February 23, 2006

More on teaching

Here's something someone wrote me in an email:
Teaching is its own reward even if they do not SEEM to be learning.
What do you think?

7 comments:

anitanita said...

Wendell Berry's quote comes to my mind: "A teacher's major contribution may pop out anonymously in the life of some ex-student's grandchild." :)

m said...

I guess it all depends on the teacher. If you're a process oriented person, then you probably get your gratification mostly from the daily interaction with the students. If you're a goal oriented person, then the learning issue is probably more important to you.
I still see a danger in the process oriented approach (and I'm a process oriented person). I always try to be very careful of not being satisfied with just the relational part of teaching. If my students don't seem to be learning, then even if I'm having fun teaching, something's still missing.

Doug Noon said...

...even if students do not seem to be learning anything? Or just not learning whatever it was that the teacher had in mind at a particular time?

It's hard to imagine a classroom where students aren't learning anything. Sometimes I think that I need to take a fresh look at my students to recognize what they are actually learning. Tests are one way to find out, but they are better at telling me what students don't know, than what they've learned. Conversations, the questions they ask, the things I see them doing without being prompted, those are all ways of assessing learning.

Teaching is often frustrating because learning is incremental, and we don't always see the fruits of our efforts.

Marco Polo said...

Doug wrote: Teaching is often frustrating because learning is incremental, and we don't always see the fruits of our efforts. Another reason why teaching can be frustrating is because it is so hard to measure learning. Yet teachers are required to measure something. Then they teach to what they are going to measure. And a result of that is that students then learn to give that back; then they grow up thinking that is what "learning" is.

Marco Polo said...

m wrote:
If you're a process oriented person, then you probably get your gratification mostly from the daily interaction with the students. I am from time to time reminded that I work in a kind of bubble: I get very little feedback from colleagues, other teachers, my superiors, about my teaching, and not much direct feedback from students, either. One result of this is that I pretty much do what I want, which is great, except that after a while I stop rigorously examining the reasons why I'm doing something: am I doing what's most effective, or am I just riding my own hobby horse? are questions that I ask myself these days. And how will I know? As Doug points out, it's hard to measure learning.

Doug Noon said...

Examining reasons why wouldn't be necessary if they were obvious. For anyone who questions the myths that most people are content to live with, the reasons why require a healthy imagination. I haven't read enough philosophy to understand the implications of skepticism as a path to truth, but its an area of growing interest for me.

Marco Polo said...

The reasons why... well, they might have been obvious at one time, but over time actions become habits and I don't rigorously re-examine what I'm doing and why often enough. It's only recently, I'm embarrassed to say, that I've started wondering whether I'm doing what I'm doing for justifiable, pedagogically sound, reasons, or whether I'm just riding my own hobby horse. As for skepticism as a path to truth, isn't that what the original sceptics were aiming for?