Help students more by doing less.
When I am at my best I give appropriate problems to solve, not answers. I used to have a lab where I would ask students to calculate the thickness of aluminum foil in atoms. I made blanks for where and which data to collect and outlined the calculations to be made. Many students were good at following the process and I quickly got a lot of “right” answers. I interpreted these answers as understanding. I have learned that it was not always “understanding”. When students are simply given the problem without structure, this requires them to reveal where their understanding is and appropriately guides my instruction and strengthens their problem solving skills.
I don’t teach chemistry, or even students. I teach Julie and Damien and Monica Jo and Richard.
Teaching is a heart wrenching, exhilarating, frustrating, immensely rewarding art form. The key ingredient in teaching is caring. You have to care enough to have high expectations. If you care, you will be dedicated to mastering your subject and constantly evaluate methods to help students become better learners. Because I think it promotes problem solving and critical thinking skills, my teaching style has shifted to more of a project/problem-based approach. After 18 years of teaching I am still trying to get it right. It is ever so challenging to be an excellent teacher. You go home at night thinking about the “A” student who has little support at home and now is in danger of failing because three months ago she found out she was pregnant. You think about the boy who has a job until 11 pm to help support his family and you have to admonish him for being late. You are concerned about the pretty girl who was diagnosed with Lupus and whose face now is swelled up like a bee sting because of the steroids she is on. You think about the bright but disengaged boy in the fifth row. You celebrate the student whose mother has been dead for 4 years and has all the reasons to be mad at the world and give up, but works hard and learns. And that is just the first hour.
Teaching is more than disseminating information; teaching is about listening, supporting, caring and inspiring. Teaching is caring enough to have high expectations and empathy, caring enough to give of your time and energy. Teaching is striving to become better at your art through better methods, because you care.
Heating up the irons doesn’t mean you branded any calves.
To get the calves branded requires application and persistence. I have learned many times in education we have “heated up the irons” but not asked the students to use them. We need to require application to internalize learning and value persistence, as these are critical skills in student success going forward.
Being a learner helps you teach.
By watching and interacting with other teachers I have been able to improve my own practice and further understand my students learning process.
Time is of the essence.
There is a close correlation to the amount of time spent with the students and the level of impact I have. Protect your time with students. When possible, seek out those additional opportunities to spend with students.
The views expressed on this site are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Pearson Foundation.
Brent Daly is a Nationally Board Certified High School Science teacher and the 2012 Wyoming Teacher of the Year. He currently teaches General Chemistry, Organic Chemistry, Advanced Placement Chemistry and Advanced Chemistry. The University of Wyoming graduate is an advisor and coach for Student Council, Science Olympiad, Science Bowl, and Wyoming Academic Competition. He has coached over 20 national qualifying teams and individuals which have earned various national awards. He has been teaching at the high school he graduated from for 20 years. Additionally, he is involved in several energy endeavors outside the classroom.