“Once you stop learning, you start dying.”
-- Albert Einstein
By Tommie Saylor
Kennedy High School Principal
In the field of education we spend a lot of time talking about two of the three aspects of good teaching, but we seem to place little emphasis on what I consider to be perhaps the most important part of the trilogy, at least from a student’s perspective. It’s called presentation. Let’s review the three.
The first part of the educational trilogy is the content. Teachers learn their content in college, through years of practice and practical application while on the job (experience), and through seminars and conferences guided by State Standards and learning objectives.
Content is often referred to curriculum and trust me when I tell you that after years of teachers having to maintain certifications and Highly Qualified status, teachers know their curriculums inside and out.
The second part of the educational trilogy is technique and/or teaching methodology. This is where renowned educational researchers spend most of their time.
Such people like Robert Marzano who talks about the science behind teaching, how our brains learn and the step-by-step approach where if you want “X” results, you need to utilize methods “A”, “B”, and “C”. People like Madeline Hunter (my personal favorite) talk about the art of teaching; about processes that inspire and delight students into learning; and about how to draw students into the lesson, making them part of the lesson as opposed to just observers of the lesson.
It’s also people like Richard DuFour, who talks about creating Learning Communities and advocates for professional collaboration and views teaching as a continuous process of teaching lessons, reviewing data and making adjustments based upon the data. The second part of the educational trilogy is well researched, well implemented in today’s schools, is the subject of countless professional development seminars, and as stated above, almost every educator knows these names and processes inside and out.
Finally, the third part of the educational trilogy, the part that as previously stated may very well be the most important part, is the presentation.
It is through the instructor’s presentation of the lesson that the teacher can demonstrate their passion for teaching, their love for learning, and able to build a rapport with their students. It is through the presentation that the instructor can become imaginative, witty, entertaining and create not just lessons, but learning experiences.
The book “Teach Like A Pirate,” authored by Mr. Dave Burgess, a long time teacher from San Diego who taught mostly “at risk” students on the edge of dropping out, is a must read.
In Mr. Burgess’s book he addresses the third part of the educational trilogy, proclaiming that the better entertainer you are, the more effective teacher you become.
Mr. Burgess talks about using time honored marketing skills to “sell” your product and draw students to you. He talks about making your classroom a place where students want to go, as opposed to being a place where they have to go.
Being a Social Studies teacher, Mr. Burgess talks about dressing up in a pin-striped suit when he covers prohibition and the days of “speak-easies”; dressing up in a “poodle skirt” as a young lady in the 1950s when he covers post war America; and taking the students on a nature walk when he teaches the “trail of tears”.
Mr. Burgess advocates for using music in class when it will help to drive home a point; in showmanship almost to the point of silliness to create educational experiences; and not just presenting lessons that have to be endured.
“Don’t just create lessons, create an experience,” he said.
This falls in line with a quote that many educators may know, but seldom remember:
“They may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel.”
Mr. Burgess promotes making students feel the lesson, not just hear and see it. I know that many educators may believe that this is hard to do, that is takes a great deal of work and a great deal of creativity that they may not possess. But teaching not supposed to be easy, it’s supposed to be worth it, it’s supposed to be rewarding.
Students come to school because they have no choice. Imagine what it would be like if school was not mandatory. If students could choose freely if they wanted to attend school or not, and had the freedom to pick what classes they attend.
If this were the case, would you be teaching to an empty room?
Perhaps we should consider making some changes that draw students to us, to the classroom, that makes students want to learn, and excited to be involved.
Helping students to find their greatness. Making Kennedy the school of choice. Excellence by design.