Friday, June 20, 2008

My Top Ten Teaching Tips

I'm no Mr. Holland. I'm no Mr. Chips (although some call me "Doritos.") I'm also no Jaime Escalante nor a Professor John Keating (Dead Poet’s Society), and I’m CERTAINLY no Luann Johnson (Dangerous Minds). Throughout my teaching career I’ve had several setbacks, faced incorrigible students, and disagreed with angry parents. I know all too well the humiliation, anxiety, and despair of not being able to help every student the way I hope to. My wife would tell you that I’m too hard on myself, and she’s right. The positive I've experienced has certainly outweighed the negative—100 fold. The teaching advice I give, I base on what I've read, what I've been told, and, most importantly, what I've experienced firsthand as a math teacher who’s been fortunate to enjoy a modicum of success and even a few accolades.

Perhaps this advice will provide the cornerstone of a new teaching paradigm, one that exuberantly extols a shared experience of learning, enjoyment, respect, and fun.

Here’s the secret to better teaching: It’s realizing that not only do students want to learn, they crave it!.

Now some of you might have empirical evidence to the contrary, but believe me when I tell you that buried inside even the most reluctant, obstinate student is the desire to learn. So how do we tap this “hidden” or “dormant” innate motivation? Well, it’s the secret to unlocking the secret. If I had to describe my entire teaching philosophy in one sentence (with out run-ons,) it would be this:

“Students don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

Here’s what I think are the top ten tips that can help any teacher unbottle their potential:

Korpi’s Teaching Tips:

1. Accept the challenge: Every teacher can be a great teacher, but some of us are working at it, and some of us are not.

2. Learn something unique about each student: “students don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”—(modified from a John Maxwell quote.) Students are not held back by what they know or who they are, but by what they don’t know and what they think they aren’t.

3. Create your own Creed: “Learn a lot, Love a lot, Laugh a lot.” I say this to myself every morning and it’s the last thing I tell my own kids every morning before sending them off to school. This mantra has become part of my subconscious and bears weight on every decision I make.

4. Think Big, but carry a small eraser: Learn from your mistakes: Don’t be afraid to try something new or unconventional. Realize when something doesn’t work. Do things the same way will only get you the same results. Reflect daily on how tomorrow can be better. It’s important to keep your eyes on the horizon, but if that’s the only place you’re looking, you’re likely to trip over the pothole directly in front of you.

5. Dare to be different: Be bold and take risks. Adapt or weaken. Toy around in class (props work great!) Go off on tangents. Embrace your follies and foibles made in class. Don’t be afraid to go out on a limb—that’s where the fruit is. If you can capture the student’s attention, you can capture their hearts and minds----arrrrrrrrrrrr!

6. Build with care: Establish trust and rapport first, then go from there. Set high standards and expect the best: You must believe in each student before they have proven themselves. If the positive relationship is there, the students will WANT to work for you. Raise the bar higher each day. Give positive feedback, but point out mistakes. If you don’t point out students’ errors, they might think you’ve already given up on them. “That’s great, but I know you can still do better.” Complacency is the biggest enemy of future success.

7. Be patient: Inch by inch it’s a cinch, mile by mile it’s a trial. The distance between point A and point B is filled with infinitely many other points. Build success into the class, then build on these successes. Acknowledge when more time is needed for something, even if it takes you off you schedule. Confidence is a fragile thing.

8. Be enthusiastic and stay above bored: attitudes are contagious, both positive and negative. Be the “cheerleader” in the classroom. Work some diversion into the middle of a long lecture, or even a group water break. Keep the students engaged the entire time and you’ll find yourself and them energized. But, if YOU’RE the only one exhausted at the end of a lesson, you’ve not gotten your students involved enough.

9. Fuel you Passion: In order to express yourself fluently, in order to make your subject sing and soar, you must be thoroughly knowledgeable of your discipline. Read journals, articles, magazines, newspapers, books, and reflect on what you read. Keep up with current events and stay current in your field. Learn something new each week. Anything relevant or salient you can bring to the classroom is going to increase your credibility and effectiveness. Ultimately, the best teachers are those that are experts in their fields. It’s about communicating this knowledge to students that is the art of teaching. If the knowledge is not there, there is little to communicate.

10. Feel the magic: Relish the relationships with students and savor the interactions. Teaching is more an art than a science. Enjoy the process and don’t get hung up on the mechanics. Get involved on campus. Sponsor a club, coach an event, volunteer for school functions and assemblies. The more you invest into you work, the more you’ll get out of it.


Anonymous said...

A great set of tips. Who knows this may form the basis for a great book some day. By the way welcome back.

Brenda said...

I always felt you cared. Thanks for believing in me! :)