TEACHING FOR DUMMIES

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This is the first of a multiple part series on “teaching”.

First off, let me be clear, I don’t have a doctorate or a masters in education.  What I do have is experience.  Formally I have taught as a state certified teacher of English, history, political science, and economics in Ohio and Florida since 1966.  Informally, I have been teaching as long as I can remember.  (I was the kid who read and explained the directions, figured out the Boy Scout maps, etc.)

Teaching is an art, not a science.  Good teachers use science to apply their art, much as a painter uses the science of mixing paints to create his painting.  As a teacher, one must determine which art fits him or her.  Not all artists are painters.  Not all artists are sculptors. Not all artists are musicians, writers, etc.  Furthermore, not all painters deal with oil, water colors, acrylics, etc.  Not all musicians play long hair, rock, jazz, etc.  Each artist has their forte.

Some teachers are lecturers and give fascinating lectures which fully engage their students.  Some teachers use media to engage their students.  Some teachers use video, or music, or computers.  Some teachers use Socratic methods.  Some use all of the above.

The point is discover what your “art” is and perfect it.  That said, please don’t forget to use the behavioral sciences that delve into how humans learn.  One example from the educational sciences is that humans have a limited attention span.  Adults have an average attention span of approximately twenty minutes.  The attention span of learners decreases as students are younger and younger.  There is at least one caveat to this rule; the attention span of a highly motivated learner in indefinite.  I have watched my younger grandchildren spend hours assembling a construction set or learning a new video game.  I have seen high school students spend ninety minutes with their driver’s ed book, and yet not be able to finish a reading assignment.

I Was going to save the first rule of teaching for later, but you might not come back and this rule is too important to be missed.  Ready?  Here it is in bold face, italics, underlined, in 20 font and color.

Rule number 1.

DO NO HARM!

(to be continued)

Looking forward to your comments and suggestions for future topics to be included.

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