How to be a good teacher
It’s not about learning.
I’ve mentioned previously my concerns about how much my students are actually absorbing when I teach them how to use Boolean operators, etc. In my mind, a good teacher is one whose students get the material–in Bloom’s taxonomy terms, not just knowing or comprehending the material, but being able to apply and analyze it. (This is a first-semester course, so I’m not even trying for the higher-order levels of understanding!) According to William Glasser, students retain 50% of what they learn in group discussion versus 20% of what they hear in a lecture (plus, common sense would indicate that breaking up a class with activities and short videos is more fun than 3.5 hours of lecture!), so I try to incorporate these things into each class.
Over the past week or so, though, while I’ve been metaphorically biting my fingernails over content, my students have been telling me what a great teacher I am–because of reasons completely unrelated to content. I check my e-mail frequently and answer their questions in a timely manner. I e-mail my PowerPoint to students who missed class due to sickness and reiterate, in every communication, that I am happy to answer their questions. And then I do answer those questions–patiently, fully. And again reiterate that if they think of another question to ask me.
The students who need this extra help are often almost pathetically grateful for it, saying things like, “This is why I came here” and “Thank you so much for your patience!” It makes me wonder what their previous academic experiences have been, that they should react so strongly to kindness and patience–traits that don’t even enter the debate (in my head) for qualities of a good teacher, because they are qualities that ALL teachers should have. They’re the bare minimum. Being interesting and actually helping students learn something–rather than taking the easy route by being a talking head–is the hard part.
This doesn’t mean I should stop trying to make my lessons interesting and relevant. But it does warm my heart.