What are the 5 most important things for teachers to do?
This was my response:
- Have compassion for the students. We seem to forget, sometimes, that we were once in their place. The understandings have gotten easier for us, but they are still new and difficult for those who have not explored the subject matter for so long.
- Practice looking at the subject matter from other perspectives. This means not just teaching material in one manner. Many students learn in different ways. This is not the student's responsibility, but the teachers. Be aware that not everyone will understand immediately or with the same methods, vary your teaching style.
- Focus on the understanding, not the knowledge. We think of knowledge and understanding as being the same thing but they are extremely different. For example, the knowledge of when the United States of America was founded is known by most Americans as 1776. However, this does not mean that all Americans understand how this is important. The actual year is ultimately irrelevant. The important thing is understanding that America is still a young nation and has a lot of work to do in various aspects before it becomes as wise as some other countries that have had millennia of mistakes from which to learn. 1776, 1773, 1779...the number is unnecessary (knowledge) but the idea of the youth (understanding) is important.
- Teach creativity. Without teaching the creativity, there is actually no real learning going on. I might be able to play 100 classical pieces on the piano flawlessly. However, I am simply reviewing the motions until they are polished. However, someone who can play jazz and is able to freely manipulate the keys with beauty, even with less technical skill, is far better at piano than I am. They have freedom with their understanding and they are able to actually create. This can be applied to any subject.
- Have patience. It may take years to teach one simple skill, but if they are able to do that one skill in the long run, it truly was all worth it. I had a student years ago who could not throw a punch at all when he began. We spent hours and hours on it. Every time it was practiced to perfection but his mind refused to associate the clean motion with the word "punch." Eventually, after about a month of practice, he finally threw 2 correct punches in a row. Now, after a few years, he can learn a full meditative form of 50 moves in an afternoon. Yes, it took a long time, but as long as he was willing to put forth even the slightest effort, I had to be there to support him entirely.