My educational philosophy is still in its evolutionary stage. For years I felt teachers disseminated information and students were simply sponges there to absorb the information. Then once I became a teacher I felt I learned as much if not more than the students. Education is a tricky business. I once had an administrator tell me, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make them drink.” referring students and learning. At the time I was flabbergasted that an administrator would say should a thing, obviously all students can learn and be taught if the teacher is entertaining, fun, smart, uses multiple intelligences, multiple approaches, visual aids… At time it seems as if we are on stage to entertain the immediate gratification generation.
We have all had teachers we hated and others we loved and would have done anything for them, but that loved teacher was not necessarily loved by all. If the teacher and the student can make a connection inside or outside class it seems to make teaching the student easier. For years I coached and watched coaches teach. Somehow, students that were “problem students” for one teacher were “gems” for their coaches. Was that because the student wanted more playing time or not to run laps? Perhaps, but it seems there is something much deeper to me. I believe that the common interest between the coach the student completely changes that relationship. However, this does not always have to be a player/coach relationship. It can be any teacher and any student that make a “connection”. I taught at an international private college preparatory boarding school and the faculty quickly became surrogate parents for the students, not so much as they were assigned to us to take care of, but because the students, more typically, figured out who they could best relate with and were comfortable with. I often told my classes at the beginning of the year to find an adult they could talk to, I was willing to be that person, but if not me find someone to talk and work with. I would be nice if students could interview their professor before they took the class. And I suppose to some degree they do by asking peers whom they have had for classes and how the instructor was. However, just because your friend liked the professor doesn’t mean you will. So, the student is stuck with the professor they get and don’t know what kind of a match it will be until it is too late.
Which brings me too attitude. Attitude may be the largest predictor of success in my classes, especially at the lower level classes. As I teach one of the most feared subjects, Mathematics. Just the mention of the word will send shivers up some people spine, and yet they can all learn the material. We have math phobics, which is almost unheard of for other subjects. We have students with test anxiety which only show up in math class. The biggest cop out of all, “Well, Mom and Dad were neither any good at math, so they don’t aspect me to be any good either”. Our nation would never tell our children, “It’s OK sweetie, your mother and I both failed English. So, it’s ok if you can’t read or write.” The student has already been given the easy way out. So, societal attitudes can be very important. However, it is the individual student’s attitude that probably has the most impact. If the student comes trembling and is thinking there is no way I can do this and is sure they will fail, will probably self fulfill their prophecy. Teaching this student is difficult at best. If the student comes to class confident and says to themselves, “I can do this”, then the teaching can begin. I love to work with these students. These students tend to work hard; they ask for help when they need it, they are persistent. They will pass the class and more importantly learn the concepts.
5 years ago