Teaching ability: Natural or Acquired?

Discussion in 'Debate & Marathon Threads Archive' started by Bored of Ed, May 31, 2007.

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  1. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    Bored, what are you good at? Whatever it is, even if you started out good at it, I bet you've gotten better when you've worked at it. It's the same with teaching: skills have to be DEVELOPED.

    Cut yourself some slack while you're cutting your teacherly teeth, okay?
     
  2. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    I've always wanted to teach, from the time I was about 7. And I think that, after 21 years of doing it, I've gotten pretty good.

    But, as TG just mentioned, teaching is a skill. Like playing an instrument or doing a sport: doing it well requires a combination of natural ability and practice.

    A teacher full of ability but who doesn't prep is going to be a disaster in the classroom. Ability is good, but it doesn't get you through the material. You've got to know your stuff. You've got to get to know what approach is most likely to work with a particular student. Ability won't do that: experience will.

    I think a lot of new teachers are surprised to find that all the coursework they did didn't completely prepare them for what they find in the classroom. All that theory is fine, but putting into practice and internalizing it takes time. It takes a while before you develop that attitude that makes the kids sit up when class starts. Before that "teacher" stare is second nature. Before you can handle a kid having a difficult moment without thinking about what to do. Sure, they can teach you all that stuff in college. But you have to do it all a few times before it becomes second nature.

    Think about learning to drive. You spend all of Driver's Ed in a car with a teacher who has his own brake pedal. He's your safety net, and after a while you forget he's even there. You get your license and you're pretty confidnet that you're a good driver.

    Then you drive in a snowstorm with no extra brake pedal, and you start to learn what they meant about "steering into a skid" and "bridge freezes before roadway."

    WE've all been there. So take a deep breath and allow yourself the time to grow into this job.
     
  3. January_Violet

    January_Violet Comrade

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    You always have the best answers.:love:

     
  4. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    And she's had twenty-some years of practice to get there, which is part of the point.
     
  5. Bored of Ed

    Bored of Ed Enthusiast

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    Thanks, TG, Alice. You've been very encouraging.
     
  6. cutNglue

    cutNglue Magnifico

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    I laugh when I read this post because our student teacher this semester was critiqued several times and each time the teacher suggested things about the students and her approach that were totally off mark and completely based on idealistic theory. It was obvious that she didn't know the students we were working with. Each group is different. Theories are great starting points but they exist to give you something to think about, not to base your whole teaching on.
     
  7. pwhatley

    pwhatley Maven

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    Bored, I know exactly how you feel, in similar circumstances. I am fine with the kids -- always have been. However, when I have to do presentations in front of my "peers" (most of whom are my daughter's age!), I fumble, shake, my mouth gets bone dry and my words disappear!

    One bit of encouragement: One of my professors swears that people who have/had to struggle through school (elementary, secondary, or collegiate) make the best teachers, because they can identify with the students having problems. This identification is supposed to help the teacher to come up with alternative learning opportunities.
     
  8. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    May I modify that? The best teachers are those who know what it's like to struggle AND THEN SUCCEED - they're the ones who will cut some slack when it's appropriate without lowering their overall expectations.
     
  9. bonneb

    bonneb Fanatic

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    I agree it could be the age you are working with. Or maybe you should try working with gifted kids - maybe your ideas and insights would excite them.

    To me, the biggest part of teaching is asking questions and listening. I guess that is a rule of thumb whenever you are dealing with people. Ask them questions to find out things about them and what they are interested in, and you can include some of that information in your teaching. For instance, I had a child who was seriously struggling with reading. His problem was really a lack of belief in himself, that he could become a reader. He was very interested in hunting and fishing, which I found out through asking questions and listening to the things he talked about to the other kids. So I found books on hunting and fishing, that were at his reading level. Suddenly he was motivated!

    Just a side note, in my classes, the words "that's boring" or "I'm bored" are forbidden. That drags everyone down. Same at my home - if kids say they are bored, I let them have part of my "to do " list to work on and they are quickly not bored!
     
  10. Joyride

    Joyride Comrade

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    I don't feel experienced enough to answer your questions, but I appreciate that you asked them on here. I think many of us have wondered that silently.
     
  11. patti2

    patti2 Cohort

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    arrrrggghhhhh..... "I'm BORED".

    OhHHHH I hate when a student says that something is boring! I had a very high student say that about a game before I even explained how to play! Geez. I got angry and said, "I am not here to entertain you boys and girls every minute of the day...that isn't exactly what school is for. School is for learning what you need to know in life and sometimes our activities are just IMPORTANT...they don't all have to be a ball of fun! There is an old saying, "life isn't all fun and games" and I'll bet someone made that up after hearing someone else say, "BORING!" . She said, "I'm sorry, I didn't mean it and I didn't hear that word from her again all year...actually....not from many of them. Isn't it hard to compete with Mario and Luigi all day?
     
  12. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    I work with a teacher who has a response for that:

    "The most boring people in the world are those who are so uncreative that they're easily bored."
     
