I am delighted to report that last week this blog went over 100,000 page views since its inception. That is certainly a dream come true for me. Many thanks to everyone who has been kind enough over the years to mention this blog to all of the teachers around you. As a new year begins, please continue to let people in the education profession know that I try to post my thoughts on teaching 2 or 3 times each month. Thanks!!!
About 10 days ago, I released my new book on Amazon: Don’t Just Dream about Success: Stack the Odds in Your Favor. As the title clearly implies, I believe that everyone can become more successful more of the time by following certain tactics. Proceeds from the sale of this book go to finance CPA review for FREE, the website (www.CPAreviewforFREE.com) where candidates can prepare to pass the CPA exam without having to spend a fortune. I simply do not believe entrance into the accounting profession should be limited to people who can afford to spend $2,000-$3,000 for preparatory materials. I am not trying to be a rebel or a missionary but I do not think barriers should be set up that basically keep out people who are poor. For five years, we have been getting 500,000 hits per year on that site. We need help in financing this project so I wrote this book for that purpose.
You can locate both the Kindle and paperback version of Don’t Just Dream about Success: Stack the Odds in Your Favor by going to www.Amazon.com and doing a search for “Hoyle Success.” The book is available for under $9.00.
One quote that I discuss in my new Success book comes from the legendary football coach Vince Lombardi. In that particular chapter of the Success book, I write about failures that arise because of our tendency to make things in life too complicated. That is an attitude that can prevent us from achieving our most important goals. Keeping things as simple as possible is usually the best strategy.
Coach Lombardi said: “Some people try to find things in this game that don't exist but football is only two things—blocking and tackling.”
So, in today's blog entry, as we are all looking forward to a brand new year, I want you to think about success in teaching (or whatever else you seek to accomplish during 2014) and try to narrow that success down to just two words. Just two. For once, let’s keep things truly simple. Becoming a great teacher should be a simpler task for you. As a new year starts, I think focusing the whole process of teaching on just two words might help us all get more comfortable with what it really takes to succeed.
What would your answer be if I asked you to describe “Becoming a Better Teacher” in just two words?
I have spent a lot of time thinking about this question and quickly came up with dozens of possibilities. Here are just three of the words that I considered at first. They are all extremely important but I didn’t think they were the MOST important.
--Caring. It is easy for teachers to get annoyed with students. Students tend to be lazy and forgetful and seem to set terrible priorities. Hang around the faculty lounge and you will hear so much fussing about students that you wonder why anyone teaches. But, if you are going to teach well, you have to be able to look out at those faces and care about those people. They cannot just be random and anonymous. These are human beings who will be better off in life if you can help them learn and think. You can make a difference in their futures. Superficially, everyone seems lazy and dull. But, get to know them and they are, for the most part, wonderful people. If you are not happy with your teaching, one place to start is to ask yourself a tough question: Do I really care enough for these students so that it makes a difference to me whether they learn or not.
--Time. Every job, everywhere goes better with the investment of an adequate amount of time. We live in an incredibly busy society. Thousands of things seem to call for our attention and time. Procrastination is not just a student problem – it affects us all. I know you might not want to hear this but if you want to be a better teacher then spend more time at it. Class preparation can take 5 minutes or 5 hours. When I am busy, it is easy to seek shortcuts and magic pills and try to get by with 5 minutes. I hate to disappoint you but there are no shortcuts or magic pills. If you invest only a little time, don’t be surprised if class seems disorganized and the results appear trivial. Add time to every teaching task and you will become a better teacher.
--Thinking. Teaching often comes down to thinking versus memorization. Students prefer memorization. Teaching based on memorization is just easier. I have long been convinced that the enormous amount of criticism that college education faces today goes back to one issue: We tend to teach little other than memorization. Of course, if you have read my blog for long, you know that I think this goes back to testing. If you test memorization, students will memorize. If you test critical thinking, students will work to become better thinkers. Give open book tests or open notes tests and you will force yourself to get away from testing memorization. That will make all the difference in the world.
Okay, those are all great terms for teaching. I would have been happy with any of those three. But, in the end, I thought two other terms were really the most essential for me. I realize you might disagree. If so, please leave a comment below and provide your own two word answer to this question.
--Motivation. I don’t know whether this is good or bad but I do believe that the best teachers are motivators. In some way, they convince their students to do exactly what they want them to do. As the old saying goes, some use carrots and some use sticks but most use both carrots and sticks depending upon the student and the situation. Whether you have 5 students or 500 students, the issue is whether you can convince those students to do what you believe they need to do. So, as a new year starts, ask yourself the following questions: (1) do I honestly know what I want my students to do, (2) if they do what I want them to do, will they learn what I want them to learn, (3) how have I motivated my students in the past and how well has that strategy worked, and (4) as a new semester begins what adjustments should I make that might improve the motivational aspects of my teaching. If you don’t attempt to motivate your students, then don’t be upset if they don’t do what you want them to do.
--Explain. It is such a simple word. But, in teaching, it is so important. Students don’t know the subject. It is not that they are stupid. It is that they are uneducated. You do know the subject. You have to explain it to them. Many times you have to explain it to them many times. It is always going to seem clear to you because you have been thinking about the material for years if not decades. To them, it is brand new. I looked up the word “explain” at www.dictionary.com and the first definition was: “to make plain or clear; render understandable or intelligible.” Yes, that sounds to me a lot like excellent teaching.
If I boil teaching down to two words, for me they are "motivation" and "explain." As I start teaching again in 2014, I am going to keep those two words more firmly in my mind. When faced with the goal of “Becoming a Better Teacher,” what two words come to your mind? Keep in simple.