Good Teachers are Great Learners

       I think everyone has had the experience of teaching something to someone.

       Parents teach their children to walk or to ride a bike or to drive.  Friends teach their friends about cool stuff they find online or cool stuff they read about.  Colleagues teach their co-workers trade skills on the job.

       Sometimes, as a teacher, we are very attentive to the way our learner is "catching on" to what we are trying to show them.  Sometimes, as a teacher, we just go through the steps and explanations with no regard whatsoever as to whether or not the learner is following us.  And sometimes, as the teacher, we get very upset when the learner does "learn" what we just taught them.

       "I just said that."  "Weren't you listening?"  How is possible for them to not understand when I did such a good job of explaining it?

       Teacher know that "teaching" is only half of their job--maybe even less than half.  Their main job is to ensure that students are learning.  Lots of people are very knowledgeable about something; but that doesn't mean that they are good teachers.

       Teachers excel at understanding their students and (to the best of their ability) at understanding how their students are thinking and what it is that is keeping their students from fully understanding the objectives of the lesson.  Good teachers are great learners.  They discover common errors that their students make and use that understanding to help their students to understand.

       Good teachers learn about their students through questioning, discussions in class, notes on classwork, email messages or other electronic resources, meetings with parents, and sometimes facial expressions.  Teachers who care about student learning do whatever they need to do to help their students to learn.

       This is one reason why experienced teachers tend to have more success with student achievement than less experienced teachers.  This sort of learning and understanding of students comes almost exclusively from experience.  It is hard to gain this professional ability strictly from a teacher preparatory program.  Teachers that continually strive to get to know their students and to learn how they think build an ability to anticipate problems in learning and to act on these anticipated problems as part of their lesson planning.

       Teaching is a difficult job.  Students are different and student backgrounds are different; and student abilities are different.  Good teachers strive to understand these differences and to find ways to overcome these differences to help all of their students to learn.

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