If one were to ask you the names of your favorite teachers from kindergarten and throughout your schooling, it may be not too difficult to answer.
Without doubt, there is one specific teacher, or more perhaps, who stands out in your mind. Also, there may be some satisfaction in answering; it may bring back some of the more fond memories of school, and those who have touched your life in meaningful or even inspiring ways. And, the memory of those good teachers lasts a lifetime. Unfortunately, the memory of those who may have impacted one in negative ways may also leave their mark and remain vividly in one's memory. True, teachers leave an indelible impact.
Good teachers and good teaching, what a blessing they are to students. Good teaching is as much about passion as it is about reason. Good teaching is about caring for your students, and thoughtfully putting your finger on their intellectual, mental, social and identity pulse. And, a good teacher is artfully empathetic to the makeup of the whole child, and his or her total personality, including hereditary and environmental factors notwithstanding.
All good teachers have a mastery of the subject they teach, and of the art and science of teaching and learning, and they have a passion for it.
Teaching at the elementary and secondary level is far more than a teacher "unloading" information (facts and concepts) and expecting the students to regurgitate back this information in rapid fire order. There is a science to teaching, but it must be artfully and creatively applied. Instructional strategies should clearly be based on sound science and research, by knowing artfully when to use certain strategies, and with whom and to what degree. Every student is different, just as every adult is different. And, a passionate, thoughtful and creative teacher is well skilled in determining the precise moment and learning activity that is best geared for a successful learning experience for each individual. That, right there, is the earmark of an extraordinarily talented teacher, core standards notwithstanding.
We hear much these days about Common Core Educational Standards.
"If nothing else, these standards are causing a conflict of interest and students are well aware of this conflict. In fact, some students pathetically have indicated that the Common Core standards display a mistrust of teachers. And this is at a time when students are searching for those in whom they can trust and confide.
I am writing this piece at this time because I care about education and I support what great teachers have done for me personally in the past. They stood for the students' individual right to academic achievement; I am indebted to the great teachers I have known in years past and in the present.
In education, good teaching is based upon solid research, that is, that each learner is developing distinctly as an individual. Excellence in teaching demonstrates that there is a dynamic between, the teacher and the individual learner. That, right there, is the heart of instruction. There is no "common standards" bureaucratic model that can measure this dynamic. Such measurements may work with nuclear power reactors, quantum physics modules, or sophisticated business models. So, one might ask, why can't it work with students? As one high school senior put it. "Students are not robots." In short, in education, one size does not fit all.
Teachers are overwhelmed with "standards-related" paperwork, testing and test preparations, meetings, training sessions, pull-out schedules and paperwork, ad nauseam. Unfortunately, bureaucracy seems to be deflating the ingenuity, if not the very life, out of the teaching profession. Teachers desperately want to TEACH, and to provide students with an atmosphere and an opportunity to LEARN. The framework for that to happen is being, seemingly, seriously eroded.
It is true, standards are absolutely necessary, but they must be comprehensively defined in light of what is known about how students learn. And every learner is wonderfully unique; and, it's that special uniqueness that is the challenge for the teacher. Therein is the science and art of teaching. And, therein is the challenge of establishing Educational Standards. Hopefully, these Standards are not so simplistic, that the genuine powerfulness of the art of teaching is grossly minimized; and, the factual scientific data of child growth and development are degradedly dismissed.
This would truly set education back to the dark ages. For the art and science of teaching truly trumps any "standards" that stand in the way of a child's right to learn. For each learner is unique, and the learning and teaching style needs to be artfully tailored to that uniqueness. Standards that weaken the fabric of employing strategic teaching strategies cannot help but be a disservice to a population of students waiting to learn. The bottom line is artfully skilled teaching is truly THE GENIUS OF AMERICAN EDUCATION, common core standards notwithstanding.
Dr. Robert L. Heichberger is professor emeritus at the State University of New York at Fredonia and distinguished professor at Capella University. He is an award-winning author. All of the past columns can be viewed on www.fromourperspective.net/ Send comments to: Rheich@aol.com