Observing a newby teacher is a good lesson in teaching

My son takes swimming classes on a regular basis. During the school year, he had seasoned instructors, and although sometimes they had to be strict, he always loved the class and always learned a lot. Now, over the summer he is taking a class with a newby instructor. She gives the kids a lot of freedom, and very little discipline. She asks for their opinion ("Do you want to do this now?"), and doesn't push her ways on them. Although she is very friendly, I don't think my son will learn much from this teacher.

While I watch her teach, I compare her to myself to when I was just a beginning teacher. Was I this soft? Did I let my students walk all over me? I always thought that teachers were best when they were brand new, as the love for teaching and the novelty didn't ware off quite yet. But now looking at this newby and comparing her to the seasoned instructors, I have my doubts.

Of course I can't just take one example and draw a conclusions. She might just not be cut out to be a teacher. However, this situation did make me rethink what makes a good teacher.

First of all, being kind, well liked is not enough. A teacher needs to grab a student, if need be, and direct him/her to focus. They need to have a plan, then have the power over the students to follow through. They need to know their material (how to swim, in this case), but also understand the way the students can learn the material (the newby instructor was talking a lot, instead of demonstrating, and the kids were hardly paying attention). The teacher needs to control all her/his students, but also focus on the individual. They need to have a system in place, so the students feel comfortable, and they know what to do/expect and what is expected of them. Also, a good teacher will recognize the differing abilities of students, and have different expectations for the different students, depending on their level.

It's amazing how much one can learn from observing others. By observing this newby instructor, I will be able to reflect in the "teaching mirror" to compare my style, and see how I can do better with my high school math students. I don't get to observe many teachers, especially so upfront, and over a whole course. My son might waste his time in the class, but I'll take as much as I can from this poor girl's first teaching job. This girl's mistakes will open new doors for my teaching.

Submitted by bogusia on Tue, 06/26/2007 - 22:54

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