Archive for teaching

Apr
14

Teach Less But Delve Deeper

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Now that the end of the school year is approaching and I see that there is no way for us to cover the remaining six chapters of our biology textbook as it took us three-fourths of the year to cover the first nine, I am struggling with deciding which topics should take priority. Do I teach them about ecosystems, the water cycle and the greenhouse effect, or do we talk about fish and dissect frogs? Do I skip the plants and talk about reptiles, or do I talk about birds and skip the mammals? How do I decide which is more important?

This a recurring problem. Rarely am I able to cover all the material in the textbook. There is so much information to cover and so little time to cover it. But is completing the textbook so important? My type-A personality is screaming, “Yes! It is in the textbook and therefore it must be taught. Besides, if it wasn’t important to memorize the lifecycle of a mushroom, the author wouldn’t have put it in there, would he?” But the truth is, completing the textbook, atleast in science, is not that important. Everything you want to know about a subject ( and some things you don’t) are readily available on the internet or at the nearest college library. Maybe it’s time to change the way I view the role of science in school.

The purpose of studying science is not to pump as much information into a student’s mind as possible and then hope that he retains it when it’s time for the next achievement test. The purpose of the study of science is to increase our understanding of and appreciation for the nature of God and His creation. A student’s appreciation for the beauty and order found in God’s creation doesn’t come from memorizing volumes of information. This type of understanding is superficial at best. An appreciation for God’s creation is better cultivated by taking fewer topics, and teaching the students how to delve more deeply into them. Then learning science is no longer just a transmission of information from teacher to student. It becomes an opportunity for discovery, observation, experimentation, articulation–all the skills we desire our science students to acquire.

So, now the question is no longer, “How can I get it all in before the end of May?” Instead, I’m going to choose a topic that will grab my students’ interests and show them how clever God was when he made this earth. Now the question is, “Amphibians, anyone?”

I recently celebrated another birthday (I think it was my 21st) and some of my students created a very touching card for me. They reminisced about some old times that we had last year, but more than that they thanked me for loving and caring for them as a temporary mom! I was raised not to be given to tears but upon receiving the sentimental birthday wishes, I couldn’t hold a wave of them back. I enjoyed a few more happy tears during the day and reminded myself that it is all worth it! I love teaching!

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Theodore Roosevelt said,

It is not the critic that counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly, who errs, and comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds.

So could I also add or infer that the credit belongs to the teacher who is actually in the classroom, whose hands are marred by Expo marker and blouse messed by drying dirty tears and feet aching because sitting isn’t an option if you want children to actually learn; who strives valiantly to teach “how to solve for X,” and comes short again and again in turning in Teacher Notes on time, because there is no effort without lots of error and numerous shortcomings in their own character; but the credit belongs to the teacher that rises early every morning and thinks about his students on the way to school and who most certainly strives endlessly to make this arrow better?

Do you think T.R. would mind taking some liberties in his well stated exhortation?

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