The Art of Teaching…

T I M E    T R A V E L    T U E S D A Y

I thought it might be fun at the close of another school year to think about the teachers we’ve had; those who made a difference in our young lives and those who were ineffective or scarred us. What qualities make for an exceptional teacher and what sort of “things” make for a sub-par teacher?

Voice Quality, Facial Expressions and General Appearance

 I always respond best when teachers are animated. I’d rather have my teacher talk to me like I’m five years old using big hand gestures and acting things out than have them drone on in a monotone voice that renders me catatonic. That’s a slight exaggeration – probably somewhere in between is best.

I like my teachers to have imperfect faces so when I get bored I can study their facial flaws. Buck teeth, port wine stains, unruly moles, upturned noses, bad hair cuts, bulging eyes, etc. always make for a nice visual distraction. One good imperfection can keep my attention for a full hour. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t judge people based on their outward appearances. I seriously don’t. I’m simply amused and distracted by them : )

I was always caught off guard when one of my teachers entered the classroom with a band-aid on their face, a bad hair cut or new glasses, etc. I would sometimes forget that my teachers had lives outside of school, that they were human beings… Seeing a picture of their spouse or children on their desk would jar my sense of reality. Really, you have a life? I much preferred to think that my teachers lived at the school in a sort of teacher commune. In my mind, they slept on the gym mats, ate in the cafeteria, and worked on bulletin boards in the wee hours.

Teaching Abilities, Testing and Homework

A good teacher not only knows their material, they LOVE it. Teacher enthusiasm and a great sense of humor go a long way in my book. Sure, it’s a little manipulative. It’s like they’re selling something and if they act like it’s fun or cool, then you’ll buy it. Believe me, I got suckered into learning about many subjects that didn’t pan out or prove to be as “cool” as I had hoped for. Luckily, I’ve forgotten almost everything.

I always liked the teachers that told you specifically what was going to be on the test before the test. I was also fond of the open book test and the opportunity to approach the teacher at the front of the classroom and needle them until they coughed up the answer I was looking for — this sometimes required eye rolling, looking pensive and sometimes exasperated. As far as the actual test, it goes without saying that I’m a fan of multiple choice and word banks. Since I’m a ‘poor tester’ I don’t enjoy surprise/pop quizzes, ticking clocks, and sitting next to students who know all the answers because they studied – unless those students are sitting in close proximity and I can read their answers without them knowing. The teachers that left the room were always my favorite.

Finally, homework should be short and sweet, none of this busy work or filler for the sake of giving homework. Teachers that weigh their students down with loads of homework are just mean. I was always smart enough to form homework alliances. That’s right. Divide the assignment up, copy each other’s answers and pray that everyone did well.