May 22, 2009

Easy for the (Elective) Teacher?

For 5 years I have “reflected” on my teaching experience. I’m not sure what motivated me to begin beyond an overwhelming feeling of fullness; I needed to get rid of some things to make room for others. Of course that snowballed into a habit of binging and purging on teacher stuff. Then came the readers who actually made comments on my ramblings and, well, the rest is recorded here in the last 99 essays on teaching. This is number 100, and my last, at least here, for now. Here is a link for those who wish to continue reading on.

I am a teacher of elective classes. Some think the teaching of electives is easy. I teach a subject that students like to take, but I am a department of one and I write most of my curriculum alone. My pupils are not automatically enrolled; they have to choose the course. So elective teachers live and die by the number of students that enroll into their classes. Not enough students? No class. Yes, some students walk in enthusiastic and ready to learn. Others have a low expectation for the quantity of work they are required to complete in their elective.

It’s easy for an elective teacher to claim that school should be fun; we often teach “fun” topics. But why are they fun? Is multimedia fun by its very nature? Maybe. Or maybe it’s the teacher that makes it fun. Is English fun? How about Algebra? I believe it depends on the teacher, their attitude, and their approach to class. Notice I didn’t say the students. The students will react to the tone set by the teacher. The teacher must be passionate about the subject he or she is teaching, well qualified to teach students, and committed to their success.

These may be dark days in education, but I am optimistic. Budget cuts have lead to teacher layoffs, increased class size, and fewer teaching resources. Although we have grown to love our smart boards, LCD projectors, and computers in every classroom, the technology and visual aids are NOT what makes teachers great. Teachers have successfully taught throughout the ages without all of the extras that we currently enjoy. And students have learned. Sure it’s frustrating right now, and of course we’d like it to be different, but teachers will endure. We will continue to teach our students regardless of circumstances.

If I had to sum up my message to teachers in a paragraph, it would be this one. Invest in your students. Don’t just share your passion for learning, but infect your pupils with it. Teaching is the most important job in the world; and teachers change and improve the world. What we say to our students, how we treat them, and what we teach them in our classrooms has a deep and lasting impact on their lives. The words and actions of one teacher ripple throughout the classroom, and into the entire world. It is not an easy job.

19 comments:

  1. I will miss your posting. Be well.

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  2. Your "ramblings" contain much appreciated experience and insight, and I have really enjoyed reading and learning -- Thank You.

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  3. I've enjoyed this blog and I'm sad that you are discontinuing it. What made you choose that route?

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  4. I was just reading your blog and I think you have some really insightful posts about teaching.  I'm currently working on a project to help K-12 teachers find jobs and make their lives easier.  The site I'm working on is Applebatch.com.  We are currently working on our second version and I'm reaching out to the teaching community to get feedback and to ask for them to spread the word.  I've been following your blog for the past couple of months and I think that your work is fantastic.  If you have time please feel free to check out the site and send me any feedback you might have.  Also, if you are looking for material to post we would love to have you interview our founder.  Just a thought.  Anyway, keep up the good work and hope you enjoy the site.

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  5. Whoa man. Just found your blog and hear you're not writing anymore. That's sad news.

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  6. We also enjoy reading this blog at Maupin House. Your posts are insigtful and are very relevant to the things we love to know about educators. We'll follow your new blog as well, though, and we'd love for you to follow ours.

    http://maupinhouse.blogspot.com/

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  7. In most schools I have been around the teachers with the fun reputations mean more to kids when they pick electives than the subject itself does.

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  8. I have been a fan of your writing since I began my student teaching for the University of Georgia in the spring of 2008, and I just finished my first year teaching US History and Government in Georgia.

    I am not a tech person, but during my first year I had an idea for a teaching website, a little different from yours, but I started working on it and I wanted to share it with you. I just added your site to my BlogRoll.

    My site is called Educate for Change: DO IT!

    I want the site to become a place where teachers can go to discuss many of the things that you write on, SHARE LESSON PLANS most importantly, and anything else that we encounter on our journey to succeed. I would greatly appreciate it if you would check it out and let me know what you think. The URL is:

    http://www.educateforchange.blogspot.com

    Thanks!

    Lee Whitaker

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  9. I really enjoy reading your blog, you have some great insights! It is truly sad that budget cuts have led to a decrease of resources for teachers. I actually came across a site called Applebatch that provides free resources to teachers and a forum to discuss ideas. I found it very helpful especially in this economy.

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  10. Hey Man! I just found your blog. I can't believe you aren't posting anymore.

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  11. You are absolutely right about the teacher making all the difference. Just happened upon your final blog entry. Very inspiring. You're also right about new technology not being able to compensate for poor teaching. I've always thought that a good teacher can work magic in the most appalling conditions. Thanks for your blog. Cheers.

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  12. I definitely agree with your comments about budget cuts, but teachers and students aren't the only people affected. I own a teacher resource website that is dedicated to selling educational products called supplyschool.com. Back in 2006 it was really easy to get sales, but now we've had to come out of our brick and mortar store and move online. Growth has been slow and sluggish, but we work so hard everyday... Teachers and students definitely have it hard, but its really hard for people who help supply the merchandise. =(

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  13. Thanks-I was searching blogs because I needed some encouragement. That post did it. www.jesscaf.blogspot.com

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  14. i agreed that teacher is the best pedagogy herself..

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  15. I like this post. Currently, I'm stuck subbing due to the economy. There hasn't been a job in my field within a thirty-minute drive in a couple of months now. Who can blame you for thinking about the stability of your position?

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  16. The way you word things is fantastic!

    I have to go with the idea that a subject CAN become more entertaining and 'fun' if the teacher teaches it in a way that is 'fun.' Of course, some teachers can make reading the phone book fun, too…it's that dratted 'magnetic personality' some people just seem to exude.

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  17. I agree entirely. At the moment I am studying to become a history teacher and one of the first comments I always get when I tell people, is that history is boring. To me history is fascinating, and I feel that so long as you are able to convey that enthusiasm to students and make your lessons interesting rather than just rambling off facts and figures then there is the possibility to make any subject ‘easy’ to teach.

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