The days of teachers simply reciting their courses and students having to write down every word in complete silence are gone forever. This has been a good evolution, without a doubt. However, all the future teachers I know are taught so many so-called playful learning techniques nowadays that the content of the subject sometimes runs the risk of being pushed into the background, as some kind of afterthought. I suspect this is why a friend of mine threw the this question into a Facebook discussion group for teachers:
“Does anyone know about a technique in order to teach the students factual information?”
If you think that question isn’t already depressing in itself, believe me: the answers were much worse. In what follows, you will find the 5 worst teaching tips that were exchanged in that Facebook discussion group.
Bad tip # 1: Make a beautiful powerpoint
I garantee you the following conversation never took place:
“Which teacher has left the deepest impression on you?”
“Because she made the most beautiful powerpoints ever.”
Here’s a newsflash for all you future teachers: your pupils don’t give a flying fuck about how beautiful your powerpoint is. What is there to be gained from all those hours of making powerpoints, when the students are so damn desinterested that they are looking at your powerpoint in the same way a cow looks at a passing train?
Bad tip # 2: When no one answers, pick a student to answer
Remember that horrible silence when your teacher asked a question and nobody would answer? In that silence you would expect the sound of chirping crickets, were it not that even they have committed collective suicide just to escape that sense of awkwardness.
Also to be seen, from the teacher’s point of view, is a display of acting performances that might prove Oscar-worthy one day: all students simultaneously pretending to be deep in thought, rearranging their papers or writing down something very, very important. Meanwhile, there’s one collective thought to be heard, buzzing in their anxious heads:
“I hope he doesn’t pick me…“
In sincerely hope that you have never been picked out to break that silence, in order to answer a question that no one understood in the first place. Quarter and drown them at the playground, teachers who think picking students like this is a good idea!
Bad tip # 3: Don’t difficult questions
A fragment from the comedian GeorgeCarlins penultimate show, Life is Worth Losing:
– “We need more testing for the kinds.“
– “Well, you know, we’ve all tried of that, but the kids still can’t pass the tests.“
– “Oh, don’t you worry about that, we’ll just lower the passing grades.“
And that’s what they do in a lot of these school, they lower the passing grades, so more kids can pass. More kids pass, the school looks good, everybody’s happy, the IQ of the country slips another 2 or 3 points and pretty soon all you need to go to college is a fucking pencil .
People who think that they are doing their students a favor by dumbing the questions down do not belong in education. Either they have lost all hope in their own capacities to teach children anything remotely difficult; or they have lost all hope in the children to apprehend any difficult subject. Either way, they are cynical.
Bad tip # 4: Speed of the pace
Some teachers turn their classes into a race against the clock. They have a reason for doing this. You see, when the students are trying to keep up with the teacher, they don’t have any time to do other things, like chatting. The result is always the same:
“Sir, we can’t keep up!“
“Sir, what do we have to write down?“
After that, the teacher usually literally dictates what the students have to write down on the dotted lines on their sheets. Now, what do the pupils learn by parotting their teachers words in this way?
And how do students feel?
Distraught, rushed and held hostage by time.
Bad tip # 5: Show a YouTube video
YouTube movies are a fun addition to the class, but are often used for the wrong reasons. The teacher uses them as a replacement for their own teaching assignment; and the only reason why the students look at them, is because videos contain more colors and move faster than the exhausted teacher standing in front of the class room.
“As a teacher you have to ask yourself one question: what am I more than a YouTube video?” a professional educator once asked a group of future teachers – a group which I happened to be part of.
She was right. Almost every part of the classes teachers usually give can be replaced by a YouTube video. It is that magical thing a teacher has to offer as a person, rather than as a YouTube video, that really makes him or her indispensable for the pupils.
The only question is: what is that?
What to do instead
“A good teacher demands his mandate by creating necessity.” At least, that’s what the same professional educator said, and I can tell you from personal experience that she’s right.
What she meant by this is best explained by some examples.
At the beginning of her own class, everyone present received a list of Swedish words, the meaning of which we had to guess. First we had to guess individually, then in groups of two and then in groups of four. That total assignment took about a quarter of an hour. Then she asked us the following question:
“Who whould be irritated if I proceeded without giving you the right answer?“
Of course, everybody would have been irritated – and the reason for that is somewhat obvious. We all wanted our efforts to be rewarded. And by doing that, our teacher had succeeded in making us yearn to know the right answer. Nobody, that day, had entered the classroom wondering: “Gosh, I wonder what ‘swimming pool’ would be in Swedish?” Nonetheless, at the end of the lecture, everybody was longing to know.
That is what she meant by “demaning your mandate as a teacher.”
In my own classes; I have used this advice of ‘demanding your mandate’ time and time again. It worked every time. How do you make your students read a 19th-century text by Henry David Thoreau? Tell them that in that text, they can find some advice on how to avoid the unjust detention assignment they just received from another teacher.
How do you make your students read some boring European legislation on anonimity rights in visual media? Tell them that in that text, they will discover whether they can sue some asshole for $1000 because of the photo he took without asking for permission.
As Plutarch said: “The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to kindled.” Only a teacher who succeeds in stimulating his pupils in such a way that they crave for knowledge themselves sets them on a path in which knowledge becomes a true intrinsic passion.
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