EDUCATION: What Teachers Teach, and What They May Learn

UPDATED: Charles has posted his thoughts on students: “The ones that get away are the ones that haunt you.”

Sometimes you get a sneak peek inside the soul of a professional and that flash reveals the reason why they do what they do, and why they’re good at it.

Charles Deemer is a writer, playwright, teacher, and blogs about his experiences and his work at The Writing Life II. In a post today he mentions his scriptwriting course and a particular student he dealt with in evaluation of his work.

Made a mistake with an advanced student whose work I admire by giving a curt, frank assessment of a script in progress, rather than being more politically correct in my communication.

(. . .) Meanwhile he’s an unhappy camper. I thought my clear admiration of his talent permitted a response without window dressing but I was wrong. Now I’ve lost him, probably for good. I blew it.

I don’t know exactly what he means by ‘politically correct’ and as most of you know, I’m against pc, though all for old-school common sense and politeness and I think this is what Charles is driving at.

One of the main elements of teaching, aside from disseminating information, is to understand the x number of different ways in which people learn and, by guess-judging each student as an individual as to their method, gearing the material to each as much as possible. After all, the material doesn’t change (except applying Barthes’ principles) so the students are the variable and there are obvious (and researched) signals that indicate how an individual is responding to the knowledge being offered. I’ve had a history teacher who every day plopped the textbook in front of him and bid us do the same, then lectured the entire class with occasional glances down and the requisite turning of a page. His delivery was almost word for word with the book. I’ve also had teachers who are so enthralled with the topic (which is why they got into teaching) that they never noticed a student completely asleep the whole time.

Good teaching is a a combination of caring about the subject, wanting to share that information, and understanding that the best way to do that is by recognizing and appealing to the various receptors in order to achieve that result. It’s a guess based on experience and it’s not going to be conclusive or successful 100% of the time but it’s the closest thing to gaining the result I can think of using.

In the next few years the education system will see a glut of teachers because of the government funds being directed into that field and the lack of job opportunities in the private sector as the economy worsens before it gets better. It’s going to mean even more to have an instructor such as Charles who truly seems to care about reaching individuals, not just “my students” or “my class.”

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