Category Archives: thoughts on teaching

Embrace the Messiness of Teaching

I know very little about music.  A lot of what I do know about music, I’ve learned from students who knew way more than me.  Isn’t it nice when that happens?  But one thing I am really interested in and have thought a lot about is metaphors for teaching and how other careers relate to teaching.  I think we’ve all had the experience of feeling like a stand-up comedian on a really bad night.  (Tap, tap. . . is this thing on?)  Zookeeper comes to mind at times, too.  But I’ve been thinking that conductor might be one of the best metaphors.  Which is funny, because I’m still not sure I understand what a conductor does.  But that’s the point:  good conductors apparently do something (a lot of things) that naive people like me don’t recognize, but which allows the musicians to play their best music.  And I think teaching is a lot like that.  Good teachers are doing an enormous number of subtle things that even they may not realize they’re doing that allow their students to shine and learn.

So what does music have to do with messiness?  Well, the other day I was listening to this episode of the Hidden Brain podcast and they started talking about jazz music and, sure enough, that sounded like teaching to me, too.  Because the topic was messiness and teaching is messy. Continue reading

Positive Self-talk for Teachers

Earlier on the blog, we were talking about the goal of kids hearing 3 positive statements for every negative one.  But let’s be honest here.  If there’s anyone whose negative to positive ratio is off, it’s us.  Teachers.

There’s a considerable list of people we may hear negative comments from. Teenagers (who aren’t exactly known for cheerful enthusiasm), those parents (you know the ones),  administrators, politicians who have no experience with education and even newspapers that seem hell-bent on trashing teachers every chance they get (Hello, Chicago Tribune). Continue reading

How–and Why–I Teach Silently

how I teach silently

image credit: Jason Taellious

“Holy crap!”
“Is she not talking?”
“Can we talk?”
“Whoa, this is going to be really cool!”

These were the reactions of my sophomores when they realized I was participating in the Day of Silence today. Yes, that means I taught for an entire day without speaking. No, I didn’t show any movies.  And it’s not a game of charades. I’ve done this about 6-8 times before, so I know a lot of people are curious about it. Continue reading