Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Who Is The Best Teacher You Ever Had? Why?

Katherine Schulten recently wrote an article for The Learning Network in the New York Times, "Who is The Best Teacher You Ever Had? Why?". I found the comments to this post tremendously interesting.

I used to do an activity in my course for pre-service Elementary Education students asking them to think about the two best teachers they ever had. After giving them a few minutes to think of those great teachers and the qualities they possessed that made them great I asked each student to give a quick talk about one of the two.

After completing this discussion we talked about the similarities these teachers had. Typically the discussion centered around these characteristics:
  • Demanding
  • Caring
  • Passion
  • Supportive
  • Fostered Critical/Innovative Thinking
Many of these characteristics were detailed in the comments of the post mentioned above. What I found most interesting (since it was a technology course) was what happened next. I then asked them to think about their two teachers again and raise their hand if either of them used technology in their teaching. On average one to two hands (out of typically 20 students per class) would be raised. This translates to me that many of our young future teachers do not equate technology use being part of "good teaching".

I found this theme to continue as I worked with these college students over the course of each semester as I met resistance to the idea of using technology to reach all learners. These students see technology as a social tool (Facebook, IM, texting, YouTube, etc.) - not a learning tool. Over the course of the semester they tend to slowly change their thoughts about this concept. I have found that most teachers use the modeling they received as students to mold the style of teacher they will become. Will these younger teachers carry us forward in the advancement of 21st Century Skills?

Image Attribution:
Image: 'write like the wind'


Paul Bogush said...

They can tell you about their favorite teacher, but can't be like their favorite teacher. They don't know how their favorite teacher did those things..got to those places. I know that sounds silly but think about it...
Why is one teacher mean, and another demanding?
One teacher is nosy and another is caring?
We need to spend more time with pre-service teachers talking about how to get to be great, not what to do to be considered great. Kind of like telling people a great vacation spot but not giving them directions to get there.
What do you think?

Mike Arsenault said...


I see your point and agree on some pieces and disagree a bit too. I agree that you can not be someone else. If I tried to teach like one of my former great teachers I would fail miserably - I'm not him. However, if I take the bits and pieces from what I really admire from the best teachers I had and personalize it with my own skills I will do very well.

I don't think your analogy is completely true in this case. You can't give someone directions of how to care or be demanding for the same reasons I mentioned above. Each person needs to embody good teaching characteristics and find a way to make it their own. Otherwise, they become the mean or nosy teacher you referenced. The fine nuances are where you're bound to fail if you are not genuine (not yourself).

Thanks for the comment.

Mr. Rich said...

I think the future teachers will carry us over just fine... if they have the right support.
It seems there is a difficult relationship regarding technology in the educational world. They tell us to use it, but can't fund it. They tell us to show it, but block the websites.
It will be interesting to watch it all unfold in the coming years.

luckeyfrog said...

I think it's good that young teachers won't rely on technology. I'm a first-year teacher myself and I do use technology at times, but I've seen teachers that think the use of technology can make up for lackluster teaching. No matter how many great things are out there, they have to be used the right way to be effective.

My favorite teacher ever was VERY old-school, but I'm not just like him as a teacher. I can't be. However, the things that I appreciated most about him, I try to emulate.

I did have other teachers that used technology, though. And not even the latest and greatest- basic computer programming (we used Q-Basic, which was ancient even then) is a great way to teach critical thinking and logic. The teacher I student taught with would plan virtual expeditions around the world with the students.

Just because my favorite teacher didn't especially use technology doesn't mean that I won't. I think your students' responses only indicate that technology does not make a good teacher.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm, interesting.