Quote of the Week?: The Meaning and purpose of Good Teaching

by Anna Blanch on December 4, 2008

What is Good Teaching?

I thought this would make a great topic in the series on learning and education that I’ve been doing in the regular “Quote for the Week” section lately. This is a subject I have been discussing a great deal with my colleagues in recent months and so I considered it a topic worth exploring further. We’ve been throwing around many questions, indeed many more questions than answers:

What does it mean to be a good teacher?
What is more important – the way you teach or what you teach?,
Does the content matter? what is the point of all the grading, the conferences, the office hours (‘to what end are our labours)?

What is that we are all trying to achieve?

As I thought about appropriately provocative and challenging quotes I have to admit I found few quotes that did not disparage the role of the teacher or dismiss the role of a teacher (at whatever level and in whatever capacity) as a mentor whose life is part of the lessons their students are learning.

For example, Bronson Alcott, the great American pedagogical philosopher (he was also the father of May Alcott, the author of Little Women) argues that “The true teacher defends his pupils against his own personal influence.” But to think a teacher can divorce his actions, and attitudes from the content that he imparts is unrealistic at best and disingenuous at worst. Students and colleagues don’t stop watching just because you are not in the classroom. Similarly, are we just trying to make ourselves feel better about aspects of our lives when we insist that we can compartmentalize in this way. Furthermore, what is so bad about not only accepting the reality that as teachers we have influence, personal influence, on the students we teach, and recognising that the most important concern we should feel is about what exactly it is that we are influencing students towards, or on. Just because you don’t think you have influence over your students doesn’t make it so. Similarly, just because you might imagine you are a good influence on your students also doesn’t make it so.

On a more positive note, Tryon Edwards (1809-1894) suggests that the teacher benefits from this enterprise, “If you would thoroughly know anything, teach it to others.

This is a nice contradiction to the old adage that those who cannot do, teach (which i, frankly, think is moronic).

What do you think is the most important of the questions above? What is the point?

Related posts:

  • http://www.google.com/ Dortha

    Just do me a favor and keep writing such trenchant aynalses, OK?

Previous post:

Next post: