Teacherscribe’s Teaching Tip #101
I’m re-reading one of my favorite books on the art of teaching, Robert Fried’s The Passionate Teacher. Early on in the first chapter, he profiles an inner-city science teacher who - as a new teacher - received the worst class in the school district. (a side note here - talk about a dumb a(* practice! You wouldn’t take your young doctors and hand them the hardest cancer patients nor would you take your rookie lawyers and stick them with the hardest cases, yet we used to do it to first year teachers all the time).
Long before Teach Like a Pirate existed, this teacher hit on one of Burgess’ key concepts - get to know your students first. Win them over that way before trying to teach them anything.
In fact, this teacher spent the first two weeks of the year getting to know her students. Then she started sneaking in science lessons so the kids weren’t really even aware that they were being taught. And she pulled it off.
She had one student in particular who when she walked in was sitting on a counter staring a hole right through her as he was surrounded by several members of his entourage.
Everything about his demeanor said, “I dare you to try and make me get down and sit in my desk.”
She knew this was a no win situation, especially when he was the center of attention of his friends.
So she did the smartest thing she could - she took the attention away from him.
She politely asked everyone to gather around her desk.
The boy on the counter didn’t budge. She paid him no attention. He finally joined around her desk halfway through the period, though he still was at a distance.
She just asked them questions and let them talk. And she listened and listened.