Friday, April 06, 2007

Mario Nunez in Buffalo, NY was kind enough to respond with his observations of teachers. Mario is a teacher himself. He teaches computers for ESL students at Erie Community college and also saved the wood working program from elimination. He says:

"Now that was a tough question. There was my eighth grade teacher (Portland, Oregon), a nun who had us all compose the Christmas music for a class project, rather than just play the usual stuff. A biology teacher in 10th grade (Moscow, Idaho) who told me I was in charge of the class hamster. A physics teacher in 12th grade (Buffalo) who made science seem like fun, doing things like bringing a Slinkie to class to teach wave motion. He ended up being my son Raul's physics teacher toward the end of his career.

What has made the job of teaching easier for me, and I suspect easier for the students, has been my absolute refusal to take myself too seriously, to ever believe that I am somehow important *because* I'm a teacher. And I try to do what the teachers I remembered did for me, which was to reach out, to communicate, to take an interest. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes I do it well and sometimes I don't."

I think Mario has given some good pointers for effective teaching: Stretch things beyond the usual stuff, making it fun. Challenge your students with responsibility. Maintain a sense of humor. Reach out and take an interest in students. "Try" is a magic word, because we know that things don't always work. As The Courage To Teach by Parker Palmer suggests, there is no perfect teacher. Each may have days that leave him or her feeling much less than adequate, and days when for incomprehensible causes, things just work. Thanks Mario.

The photo above is of Mario at work as my teaching assistant in a box making class at Arrowmont in 2002. That brings up another important quality found in good teachers. They never get tired of learning.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous8:00 PM

    It took me the longest time to figure out what in the world I was doing to that poor box with that big wooden mallet. Slipfeathers!

    Teaching is the best job in the world and one that has never felt like work in any way. They pay me to talk to people! I get to meet a bunch of interesting new people every semester and try to get them to learn new stuff. I learn from my students maybe as much or more than they learn from me.

    However, I am not teaching the children of some of my former students. When the grandchildren start showing up, I'm out of here.