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We are not here to entertain, but to teach

The title of this post is a statement I have heard from teachers, in one form or another, more often than I can count. Often times it feels like people say it to justify boring students out of their minds. Not always of course. And just as often those same teachers do use entertaining techniques, projects and tools in their class. It is just that they resist new methods or techniques that are different or that appear to be somehow too entertaining. One almost wonders if some teachers feel "it was hard (or boring) for me to learn it should be hard (or boring) for my students."

I've always found that I learn the most from teachers who love what they teach. I would also have to say that most of the teachers who love their subject and love teaching it are almost by definition entertaining. They communicate their enthusiasm in a way that is, as a side product, entertaining. These are the teachers who have the best (most interesting, most amusing, most relevant) stories to use as examples. These are the teachers who bounce around the room getting kids excited. And most of all these are the teachers who get creative and find ways to make the subject interesting to their students.

Is making the material interesting the same as entertainment? If not I am not sure what the difference is. Of course the priority is teaching. Even if not every student finds the material or the teacher interesting the student still has to learn. At the same time to more students are interested and the more interested they are the more they learn. Is a teaching technique that presents the material in a stale and boring fashion somehow better, more pure that a technique that entertains as it teaches the same material? Please tell me no. Isn't the picking between entertaining and teaching a false dichotomy to some extent? Shouldn't a teacher who loves teaching their subject at least be animated and interesting?

My opinion is that a teacher should be judged on their results. Do their students enjoy learning more? Do more students continue on to advanced classes? Do more sign up for a class and stick with it? Do the students learn as much or more with the more "entertaining" class/course format? If the answer is "yes" then where is the bad in students being a bit "entertained?"

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  • lajoneslajones

    I'm a little uncomfortable with the idea of "judging" teachers, although I think that it is very important to evaluate a programs overall effectiveness based on the results.  Regarding a few points on another post that I read, I do think that there are critical points of a child's mathematical experience that need to be researched in depth.  (Although I haven't formulated an idea of how exactly that should be done.)  The research regarding mathematics education does show a decline between the 4th and 8th grades.  Since many students are placed into critical classes during the 6th though 8th grade year, my fear is that many talented students are lost during that period because they are misplaced.  In general, students should complete Algebra I by the end of the 8th grade in order to be prepared to take full advantage of the high school's offerings at this time.  (Of course, this could all change in 10 years, it is a dynamic system).  Another points of interest is freshman year in college.  Right now, too many students are placing into remedial math on entering college.  This could be due to lack of exposure to preparatory courses in high school, or many other factors could be involved.  It is a very complex issue with no easy quick fixes, but that is certainly does not justify doing nothing to fix it.  One simple idea that might help the transition from 5th to 6th, and/or 6th to 7th grade would be to use a prognosis test, rather than relying so heavily on teacher recommendations and classroom grades (which are sometimes one in the same) and achievement tests, which really measure what a child has been effectively taught.  What if a child has not had the opportunity to achieve yet, but really has an aptitude in the area?

     

     

  • lajoneslajones

    I'm a little uncomfortable with the idea of "judging" teachers, although I think that it is very important to evaluate a programs overall effectiveness based on the results.  Regarding a few points on another post that I read, I do think that there are critical points of a child's mathematical experience that need to be researched in depth.  (Although I haven't formulated an idea of how exactly that should be done.)  The research regarding mathematics education does show a decline between the 4th and 8th grades.  Since many students are placed into critical classes during the 6th though 8th grade year, my fear is that many talented students are lost during that period because they are misplaced.  In general, students should complete Algebra I by the end of the 8th grade in order to be prepared to take full advantage of the high school's offerings at this time.  (Of course, this could all change in 10 years, it is a dynamic system).  Another points of interest is freshman year in college.  Right now, too many students are placing into remedial math on entering college.  This could be due to lack of exposure to preparatory courses in high school, or many other factors could be involved.  It is a very complex issue with no easy quick fixes, but that is certainly does not justify doing nothing to fix it.  One simple idea that might help the transition from 5th to 6th, and/or 6th to 7th grade would be to use a prognosis test, rather than relying so heavily on teacher recommendations and classroom grades (which are sometimes one in the same) and achievement tests, which really measure what a child has been effectively taught.  What if a child has not had the opportunity to achieve yet, but really has an aptitude in the area?

     

     

  • Alfred ThompsonAlfred Thompson

    I just left an all day workshop in Boston on college readiness and one of the points people were making is how critical middle school is for getting kids on the right math path. I agree with that assesment. Middle school is a tough age to teach (I only did it a year and it was not for me) but that is when we all too often lose kids in math. I have no idea how to fix it though.

  • Alfred ThompsonAlfred Thompson

    I just left an all day workshop in Boston on college readiness and one of the points people were making is how critical middle school is for getting kids on the right math path. I agree with that assesment. Middle school is a tough age to teach (I only did it a year and it was not for me) but that is when we all too often lose kids in math. I have no idea how to fix it though.

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