How I Teach
"Teachers make learning possible; students make it happen."
This saying, which I coined during one of my reflective periods in the fall of 2000 as I was listening to all the political candidates discussing the state of schools in America, reflects my philosophy and the ways I teach. (I don't know if it's original or not, but it just came to me one day.) Generally, I believe that good teachers provide the opportunity for students to learn- through creative lessons and direction. Students that participate in lessons fully and make a conscious effort to learn usually do succeed. But, as they say, "You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink." There are students who do not participate and do not do the work, and therefore do not succeed. As a teacher I provide an opportunity for students to learn Spanish- at the beginning, intermediate and advanced levels. I hope and expect that students will try to take advantage of this opportunity, for whatever reasons they see as appropriate- to get good grades, to prepare for travel or a profession, or to prepare for college. For whatever reason a person chooses to learn, I believe learning enriches the soul as well as the brain.
"Languages are learned, not taught."
No, I did not make this one up, but it certainly fits. I would even venture to say that you could substitute any subject for "languages" and be correct. My classes are designed around this belief. I do not "teach" a great deal of material. I present some material- in any number of ways- and have students use it. Most of my classes revolve around activities (Click on the link to read about the types of activities we do in class.), projects and sharing. I try to create activities that get students to use the language in a variety of ways- speaking, listening, reading and writing. I also try to make the activities involve movement and interaction as much as possible. Projects are usually personal and relate to a specific topic or structure. Presentation, or sharing, of the projects is an important part of the cycle, which I will explain momentarily, and may take place in a number of ways. My favorite form of presentation is to create a "fair" in which students present for half the time (to individual students that visit to observe), and observe the other half. (I believe individual oral presentations, unless they are meant to be informative, tend to take up a great deal of time and allow for the student to present only one time as opposed to several times as in a "fair".)
What is the "cycle" and why use it?
I recently took a class on many
ways of thinking and learning, and one of the subjects we studied was Bernice
McCarthy's 4-MAT method of instruction. As I studied this, I
realized that what I had been doing was very close to this, but I was missing
a few key parts. I adjusted and have found it to be very successful.
I won't go into all the details of what it is and how it works, but I will
explain it briefly here. (Click on "4-MAT"
for more info.) Note that each step also deals with "both brains"-
right and left, but I'll let the experts explain that. Basically
it means that each step involves some sort of a reflective or creative
section, and also an analytical one too.
So, if you want to succeed, all you have to do is participate, and try to learn- you will!
My classroom is student-centered,
but teacher controlled. That is to say that the students are doing
most of the "doing" in the class, and I do the facilitating and directing.
Since I do little "teaching" (as people who attended school in the 70's
and earlier will remember it), the main part of my job is to prepare the
for my students and to keep them participating.
I do have certain expectations of my students that they and their parents/guardians should be aware of.
I expect that...
Grades will be calculated based
on the following areas. The weights of each area may change from
level to level. (For example: There are a lot fewer quizzes and tests
at the upper levels, but more individual, short projects.)
If a student who has been participating in activities or has been absent does not understand something, I will gladly sit and go over whatever is causing the confusion. I can be e-mailed, or reached through the school's voice mail system. I am also available after school one day a week and almost every directed study.
If, however, a student who has not been an active participant does not understand something, I generally charge a tutor's fee of $30/hour to review material which was ignored the first time around.
This is what I believe and how I teach. Any questions or comments, contact me.