When I ask people what they think the biggest difference is between being a college professor and a 1st through 12th or a TEFL (teaching English as a foreign language) instructor, the most common answer is the money! Well yeah, that is part of it. But that is not the critical issue (not in this article anyway).
Most teachers (me included at one time) base much of our teaching techniques on those teachers we best remember. Who do we remember most? For me it was my 5th grade teacher, my 7th grade maths teacher, my freshman year anthropology professor, my sophomore year astronomy professor, my senior year linguistics professor, and my graduate level prehistory ecology professor.
Do you see a trend here? There are more college professors than any other group. So who had the most impact on my early teaching? The professors I liked! They are the ones I remember best. Really, how much can I possibly remember about how Miss Burns in 5th grade taught us?
But – and this is a huge but – professors are not teachers! And professional teachers are not professors! It is like saying jet liner pilots are the same as race car drivers. Certainly they are both professionals who control highly sophisticated, fast machines. But as general rule, how well do you think they could do each other’s jobs? Would you get on an airplane piloted by a winning Formula 1 driver who had no pilot training? No! Duh!
The basic job of excellent professors is to develop or find the best information in the field and provide it to their students. They are disseminators of high level information and concepts. Staying on top of what is the information is priority number one, closely followed by disseminating and explaining that information as priority number two.
As a teacher, however, developing new information is not even a part of your job. Finding and integrating the most important top research? Nope, not that either. Disseminating information? Sure, it is part of the job, even an important part, but nowhere close to the No 1 priority.
Your students are very different from university students. University students want to be there, whereas most primary, middle and high school students want to be somewhere else.
As a professional teacher your number one job is to create an environment that makes your students want to learn. That always includes two things:
Doing those things that will cause your students to become engaged in the lesson – no matter what the subject.
Strong classroom management that supports learning.
The good news is that active brain-based learning and teaching (ABBLAT) creates an environment which makes it easy for every interested teacher to become very good at both of these critical areas.
The good news is that you don’t necessarily need to become a dictator in order to control the class, nor indulge in “edutainment” to keep your students interest.
You don’t need to be a super teacher, just bring who you are and your personal style, learn the ABBLAT systems and techniques, then apply them fully and you will have good classroom management and fully engaged students.
Another vital element of a professional teacher’s skill is to understand how students learn. Teach in a way that optimises the way their brains take in and use information.
When you make learning as easy as possible you magnify your students’ chances of success. Their increased successes lead to them being more engaged, which in turn leads to your increased success.
When you know how your students’ brains work when learning, then disseminating information becomes much, much easier.
One of the key elements of professional teaching is to engage your students in a way that makes them want to be engaged.
Get rid of boring lectures by creating situations where they do more talking than you do – every single student should talk more than the teacher in every period. Yes that is possible. Probably not in the way you think, but very possible.
The professional teacher also needs to know exactly how well each student is doing at every moment in the class.
Are they remembering the information? Do they understand the concepts? If not, did you lose the whole class or only one or two students? Exactly where did you lose the class? How far back do you need to go to re-teach to get everyone back on board?
This is very important to the professional teacher because the grades your students get are important to you.
So if you have consciously or unconsciously patterned your teaching after your favorite professors yet are not teaching in a college environment, you are probably in an uphill battle with bored or unruly students who would rather be somewhere else.
It is likely you are not getting the top results you deserve for all the hard work you put in. To understand how to get better results as a professional teacher please follow these monthly Teach By Design articles. See you here next month!
I will be happy to address your additional questions concerning the impact of brain-based learning or how to do brain-based teaching.
Contact me by email to firstname.lastname@example.org. I look forward to hearing from you.