A teacher has many tools available to guide his or her students in the direction that is desired. The key is that the child must want to walk this journey as a matter of their own choice. It can be difficult at times to provide an environment that achieves this goal because every student is different. Having awesome visual devices and cues will bring education alive. The use of humor will make them laugh. And if you bring a true, honest personality and stories that are dearest to your heart into their realm, children will flock around you for attention. It is by creating these kinds of experiences that great teachers are forged.
My Vision of Becoming a Great Teacher
Teachers have a lot of influence in shaping a student's mindset about education. The wonderful experiences I had as a child are the inspiration for me to become a great teacher.
The Traditional Way of Teaching
Before the advent of our complex technology, a teacher had at his or her disposal a simple blackboard, chalk, and a felt eraser. Notes were scribbled frantically onto paper by students. The only pictures available were what was displayed in the textbook or whatever talent the teacher may have had to draw out diagrams on the black board.
For centuries these were the tools that would help instructors to take educational concepts and attempt to bring them to life for the students in an effort to spark their interest. To a large degree it took a good amount of imagination to visualize what it was that the teacher was trying to convey. If you were a visual or hands-on learner, school may have been a bit tough.
Times were simpler then and the traditional Industrial Revolution-style classroom produced some very productive citizens. The advent of technology has made computers a household necessity starting about the 1990's and, as a result. these tools have changed the educational landscape forever.
My How We've Grown!
A Look at Technology Progress
I remember when the Atari 2600 hit the markets and took off with amazing success. Yes, I know I'm showing my age, but I really enjoyed the era in which I grew up. I have had the opportunity to see both sides of the coin. One side is the existence of life before the age of computers. The other side allows me to write this article and then share it on twelve different social media sites. Our written words now have the ability to travel from the United States to literally any country in the world as a result of the foundations laid by companies like Microsoft and Apple.
Students are able to capitalize on the benefits of technology. The days of the chalk and blackboard are long over and have been replaced by "Smartboards".
Smartboards are a wonderful way for students to learn, no matter what type of a learner they are psychologically. A pupil who learns by visualizing can watch the animation develop and take shape right before their eyes, using photos, videos, maps or whatever form of media the teacher chooses to implement. If a child is an auditory learner, then he or she can listen to what is said and form a discussion to grasp the concepts easily. If a student learns by touch, then they can approach the board and make use of the touchscreen to interact with the enabled applications.
The white boards are essentially replacements for the overhead projector that I remember very well in school. If you were lucky enough to sit right next to the machine, you could smell the heat coming off of the light bulb. Add in the strong scent of an erasable marker and you now have my memory of note-taking in class. One of those memories also involves a class prankster who decided to shove a ball of cheese into the projector when the teacher wasn't looking. It eventually started smoking and melted the plastic sheet laying on the glass lens. Dirty prankster!
The World in the Palm of Their Hands
Most of the private and a few of the public schools are making Ipads available to students in the classroom. The world is now just a touchscreen away and children even as young as kindergarten are getting in on the action. Education becomes more personal and fun when an electronic gadget becomes a part of the equation. It reminds them of the games they may play at home on a Nintendo DS, computer or their own Ipad, for that matter.
Teachers too can monopolize on this great tool by individually monitoring each students progress. All information can be stored, retrieved, and analyzed through any number of means. Accountability is very high and the implementation of IEPs (Individual Education Plans) can be very specific and goal-driven. We've come a long way from the Atari 2600.
Oh the Power of Humor!
The video above is a bit grainy but the teacher in it portrays exactly the kind of teacher I intend to become in a couple of years. His humor is very spontaneous and it incorporates many visual cues. Laughter is an act we all love to do as it surges all that good chemistry through the brain. If your mind is consistently being bathed in funny juice you will not only enjoy the course, but your brain will be open to absorb the material like a sponge.
One of the greatest teachers I have ever had was Mr. Snyder, my 3rd grade science teacher. He loved to tell jokes and he was always trying to weave some sort of humor into the science curriculum. We spent a lot of time laughing in his class and grew to adore him as a person. After class, students would stay behind and ask questions or talk with him because nearly everyone wanted to hang around him. Teachers wield great power to influence their students and humor is a wonderfully enhancing tool.
Is Humor Necessary?
The gift of humor is not a trait that every teacher possesses or necessarily needs to be successful. Finding a way to appeal to your students is a task that requires inward reflection and a recognition of passions.
The first rule, I believe, is that you have to like children. There are some teachers who try to effectively teach, but there isn't any connection to their students. They simply push through the school year just to earn the paycheck. They are unwilling to admit they don't care for children or their deeper interests. This attitude isn't prevalent in our schools (I hope), but can be very detrimental to a child's education.
I had one of these teachers in grade school who was either severely disliked or was feared by my classmates (myself included). One day, someone got the idea to put a tack in her chair. Ms. Greer did end up sitting on it and, boy, was she furious. She stopped teaching at my school the following year. I never knew why exactly, but we were all glad she was gone. Her inability to even want to connect with her students nearly created a hostile environment.
The use of technology and humor are fantastic ways to achieve the status of "great teacher". These are certainly two aspects I intend to use in my classroom as I have a passion for both of them.
There is yet one more characteristic of a stellar instructor and that is having an honest personality and being willing to share personal stories.
Sharing the Moment
Truly Making a Difference
In grade school one of my teachers, Mr. Putnam, was a master of this very personal trait. He spoke with us about his life each day and he truly wanted to hear our stories as well. He opened himself up completely and let us experience his true personality through his very captivating stories. As a result, I always felt a comfortable warmth while sitting in his classroom. I clearly remember watching the snow fall through the second-story window one winter and soaking up the good feeling. That moment is a great inspiration for me.
Mr. Putnam taught social studies, which for many students could be a subject that they would not necessarily find interesting, but he gave it life. On the last day of school he cried because we would no longer be in his classroom the next year. Sobs could be heard throughout the classroom - all of us were deeply touched. I hope that I am able to achieve that kind of connection with my students. In doing so, my vision of becoming a great teacher will be fully realized.