Our teachers at Shady Oak are committed to effectiveness. Parents—the first and most consistent teachers their children know—can cultivate like qualities in themselves.
Mediocre teachers “go through the motions” without putting much heart into it. Star teachers know, care about, and keep moving toward their goals.
The classic “3 R’s” are essential skills not only in school, but in life. Where would we be without the ability to Read street signs, wRite text messages, or use aRithmetic to balance our bank accounts?
Still, the 3 R’s are only moderately effective without help from the “3 P’s”: Preparation, Passion, and Perseverance.
The old joke, “What’s the least you have to know to train a dog? ... More than the dog,” applies also to teaching people. Obviously, you can’t explain something you don’t know yourself—and as many parents have learned the hard way, teaching what you think you know can get embarrassing once a “pupil” finds the real experts’ websites. Especially if you’re teaching a formal class, don’t let advance reading and research stop with the “official” teacher’s guide.
Besides knowing your subject, be prepared to present it in an interesting format and a way that can be grasped by those who don’t know it. When something is obvious to you, it’s easy to forget that someone else’s failure to “get it” isn’t a sign of stupidity. Remember, the material was once new to you as well. Understand what kids have—and haven’t—learned already, and arrange lessons to meet them where they are.
Being overly familiar with your own material also carries the risk you’ll become bored with it—and bored teachers mean unenthusiastic learners. To stay as enthusiastic about a subject as you want your kids to be, stay a learner yourself. Subscribe to newsletters, join groups, or find other interesting ways to keep up with developments in the field. (Even with something as mundane as shoe-tying, consider looking up the history of footwear or learning how to tie other knots.)
Also, let yourself share kids’ joy in, and celebration of, their new accomplishments.
Occasionally, you’ll find that a child just can’t seem to grasp a certain skill, no matter how many times you explain it. Although it’s tempting and seemingly more efficient to pronounce the situation hopeless, that teaches kids to see themselves as incompetent, and hard work as a waste of time.
On the other hand, there’s a point when explaining something one more time—in exactly the same way—becomes the insanity of doing the same thing and expecting different results. Since another definition of insanity is seeing your way as the only way, present the material from a different angle. Consider the child’s learning style: would they rather have things written down, presented verbally, or demonstrated by walk-through methods? If you still seem to be getting nowhere, consider whether the child’s vision, hearing, or learning abilities may need professional evaluation.
Whether you’re the parent of one child or a teacher of six high school classes, every learner deserves individual respect. Commit yourself to helping them learn, first and foremost, how to become their most effective selves.