- Social Emotional Learning: Can It Help Our Most Vulnerable Students? - August 27, 2017
- Why We Should Teach Meditation in the Classroom - November 8, 2016
- Strike! - October 5, 2016
- Teaching a Superpower - September 22, 2016
- Essentially, I am a Teacher - August 30, 2016
- A Chicago Teacher's Dream - January 22, 2016
- A Career in Crisis - August 27, 2015
- Classroom Community and Rock-Paper-Scisssors - July 22, 2015
- The Art of Teaching - June 22, 2015
- Parent tip: Beyond Sounding It Out - June 4, 2015
Is teaching a science, a system, an art, or all of these? There are many pundits who will say it is a system and anyone who follows it can teach. As a former student of mine would say, “BZZZZZZ! Wrong answer!” A whabam system is only as good as the person who applies it and that the students who receive it are ready for it.
There is certainly a science to teaching. We can mess with the formulas, the percentages of input to output. The proportion of concepts and strategies taught to receive the maximum result. The problem with this concept is that it fails to take into account the human factor in teaching.
Both science and systems play a part in great teaching but there is that balancing component that even the most stalwart technicnitans recognize. My husband was an IT guy who started with punch cards in the 70s. He used to say that any numbskull could program a simple algorithm but it took an artist to expand and fine tune a system so that it worked every single day. He considered himself an IT artist.
I consider myself and other good teachers education artists. Like many artists I believe in a muse. I love when my education muse, Inspiration, strikes. She tosses me a great idea, a new way to tackle something, a new analogy that can feed my sudents a new perspective.
Exactly what type of art are we talking about? Music? It requires the skill of a conductor to let each student’s notes be heard and blended into something that reaches beyond our ears. We have to assist each child to temper their own abilities to grasp the next concept. Whether that is teaching the fast and furious to slow down, or provide the scaffolding for your strugglers to master each step
Sculpture? Why not? Some children come in with clear shapes, ready to tackle the world with their whole beings. Others are just blocks of stone. Some of those blocks are easy to chip away and turn into something solid. The granite blocks are much harder to create a form out of. I remind myself that Michelangelo’s David was carved out of flawed marble into the most breathtaking sculpture I have ever seen. I can aspire to that.
Theater? You bet your boots? A great teacher not only used drama to create interest, she uses it to build knowledge, to create wonder out of thin air, and ideally, to see her students begin to step out of the wings to begin dramatizing their own learning.
Weaving? Teachers not only warp the loom with thread, the structure, the common core. The warp alone doesn’t provide knowledge. This is something the pundits and donors have forgotten. What holds it all together is the weft. It adds the color, the pattern, the texture of education.
Education is not outsider art. It definitely requires training and structure. It is a trained artist that can be wildly creative within a structure or even know when it is safe to step outside the box. That box, out curriculum, is a tool to our art. When a box is just sitting in the middle of a table it isn’t doing much. It is when we see that box in a new way that we really expand our students thinking. Turned on its side, picked up and shaken, or even flattened give us new ways of seeing material.
It is a collaborative art. There are no “One Man” shows in education. Our products, our creations don’t even stay ours for more than a year or so. They move on to be reshaped, and expanded by the next teacher.
Teaching is not a trade. It is not a skill. It is a craft. It is an art form. It sometimes, actually often, requires going back to the drawing board. The outcome, however, is simply amazing even to us teachers. Especially to us teachers.