By November 28, 2015 0 Comments Read More →

Tips for the Beginner: Part III

            You may well be asking, “Do I have to teach the Jesse Perkinses of the world?

            Answer: You most certainly do!

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            If you want to call yourself a teacher, cash the checks for the big bucks, earn your long vacations, then you have to teach them all, the unlovable, the unwashed, as it were, the unreachable, the seemingly unteachable. A teacher teaches whomever they get in their class, not just the sweet, cute girl with her hand always raised to answer your questions.   Otherwise you are only a partial teacher. I was never satisfied to be a partial anything.

            “How?” you ask. “How can the unteachable be taught?”

            Well, it begins by you presuming that there is no such thing as a child that is unreachable, no child that is unteachable. Positive expectations create miracles. And the fact is that this is almost true. I have found, over the years, that most young people, a very large percentage, say ninety-nine percent, all want the same things. They want to be accepted, to feel safe from abuse and ridicule, to have hope for a bright future, to be successful. The problem is that many kids have come to believe, through their school experiences, that they will not be accepted, that they will be ridiculed and embarrassed, that they cannot learn, that they cannot succeed in school no matter how hard they try.

            Who taught them these things from the very beginning of their school experience? Bad teachers!

Luckily, in almost every case (say ninety nine percent) good teaching can turn this around. Caring breeds caring. Success breeds success. If, from the very first day in your class every student feels safe to be themselves, to take chances, if every student feels that you genuinely care about them and if every student meets with some actual, relevant success every day, no matter how small the success is, as long as it is real and as long as they are recognized for it specifically, then you own them for life.

The relevance of their successes is key. If the importance of what you are teaching is not obvious, and most often is not obvious to teenagers, no matter how obvious its importance is to you, then it is your job to sell it. Probably nearly half of my effort in the classroom is as a public relations man for my course – selling it – getting students to believe that what we are doing is important to their lives.

And understand this fundamental concept: a student’s failure is the teachers responsibility. When a student fails the teacher has failed. When a student fails, in most cases, the teacher just did not try hard enough to reach them. If all of the strategies in the teacher’s bag of tricks, lugged along from college, have not worked then it is the teachers job to find more tricks – research or creative. Find another way (I did not coin this expression. Mark Gold, a great special needs teacher, did.)! Keep trying different things until the unteachable get taught.



Ben says, “I didn’t fail the test, I just found 100 ways to do it wrong.”

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About the Author:

I am an observer of our interesting world , sharing my passions and my outrages, and thinking of Incredible Ben, his amazing blending of a social and civic life with superb common sense.

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