  13. patti2

    patti2 Cohort

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    LOVE IT!

    I'm starting a new thread about being bored!:p
     
  14. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    Well, and something the gifted kid needs to learn is that not having The Right Answer Right Now isn't the end of the world; that's definitely a process issue.
     
  15. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    ... and that kids who need a moment or two more to arrive at the answer are entitled to it.
     
  16. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    And that they themselves are entitled to that moment or two more, too.
     
  17. EmEm

    EmEm New Member

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    From a student...

    I am not a teacher yet, but I am considering it as a career. However, I have been a Sunday School teacher and elementary school aide. When I first started working with kids, I felt the same way you did, my friend was a "natural" at babysitting and I was haivng trouble "learning the ropes" even though I had taken plenty of coursework, found activities for the children,etc. I was wondering what was wrong because I love kids and "going with the flow." In time, just by being around the children more and "easing into it" I became more comfortable. However, when I started working at the elementary school, the kids latched onto me immediately, so you never know.
    In addition, student teachers get A LOT of crud, I know this from being a high school student myself. Oftentimes, the student teacher is working with a wonderful teacher who is "popular" with the students. The students view the student teacher as "taking away" from thier regular teacher. Many student teachers go by the "play it safe, go by the book, perfect lesson plans" approach which makes them appear somewhat distanced, rigid and nervous. The students pick up on this and follow that lead. The students may also try to "test" the student teacher to see what they can get away with. For example, A child may try saying that something is "boring" in order to get the student teacher to revert to an activity that is "a special treat"(such as a movie, going outside, etc.) Also, most student teaching positions are temporary, and students don't really feel like they can establish a solid relationship with their teachers. The semester that we had a student teacher in our class and all of these secenarios occured. Anyways, I feel that the "awkwardness" that you are feeling is probably not a question of your natural abilites, but more the situation you are placed in as a student teacher.
    Finally, relax! Student-teacher relationships take time. Last year, I know that several of my teachers were trying to reach out to me, but I tried to "distance" myself from them, because I was going through a rough time. This year, even though I was not in their classes, I was able to develop a better relationship with them. However, I appreciate the time they took when I was "invisible and distant" to try and help me. You may not always see the benefits of your work immediately or at all, but it will help the kids at some point or another.
     
  18. Bored of Ed

    Bored of Ed Enthusiast

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    Pwhatley-- I feel your pain. Sometimes I'm doing fine with my kids, and then the teacher comes back... I start stammering and I just KNOW my ears are turning red... And when the principal comes in, I start feeling like I'm the eight-year-old and she's my principal! It's so embarrassing.

    TG -- I don't know... I used to think that I'd make a great teacher because I struggled so much to get where I am (flunked through elementary and half of my high school subjects, but now my GPA is close to 4) I thought it would help me understand the kids better and encourage them.

    I have since learned to stop looking at the kids like little me-s, and realize that they have different challenges and strengths, in addition to feeling and reacting differently to this. It can be REALLY hard to figure them out! I have also learned that empathy alone doesn't give me the tools to help them, and unless I can learn that then all my understanding is just about worthless. The understanding doesn't give me any extra patience, either! I do think my way is better than the teachers who have always had it easy and therefore don't have any concept of what it's like to have learning difficulties, but many teachers were good at school and still have a natural understanding of kids, and I think they make much better teachers than someone like me who has to puzzle out each kid's emotions and style.
     
  19. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    Bored, I'm smiling - but not, let me hasten to add, at your expense. And if we were on the same coast, I'd buy you the potation of your preference at some suitable venue - probably full of books - and let you talk this all out. But the Internet and the wine I'm working my way through will have to do.

    Your background will indeed help you understand and encourage these kids, and it's probably helping you now. You've clearly learned some very valuable lessons: that empathy's good, but empathy alone isn't enough; that the kids are indeed their own people (that, by the way, is one of the HUGE temptations/challenges of parenthood), that understanding doesn't necessarily confer patience. Excellent lessons, all.

    But, quite appropriately, you're too close to all of this to be able to see how much progress you've made. And you haven't quite learned not to compare apples with oranges, or perhaps more accurately slightly green bananas (my preference for eating out of hand) with well-ripened ones (vastly preferable for banana bread, which is different in texture and smell but yummy in its own irresistible way).

    And you're feeling not-good-enough, and that's very good indeed.

    So I'm smiling, and raising a glass in salute, because you are just about where you should be and so on the right track.

    Some of your discomfort will resolve as you settle into the role and pick up new tricks here and there, and that is a good thing. Some of your discomfort won't resolve, and that is a good thing too, because it will keep you from getting complacent.

    You'll do very nicely, I believe.
     
  20. Grammy Teacher

    Grammy Teacher Virtuoso

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    I don't allow the word "bored" to be used either. I can't figure out why a 5 year old would ever use that word! They're 5 for cripes sakes!!!! I tell them that bored people are ones who aren't thinking people and they had better get thinking or I'll be doing it for them and they might not like that so much! It works for me anyway.
     
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