Archive for April, 2008

You Need Some Sense to be a Teacher

Student Raising HandtantrumTeachers like every other human being have the senses of sight, hearing, tasting, smelling and touching. These senses are used to perceive what is happening in the surrounding world. Changes in the environment are sensed and transmitted to our brains which based on previous experience conveys a response. Something never experienced causes a pause while the brain analysis and determines an appropriate response. Trail and error come into play at this point. The body’s response system learns by error. It tries a response and learns by trial as well as error. An inappropriate response provides a new stimulus that may be recognized by the brain. As experiences develop over time, learning occurs.

Teachers are learners. They use their senses to become skilled at leading the neophytes learners into a new world that they have not yet travel. Successful teachers use the five senses just like the learners do. However, successful teachers also use the other senses. Everyone has heard of the sixth sense: the extra sensory, higher perception and intuition aspects of humans. It is this sense that defies scientific measurement. Not that they have not tried but they collect data and then question if it means anything. They can’t really prove anything. Teachers know that there are more senses than just the five. Common sense tells them that.

In order to survive in teaching and become an effective learning guide, the teacher needs to use the “other” senses. You have heard said “Teachers have an eye in the back of their head.” It’s true they do. It’s called the sense of awareness. Teachers must be aware at all times at what is happening in the room. Perhaps it’s the view from the front of the room, but teachers see all. They can see Billy pulling that candy sucker from his desk. Mary is secretly reading a book. Martha has a note to read. Ralph is doodling in his notebook. George is looking at the teacher but he is have an OBE (out of body experience). All this is happening as the teacher is explaining the next activity. As this is occurring the wise teacher must decide if the interruption of “Billy put that candy away!” is more disruptive than letting it go until later. Without the sense of awareness, the teacher is easily replaced with a babbling machine.

Teachers are often called in to settle a dispute. The pupils expect that the teacher has a sense of justice. The teacher can tell them: what is right and wrong, who has the rightful claim, or how to settle the dispute. Teachers are all knowing (until proven otherwise). Pupils will look expectantly at the teacher to make a just decision. Wise teachers, however, avoid hasty decisions when it involves students and their disputes. The wise teacher attempts to have the students resolve the conflict on their own. The teacher can act as a arbitrator. The teacher also has to decide at what point this dispute has to be settled. A “friendly” or “class related” dispute can often be left to the group or pair to resolve on their own. More involved disputes may require more time than what the teacher has available and may have to put it off until “out-of-class” time. Amazing how many disputes get settled quickly on their own. Disputes of a more serious nature may require a greater intervention than just the teacher can provide. Wise teachers avoid providing justice too readily. Justice is best left to those that have the authority to administer justice. The important factor is for the pupils to perceive a sense of justice not necessary justice itself.

When a teach is placed in a situation that requires admonishment, detention (yuck!), call home, note, or whatever, the sense of fairness come into play. Pupils always watch! They always watch! They measure the punishment metered out to this one or that. To the jock or the nerd. To the boy or the girl. To the charmer or the dullard. The teacher sharply tells Mary to sit while the class is listening. A month later, James does the same thing, the same response is expected. To be fair brings the legionaire of honor award! Each pupil can respect the fair teacher. Mean or mousy. Kind or cruel. Makes no difference. As long as the teacher is fair. Wise teachers hold dearly to the sense of fairness.

The pupil whose feelings are hurt or carries a pain from home needs the teacher’s sense of caring. Hugs are out these days as are hands on the shoulder. Some kids really need a hug! Wise teachers have learned means to transfer their caring and concern without endangering their career and future life. This is the most difficult of all the senses to maintain a balance. It is one of the senses that force young inexperienced teachers to flee the field. The wise teacher does not become hardened, they learn to deal with it. The sense of caring is the hardest to carry home. It is not possible to solve the problems of broken homes, street gangs, personal issues, or a host of other social problems. The wise teacher will try to equip the pupils with the power to change things from the pupil’s world from inside out. It is the best way to show the sense of caring. Wise teachers help their pupils overcome the handicaps of their world.

Most of all, teachers must have a sense of humor. Without that, life becomes overbearing and depressing. Laugh, smile, chuckle, giggle- the world with you in it is funny. The world is a place to laugh. Whether the teaching occurs in the deepest recesses of the inner city or the most affluent corner of the suburbs. Even in the back areas of the rural country, the pains and suffering of the world scream out. Children carry luggage regardless of their surroundings or economic situation. The wise teacher knows that the child has to carry his own luggage. The teacher can only try to help the child find a way to carry it without as much pain. A teacher might even help that child to a point where the luggage can be tossed aside. The wise teacher helps a child smile and even laugh. The wise teacher has a knack to have children laugh with each other rather than at each other. The wise teacher uses the sense of humor as often as possible. The wise teacher loves to laugh and always smiles- but “not ’til after Thanksgiving!”

Besides the five science senses, teachers have five pedagogue senses. Like a newborn exploring the five senses, the rookie educator practices the “teacher senses.” Only with time does the rookie grow into the experienced educator and then into the seasoned veteran and finally retires as the wise teacher. Smile and laugh and chuckle and giggle and titter and chortle and grin- just remember “Smile and the whole world smiles with you!”

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April 29, 2008 at 1:34 am Leave a comment


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