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Response to New York Times Article

jpfeiffer's picture

Reaction to “Building a Better Teacher”

Since I graduated I have taken a great interest in trying to decipher what exactly constitutes a ‘good teacher’. Good is a bit broad, so I should say that by this word I essentially mean an effective teacher. One that is able to capture the attention of their students and maintain their attention, one that is able to teach to all of their students regardless of the different skill levels present throughout their classrooms, and one that is open to using various methods to convey information to their students. Attending public schools all of my kindergarten through high-school education, I never really thought much about how my education could have been any different. I was always a student who I would characterize as ambitious and possess an ardent desire to learn, despite of any shortcomings in my learning environment. Throughout school I was in honors and advanced- placement classes so students who shared a common educational motivation also surrounded for the most part me.  In retrospect, however when I think several of my classes which were ‘A’ level and essentially honors for sophomore students at the time, as they were intended for juniors, I cannot help but think about how disruptive the classroom environment was. I remember trying to correct homework and listen to the teacher explain new concepts while simultaneously trying to ignore the fact that students (at least 16-17 years of age) were pulling the emergency shower in the corner of the classroom. In addition, other students would constantly interject lessons with absolutely random words; as well as well as verbally bully one another from across the classroom. Essentially the classroom was a mad house. Of course I thought that those students were immature and utterly annoying at the time, however now my motivation after reading the article Building a Better Teacher is to try to understand how teachers in that situation can handle the classroom. After thinking about my own experiences with teachers who I would not regard as ‘good’ teachers it dawned on me that when I went to these teachers for extra help outside of the classroom or for additional questions that I had, they were often efficiently able to help me. This made me realize that they were actually effective teachers to students who wanted to learn, yet many times the teachers became to distraught with the noise and commotion of their students that this prevented them from being effective teachers. So, I guess the question is not really how to make them better teachers, but rather how to teach teachers effective ways for dealing with their classroom from the start and developing a mutual level of respect with students so that they will listen to what the teacher is instructing. The article resonated with the idea that was presented in this article about asking the classroom full of students to ‘please’ do something, rather than yelling at them to perform a task thereby using positive reinforcement in the classroom. I assume therefore that the largest dilemma for me is how to establish a level of mutual respect in the classroom between educators and their students rather than having the teachers assume a completely authoritative role. Of course an authority does need to be established, but at the same time this should not negate the level of respect that exists between the students and the teacher. From personal experience, the 'best' teachers that I had were those who were able to handle their classrooms, but also demonstrated respect to their students. Yet it is also here that I think again how many of these classes were ones in which the students wanted to learn and had a great desire to be there and I cannot help but question whether these teachers were able to manage their classrooms the best because of the students that were in them or if they really had the skills necessary to handle classrooms of many different genres of students. Perhaps this question is a rhetorical one, but either way this article led me to think about my own education in was I have never thought about before.