At Brown, I filled my schedule with classes from teachers that were known to be great teachers. It didn’t matter WHAT they taught. If they got rave
reviews from previous students, I signed up to their lessons. And I learned so much. A good teacher makes learning fun, challenging and advances their students far faster than
What I learned in the actual lessons aside, the following is what I learned about teaching.
1. Keep Students on Their Toes: I took a class with 200 students. Despite the numbers, we ALL did our homework and readings? Why? Because at any time the teacher would randomly call on a student, ask them to stand up and answer a question about what they thought based on the previous weeks readings. Imagine if you HADN’T read. HADN’T formed your own opinion. You’d be embarrassed in front of 200 of your peers. Needless to say, we all read, we were all prepared.
How do we apply this to our lessons? We keep students on their toes by randomly asking different students to speak / do something on their own. It can be as simple as students have answered in a group Yes, I do or No, I don’t to Do you like school? and then I will say Rina, and have Rina answer on her own. I will do this numerous times a class so students are ready at anytime to speak.
2. Challenge Students. Demand A LOT. I took Japanese at Brown. Our teachers were very strict. They demanded we learn all hiragana and katakana characters in 1 month (reading and writing). We HAD to do it. And we DID it. I understand WHY they pushed us. After we learned hiragana and katakana so quickly, we could go on to learn over 1000 kanji in 1 year, lots of questions, answers, and vocabluary. It WAS hard. But we were proud to get to a good level of Japanese relatively quickly.
How do we apply this to our lessons? We are quite demanding ourselves. We tell new elementary students that they should be able to recognize all 26 lowercase letters, say the sound and think of 4 words that begin with that letter after 1 month of joining. Kindergarten students should be able to do the same by the age of 6. Beginning elementary students should be able to read 3 letter words after 3 months. We challenge the students and inevitably they rise to the challenge.
One of my favorite sayings: Whether you think you can or can't, you're right.
3. Apologize in the target language. We were never late or forgot homework (after the 1s time) in my Japanese lessons at Brown. Why? Simply because if we were, we had to apologize in front of the class to the teachers in Japanese. As beginning students, we DID NOT want to speak Japanese in front of everyone. It was embarrassing.
How do we apply this? Exactly the same. When students are late or forget something, they must say they are sorry in English. It works.
What did you learn from your teachers?