It’s the Teacher, Stupid! Published 2006-07-24

Bob Sipchen on L.A. Times' School Me today wrote about his experience in a class learning Russian with a master teacher from Alaska.  In his article, he praised the teacher and concluded that "The most important part of teaching is ... the teacher".  His point was that technology is great, but first teachers need the skill to engage students personally.

Absolutely!  The number one skill of any teacher is not knowledge of subject matter nor is it understanding of pedagogy.  A teacher must be able to engage her students.  The form of engagement may take a variety of forms and may include such tools as anecdotes, technology, or even puppets (as in the case of the teacher from Alaska). 

I met a teacher-to-be this weekend.  He is going to start his teaching career this Fall and even before he set foot in his class, he got it.  He understands that half the battle is getting his students' attention, engaging them at the personal level.  I know it if very difficult (if not impossible) to reach every student.  Your "dumb" jokes may reach some, but others will be missed.  In Bob Siphchen's Russian class, puppets caught his attention but might bore or even intimidate other students. 

The trick is to have a variety of tools to reach and engage your students. For some, technology might be a way to engage. But the lesson is twofold. First, using a variety of tools you will reach more of your students.  Second, don't just look at technology as a way to engage.  It has the power to extend your teaching abilities giving your students a richer learning environment.  I would suggest that air conditioning in the classroom is going to "engage" the students, but it will make the class a better learning environment.

NOTE: with another triple digit day forecasted for today, I might rethink that last analogy as most folks I know are looking for anywhere cool to escape the heat.

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