Although good teachers keep the interests of their students in mind, neglecting personal health and needs will not improve teaching ability. In fact, such neglect will prove counterproductive in the end. With so many demands placed on teachers, a dose of reality will help considerably. Brookfield (2006) lists 15 maxims that go beyond the assumptions and point out the details found in real-world teaching. Here are three that stood out.
Important Maxims for Teaching
One Size Does Not Fit All
Teachers are often handed scripted lessons and told to follow them with high fidelity. This is meant to increase the chances that the students would score well on the government tests in the spring. The idea was that if the particular program did well in one place, then clearly it would do well everywhere. Unfortunately, no two classrooms on the same campus are identical even though they pull from the same neighborhood of kids. One approach cannot fit all. There are too many variables. I encountered this in my last few years of teaching when we were handed scripted lessons and told to follow them. I, at least, was not surprised when the test scores did not come up.
Borrow Ideas Often
Closely related is the notion that good ideas come from all sorts of places. Even the scripted lesson plans sometimes have good ideas that can be used successfully with a little tweaking. I have also found good ideas in craft books, on the web, in resources intended for grades well above or well below my own, and novels. Useful ideas can come from anywhere.
Try Something, Anything
Early on in my career, I would only try new things if an expert recommended them. As I gained experience, I found myself troubleshooting behavior and academic problems every year. I learned that if what I was doing was not working, continuing was foolish. When a complex problem defies explanation, try something different, anything different for two weeks. That might make for a slow process, but continuing the same failed technique never got anywhere.
Troubleshoot with Help
One strategy useful for finding solutions to classroom problems is to ask a colleague to observe the class. This colleague should be equipped with a specific, information-collecting goal such as watching how interaction with a particular student goes or tracking how much wait time was given after a question was asked. Trends and patterns may become more obvious and help with the troubleshooting process (Davis, 2009).
Another helpful strategy is soliciting comments from the class. There are several ways to do this ranging from informal surveys to midterm evaluations. Getting students to provide some input may help with the troubleshooting process (Davis, 2009).
However data collection is done, take some time to analyze the information. Look for trends in the responses. There will always be weird outliers, and those can be safely dropped. Some of the complaints will be about things you cannot or should not change. There may, however, be some excellent points to consider. Consider those carefully and try to find a way to implement change (Brookfield, 2006).
Educators need to look out for the interests of their students, but they must not neglect their own care and further education. Having a realistic outlook will help, and seeking ways to improve and pursue further education will keep educators informed and relevant.
Brookfield, S. D. (2006). The skillful teacher: On technique, trust, and responsiveness in the classroom (2nd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Davis, B. G. (2009). Tools for teaching (2nd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.