Yesterday, a fellow Social Studies teacher opened up to me for the first time. She was really challenged by her first month in Pisay and felt that she had so much to do in order to be an effective teacher. She wanted my advice. She got mine and even Sir Vlad’s.
I assured her that being an effective teacher is something one can learn, and Sir Vlad echoed that there is no teacher who has everything. She was worried that she wasn’t appealing to her students, and we assured her that history is a tough subject to like in the first place.
She told us a lot of what she felt, and while she spoke I remembered the first steps in my path as a teacher. Perhaps, our difference is that I was more idealistic back when I began while she started with a more realistic stance. Eventually, I fell back down to reality, whereas now she strives to find an ideal to keep her coming back to the classroom. Yet we are most similar in that we both had to learn.
With just an advantage of three school years, I shared with her some tips on how to get that fire burning.
While it is important to tap into the students’ interests, it is also very important to tap into your own. You too need to remain motivated in teaching. Other teachers advise that we capitalize on students already interested in our subject and hope they infect the others with their enthusiasm. I believe however, that it is even more effective when we ourselves infect our students with our enthusiasm. Our students can identify the teachers who are really motivated and passionate in their work. Those teachers, in turn, motivate them to study.
hen there is a topic you don’t feel for, maybe you’re just not looking at it right. Start with a perspective you’re most comfortable with. That helps build your interest in the topic, and let things follow from there.
One thing I learned about Pisay students: They like it when their assumptions are affirmed. They like it better when their assumptions are challenged. Don’t hesitate to break them out of their (or even your) comfort zone.
Teaching history is all about generating interest. Students can get impressed with intellectualism, but it won’t hold their interest for long. I rather have students who are interested. Once they see history in a new light (ie. no longer boring), that creates some trust between teacher and student. Then, you can challenge them with higher concepts and ideas.
These are the key points of the advice I’ve given her. It really isn’t simple or easy when you’re starting out, but the cliche that we teachers learn from our students is a cliche because it’s true. At this point in my career, I look back at the past three school years and could point out so many things I could have done differently. Only now am I teaching my subject the way I want to. It took quite a while, and I know it isn’t over.
Not by a long shot.