Students make the best teachers. This became a de facto motto of my teaching philosophy in early 2011, and it’s meaning is at least 3-tiered. I’ll explain and expand upon each of them below:
- The students themselves are their best teachers. Everyone has constructed their own model of how the world works. It is up to us as teachers to give students new experiences with which to challenge their deeply seated beliefs… but this challenging can only happen if the student wants it to happen. Friction has to be created internally… and externally. Interactions with their peers will cause such external friction. Students can be great educators to each other in the right environment. As teachers we have to step away from this notion that lecturing and repetition are the way students learn. Give them internal discussion and external debate. Let them exercise these skills which they’ll need in the real world. Let students be their own best teachers.
- Being a student of education will make you a better teacher. As teachers we have to be aware of what we are doing and how that helps our students. What does the research say? How do you know what you’re doing is working? Everything we do as teachers should have an intention behind it. We must learn, we must improve, we must not fall into old, lazy habits. What ways are we teaching which continue to promote alternative conceptions? What things are we are doing that we’ve never questioned? How many of us are just teaching the way we’ve been taught? We have the responsibility to educate the next generation of thinkers and doers. We can’t afford to assume what we currently know is the be all and end all. We can’t assume our own learning experience represents our students’. Teachers must themselves be students, if they are going to be good teachers.
- Your students will define what it means to be a good teacher. The relationships you build, maintain, and improve upon with your students is of the utmost importance. A good relationship goes the whole way in teaching. This type of relationship will allow you to know what the students are having problems with. What are their alternative conceptions? What do they need from you as a teacher? Every student is different… every student is different every day, and with every new concept. This is where the best teachers will thrive. It is the students that determine and make what the best teacher will be.
Students make the best teachers!