Sunday, September 25, 2011

On Becoming a Better Teacher

There was a recent thread over at my fav on-line hang-out about "what has made you a better teacher." It's a great question and one I hope lots of homeschoolers take time to think about. Lots of folks homeschool and yet I doubt that many of them think of themselves as teachers or educators. Perhaps they aren't vocationally (I'm not), but I do believe that if homeschoolers took the time to think of themselves in a more professional manner, they'd have an easier time of it on many different levels (by that I mean a whole lot- probably best left for a whole separate post).

To get to the question.
What has made me a better teacher?
1. Actively Reading, thinking, writing and growing as a person and as an educator. Being intentional about learning about education. Teaching is a small part of being an educator, imho. Teaching is to education as drawing is to art. The foundation but not the whole. I've read scores of books on education. I've written scores of articles on education. I've thought for scores of hours about education, have written a 90 page thesis on it and I'm constantly on the look-out for ways in which to gather more education myself and to provide educational opportunities for my kids. I don't worship education but I do believe that to study is worship.
 Also I am personally invested in growing. I convey that as I teach.  The point of teaching is to engage the child, to enlarge and expand their understanding, to lead them to a more mature place, be that intellectually, spiritually, emotionally, socially, physically. If I'm not doing that personally, how can I ever hope to do that for someone else? It helps that I am married to a polymath that breathes ideas. He is always challenging me to think and grow about areas that I am not naturally inclined towards. I do the same for him. We are iron, sharpening iron. So is my on-line book club, so are several of my friends. Who is challenging you to grow? In what areas are you growing?

2. Creating educational opportunities and environments. In the past 21 years of homeschooling I have started co-ops, academic class days, run day and drama camps, brought TeenPact to our state, led workshops for kids and parents and sent my kids to the ends of the earth (literally). Working with others to create opportunities not only builds and strengthens the community around you but gives you a great sense about what actually educates and what is time wasting twaddle.

3. Teaching groups of kids. The more I teach, the more mastery as a teacher I experience. Why? Because I loathe staring at a group of bored, miserable students. If you are wasting their time, they'll let you know (usually politely). As I've grown as a teacher, I have find myself less about cajoling the kids into learning and more about setting expectations of excellence and insisting that they rise to meet the challenge.

4. Spending time in Creative Pursuit. I have grown as a teacher by taking time to do the things that energize me as a person; reading, mulling, gardening, writing, Bible Study, talking with my husband, doing movie, curriculum, book reviews, etc.

5. Participation in our Beit Midrash Bible Study. This study (which has morphed over the past 5 years from a Bible Study to a Fellowship Group) has taught me to think and express analytically and critically. We read, make observations, make application. It is a not an easy process and one that few adults (let alone kids) engage in naturally.

6. As I've said Ad nauseam, having a clearly defined pedagogy. This doesn't necessarily mean that you align yourself with  someone elses thang. It means you define, for yourself, what your pedagogy is. Mine is basically neo-classical with a lot of "classical" unschooling thrown in. More than anything it is a life-style of learning. You can read more about that here.

7. Realizing that I am not raising kids, or adults, but that I am raising spiritual beings that have eternal souls. Education isn't all about grades or scholarships or honor or prestige. It's about stewarding the life and capabilities of the people God has entrusted to our care so that they can live the life and do the work that God has called them to. I'm an ambitious person with some very intelligent kids. It's my natural inclination to want my kids to "win," to "be the winners." The God-reality is that God calls us to a life of servant hood and humility. Put in that context, my kids gifts are not theirs so that they can "win." Their gifts are there for them to honor God with, to serve His people, to bring glory to His name. That might mean winning, it might not.

What do you do to grow as a teacher and as an educator?


Amy said...

Well that was encouraging and inspiring! Thank you =) Today we started our first day of school for the year. My kids are young (oldest just turned 4), but somehow this year felt different than the last few preschool years. It felt like the beginning of a new journey. I look forward to perusing things like you have mentioned in order to benefit our educational journey! Thank you for linking this up with us at Trivium Tuesdays!

LaughingLioness said...

Amy, You are on an exciting adventure! Wishing you a year of JOY as you learn with your dear children!

Amy said...

Thank you so much! So far I am very pleased with how our year is going =) I hope yours is going well too!