Thursday, December 24, 2009

Easier said than done (a college teaching debate)

A Chronicle piece entitled "I Hate Myself When I'm Teaching" just caught my eye. It's a letter from a second-year professor exhausted by what she's doing and unsatisfied by the classroom results, with an answer from "Ms. Mentor" that comes way too close to telling the writer that it's fine just to accept lots of students engaging little and learning less.

No. No, no, no. No.

I delivered workshops for two years before I did a good one. I did them for five years before, handed better materials by a colleague, I finally experienced leading a great one.

Good teaching is a learnable craft, a teachable skill, a profession that requires systematic development. Settling for frustrating most of your students and never quite being happy and at ease in their company is unnecessary and unworthy.

Mercifully, the comments are better than the "mentor," by more than a mile. The first great resister says:
Changing your attitude will surely help. But learning to teach well is what will help the most. Find out who the best teachers (not the best researchers, nor the easiest teachers) are on your campus and talk with them about their methods.
For new teachers at every level, my New Year's wish is that you find great colleagues--the ones ready to collaborate, to share teaching techniques that make their students come alive, and to lure you into a lifetime of seeking and finding the methods that work for each new group of students you meet. There isn't any better work than successful teaching, and there isn't any better place to be than among educators willing to help you succeed.


  1. I agree that there is no better profession than teaching because we are truly affecting the future, one child at a time. One of the best things about teaching is having former students return to visit and tell you how you made a difference for them. I do fear, however, that the current press for standardized testing is taking education in a direction in which most teachers don't really want to go.

  2. I so agree with your statement that, "Good teaching is a learnable craft." Unfortunately many Ph.D. programs do not teach teaching.


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