Tuesday, January 09, 2018

Making It Look Easy

So many people think teaching is easy.  It's not.  But good teachers make it look easy.

I have a student teacher this year.  She is in 2 "lower level" classes with another teacher and a relatively "upper level" class with me, and the three of us share a common prep period.  She transitioned into teaching the two other classes, but only started actually teaching my class today.  Her planning was exceptional, her content knowledge impressive.

When I have a student teacher, I don't just leave.  How can I observe, evaluate, and coach, if I'm not there?  Sure, eventually I'll leave the class, even all period, but it won't be all period every day.   So today, our students' first day of the new semester, she taught while I sat in the back of class.

She's going to be an awesome teacher.  I can just tell, she's going to be great at this.  But as I sat in the back of the class, I noticed a couple things that she can improve on.  Common rookie things.

There is so much more to teaching than just content knowledge. You have to know how to convey that content knowledge to others who don't have your background knowledge and extensive education.  You have to convey the content in an understandable, neat, legible manner.  You have to interact with the students, not just lecture to or at them.  And it's usually better to have some prior planning rather than just try to wing it--counting on your own vast content knowledge and abilities to gloss over an obvious lack of preparation.

For those of you who are not teachers, have you ever had someone try to explain something to you, perhaps at a meeting?  Or how about tech support people on the phone?  Or presenters?  Have you ever seen someone who probably knows their stuff but explains it to you poorly?  That person might have plenty of knowledge but is not a good teacher.

And don't even get me started on people who read their PowerPoint slides (yes, I know teachers do that, too, sometimes)!

So as I sat in that back of class during that one class period today, I saw a teacher with tremendous potential.  She's already not bad, but she can be so much better.

Good teachers make teaching look easy (just as experts in any field make their work look easy).  But it's not.  It is a craft that must be learned, practiced, and honed.


David said...

I had 2 student teachers last semester. If they are good, it's a breeze (like they were). If they are bad (which I've had in the past), yikes; its very stressful on me not to retake control.

Mr. W said...

I know exactly what you mean with student teachers. I had a special one a few years back. She was a dedicated hard worker finishing her masters in math while getting her credential.

I watched her for a few periods and realized this one is special. This is one that can lead a department someday.

So when it came for us to hire a new teacher, despite all the recommendations from me and the other teachers she planned with and worked along side with for almost 2 years (she subbed while taking her last course) we gave the job to a coach.

Yep. I'm sure you can relate.

Mike Thiac said...


I relate to the reading of Power Point slides. Back in 05/06, when I deployed to Kuwait, I sat in the daily brief to 3rd Army Commander. By sat in, I mean I was one about about 100 field grade officers sitting there, trying to not be noticed, they may want me to get some coffee or something.

But your comment on readying slides reminds me of something that was drilled into my skull when I was a second lieutenant at Ft Huachuca AZ, and we covered briefing.

"Ladies and gentlement, your first slide will be the weather. Now, your battalion commander. He has at least a bachelor's degree, likely multiple masters degrees. He is a graduate of the Command and General Staff College, possibly the War College, and he went to the pre-command course. Now, put all that on one side of the scale, you can safey assume, in spite of the fact he is a combat arms officer, that the man ***can*** read!"

"Just put the slide up, say, 'Sir, the weather,' and he will let you know when he's read it."

It made me cringe when I heard a major read the slide to the CG...at least I can say he wasn't a MI officer! :<)

Darren said...

Mr. W, thankfully I can *not* relate. We don't do things that way at my school!

David, this is my 3rd student teacher. My first didn't make it. The next one, I knew on the first day that she'd be ok. Same with this one. Now, that doesn't mean there isn't work to be done, or that the work will be easy, just that it's clear they're capable. As I described it to her today: her teaching is good, we're just going to polish it and make it even better.

Mike, hear hear! Know what drives me nuts? When a teacher is briefing something at a staff meeting and just reads their slide to me. As you point out, I have some education behind me, I can read!

Mr. W said...

Oh my gosh. Darren I am shocked! Truly shocked. I have been following you for years and I swear it's like you are in the same district sometimes when you share your stories. I was positive you would have experienced the joy of not hiring the best teacher, but hiring a coach who also happens to teach math. Wow...lucky you.

By the way, total side note, love the blog. Makes me feel good to know we aren't alone in California or as educators. Thanks.

Ellen K said...

I've had student teachers for the last six years or so. They've run the spectrum from terrific to OMG. The worst was one that put on her resume that he job goal was to be a doctor's wife. Seriously. She dressed inappropriately-flashing kids in the hall when she hung up artwork and constantly scrolling through her phone. I don't know that she ever taught an entire lesson on her own. I simply couldn't trust. Sad to say, she was one of my high school students. I don't know what happened to her in college but she because a stereotypical sorority airhead. I've had student teachers who didn't know how to write lesson plans, develop a sequence or adjust timing on projects to stop and start simultaneously. I've also had student teachers so competent that they were hired almost immediately. I like to have students observe for a week, then we collaborate and then (if I think they're ready) we devlop a couple of lesson plans and I sent them off. Unfortunately programs that used to send us teachers with a broad and diverse slate of abilities and knowledge, many specialize. That may work if you get a gig in an arts magnet, but most high school art teachers have to teach a variety of courses from Art One Foundation to AP Portfolio. I wish art schools would return to a more varied degree plan. It seems most of them are now specializing in photography, printmaking or digital media which requires facilities and equipment small art departments do not have.