Monday, September 8, 2014

Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire. - William Butler Yeats

When I think back to my teaching schedule, just writing the weekly lesson plans for English II, Essential English II, and Introduction to Theater required hours of work.  Making all of the necessary handouts to execute those plans was a huge venture, albeit one that I enjoyed and tried to improve upon every year.  I really loved the thrill of seeing the moments of learning occur on the faces of my students!  I know that students never knew how hard I worked for them. But they eventually discovered just how much effort it takes to be a teacher, even if it was on a small scale. 

For years, my English classes did a cooperative learning lesson in which each student was the "teacher" for his/her class of 5-6 students.  These lessons usually involved a review of 60 common usage problems.  I had students make lists of attributes of a "good" teacher as well as lists of teachers who were "not very good."  No names were involved, but students were very vocal on these topics.  I learned a lot from these discussions.  I showed students how to write a lesson plan, giving them the template to write their own.  Each "teacher" had a specific section to "teach", and they were required to make handouts and to compose and administer a quiz to check for understanding.  This assignment led to big discussions on how to make a test, what type of format should be used (matching, true-false, completion, essay, short answer?), and making sure that the quiz/test would be clear to the student.  I often laughed when some students would ask the question "Where can I find this test on the Internet?"  Although many samples of quizzes and tests are on the Internet, I told them that they had to make their test to match their teaching material.  

This cooperative learning lesson was a great exercise in confidence for many of my students. For one day, each was the "teacher" for their little group. I observed some of my shyest students bloom with confidence at their opportunity to share their new-found learning with their little groups.   If one of their "students" was absent on the day of their presentation, it was the responsibility of both students to get the lesson and take the quiz.  Believe me when I tell you that students' eyes were opened regarding the magnitude of work that goes into preparing a lesson, even a lesson for just one day!

After all presentations were completed, I handed out a questionnaire for students to answer, including their feelings about the work involved with being the teacher.  Many said it was just too much work; others said they enjoyed the work and the presenting.  I was so pleased when my former students became my colleagues. Sometimes, they shared with me that they remembered that lesson as well as the feeling of being the teacher and disseminating knowledge- what a rush!

I loved both school and teaching, and I continue to educate in my new book, STUDENT TEACHING: THE INSIDE SCOOP FROM A MASTER TEACHER, now available on for pre-sale, with a release date of September 27, 2014.  If you love teaching, I think you will like my book.  I speak in first person, just as I do on this blog, with many personal anecdotes and some common sense information, which, as you know, is not so common.  I am also available for speaking engagements. 

As always, I welcome your comments and suggestions. 

Rittman Publishing, LLC

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