Mr. G, when he started his blog about teaching. I am constantly harping on my students to ask "why?" and really get to the heart of the matter. This is what I hope to accomplish with this blog. It is not enough to just take everything we learn at face value. We as teachers especially need to practice this lesson.

As I have just moved back to the Rose City (Portland, OR), I am going through the interview process to find a teaching job here. One of the questions I was asked was, "what is the best way students learn?" I stared blankly at the screen thinking, How on Earth do I answer that? The real answer is, there is no best way kids learn. Every student learns in his or her own way. How many times did I have teachers in high school and college who just assumed we all were tracking when he/she was up front lecturing to the chalkboard? However, I had to take pause and think, how often do I practice what I preach? I know that every kid learns differently, but when CSAP (standardized test) is looming on the horizon or finals are breathing down our often do I really stop and make sure every kid is learning how he/she learns best? Better yet, is it even possible? I cannot even begin to count how many times I've had a kid in my class who is either so apathetic or stoned he/she does not even attempt to do the work. What then?

Therefore, my questions today are: Do we practice what we preach? and How do students learn best?


  1. What a great question! I'm honored to be an inspiration! :-)

    Do we practice what we preach? Hm, I try to in my own approach, but I have to admit, school mandates, standards, and testing often get in the way - at least to some degree. When it comes to my belief in the necessity of a structured, firm learning environment that encourages inquiry and maintains a consistent set of expectations, then I think I do fairly well at practicing what I preach. Of course, when it comes to grades and the acceptance of late work, we know that administrations can often interfere in our approaches, for example, insisting on taking late work (as a standards based education would allow...of course, should it, is another question). However, if administration and ALL faculty are consistent and on board, so much more is possible.

    How do students learn best? I think you have it right when you say there is no one "best" way since all individuals learn in their unique style. Therefore, I think it is important to look at it from another way: Students learn best (younger or older) when they are in a strong, inquiry-focused learning environment that maintains and supports a consistent set of expectations. If a child knows that the same level of behavior and performance is expected by each teacher they meet, whether in the classroom or the halls, they will rise up to meet it - especially if regular support is offered. My new school makes a point of mentioning the following expectation of teachers: "You are a school teacher, not a classroom teacher and, as such, EVERY student is your responsibility." Therefore, all of us need to work together to maintain the right environment. With that in place, each child is free to develop using their best skills and strengthening their weak ones!

  2. I think you raise such important points G. All too often I run up against kids who say "well, Mr so-and-so lets us do it in his class." I'm always thinking...why are we battling each other. I mean, there are school wide policies that it seems are not being held to by all teachers. If we just worked would be so much easier I think.