A Different Kind of Teacher

A Different Kind of Teacher

Sometimes helping students succeed is more about the teacher than the topic.

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I can dig it.

I did well in school because I genuinely enjoyed learning things. Those few times when I flat didn't enjoy the place, I did not do well.
It's a hard concept to grasp, but happy minds are receptive ones.

It's interesting to me to read this, as a teacher myself. While we most likely work with different age groups (middle school, for me), I think it's the difference in subject matter that's the most interesting to me.

I teach band, which is ostensibly one of the "fun classes." Yet with the kids in my classes, love them though I do, I find more and more of them are unwilling and unable to accept the existence of more than one kind of Fun... and a lot of that has to do with their gaming habits, truth be told.

The younger students, especially in middle school when kids develop the age-typical-hyper-self-consciousness, they tend to back down from challenges for fear of embarrassment. But that's always been the case, and it always will be. That's just human nature. However, modern video games (unlike older video games, and the "lower tech" diversions kids once had to turn to) present a very skewed effort-to-success "exchange rate," and that has seriously cut down the amount of challenge they are willing (and perhaps able) to stomach.

In my class, which is supposed to be "all about fun" in minds of most, they discover the hidden truth: Making music is fun, but learning how to make that music is challenging. Often, it's frustrating. In a lot of ways, it's like a challenging video game -- the fun comes from the hard work, and through it we learn that hard work leads to a better kind of fun. But for many other students, the plethora of easy-victory games out there has promoted (I won't say "created") a culture in which struggling is a sign that something is "not fun."

So, while gaming (and, ugh, "gamification") is the current go-to for making the required, "drudgery" classes more appealing, I'm finding that the culture surrounding many gamers is working against the ability for a lot of kids, particulary in the late elementary-middle school range, to have what I call "serious" or "hard" fun. And then I watch as those kids move on to the high school and, most often, carry that same weakness with them.

Now, relating to high schoolers via after-school pastimes is something I also see in my day-to-day. Of course, my work with the high school students is entirely volunteer and outside of the school day, but I notice a marked difference with those students who are aware that I have a life outside of school. (Well... I notice a difference in their disposition toward me as a teacher, if not the subject matter itself.)

The gaming culture is emerging as our newest two-sided coin, as sports used to be (and continues to be). On one hand, it can, if used right, foster some pretty favorable character traits... but on the other hand, if used wrongly (or just not as rightly as it should) it can lead to some counter-productive habits and traits, too. Unfortunately, it seems to me that it more often does the latter than the former -- if you're not intentionally doing it right, you're at least accidentally doing it wrong.

(I also have to say that my years of experience in various settings has taught me that schools still need twice as many "bad cops" as they do "good cops" in the classroom. If every doctor was House, sure, we'd be a miserable institution... but the same would be true if all of us were Patch Adams. Treasure your time as Patch!)

Cool, this sounds like what I'd like to do if I end up going the education route.

Would read again.

Teacher here as well. Language teacher (English and Swedish) for ages 12 through 19. Whenever I meet a new class I almost invariably get asked within 30 seconds what games I play just because I'm a younger male teacher with glasses. I've often talked about games and gaming with pupils and I've found that most of the time they want to pass on doing actual work and instead just have a fun conversation about games, because that's easy and obviously something they're interested in. I've only had a small percentage of gamer students make that bridge with me and for the ones who did, they were ambitious enough that we wouldn't need the gaming talk for them to succeed.

I'm skeptical. Like Dastardly says, gaming has taken over their other interests. I rarely get any boys at 16 that have read a book in the last year. They just play LoL, CoD or WoW. The problem, at least here in Sweden, is that they don't have enough of a work ethic instilled in them and whenever you demand work from them, they just act all jaded because their parents always let them get away with it. Generally, that is. Everything has to be easy.

Captcha was fitting... "check your work" :)

This is excellent. I thoroughly enjoyed the article, and it helps to shine a positive light on the thorny subject of videogames and their impact on children. It's nice to have positive cases, such as this one, where we can prove videogames can help improve student-teacher relationships and facilitate a good learning environment.

I loved this article, and as a new professor, I can say that finding a way to relate to the students has been the best way for me personally to engage them.

That was an interesting read about how to connect with students.

Here's a story about another math teacher I think you'll like.

http://notalwayslearning.com/math-exercise-dividers-of-theoden/30451

I've been told I should teach on multiple occasions but multiple people, but to be 100%, I've only considered it very flippantly. This article reinforced my belief that if I ever became a teacher, this is why I would be good teacher. Kudos to you for taking something you love and making it work not only in your day-to-day but in the classroom as well. It takes an awesome person to pull it off.

When I was in highschool one of my favorite teachers played videogames and I cared much more about his class because of the fact that when we saw each other outside of class we would stop for a moment to discuss whatever we were playing at the time. He also made a sort of tradition of giving out his Xbox Live gamertag to graduating kids who he felt had both had a good relationship with him and worked hard in his classes. I was extremely proud when he gave it to me partially because it meant that he thought i had worked hard enough in his class that i deserved it.

I had a social studies teacher in high school who had a similar penchant for engaging the kids and stirring discussion. He often showed episodes of The Simpsons to illustrate his points, occaisionally came to class in authentic military attire indicative of the era we were learning about (equipment included, even guns... how he got permission, I have no idea), and introduced us to a lot of classic movies (Tora Tora Tora, Ran, Dr. Strangelove, etc... and one time we watched a huge chunk of Pearl Harbor just to make fun of it). I remember one Christmas break he lent me Neville Shute's On The Beach to read, for no reason pertaining to the class, just because he thought I'd like it. I did. So I definitely think you're right about relating going a long way.

" For many of them, it's the first time they have been genuinely curious about academic subject matter, and feeding that hunger even once creates an addiction."

This. This is why I kept up with Latin at secondary school even when it was hard - my teacher kept the classes so vibrant and interesting that I didn't want to miss out on them by dropping his class. Before I knew it I was applying to do a Classics degree at university, and this September I'll be beginning a PhD in Latin literature.

What really sticks when you teach is when you try to be interesting and teach in such a way that students want to learn. Who knows? They may even learn something that'll help them out later in life.

Interestingly, this article comes a few days after I had a similar experience myself, though I cannot boast quite the same degree of success as the author. I am an English teacher in Taiwan. My students are a bit younger (3rd-5th grade). I can't exactly compare L.A. Noire to Shakespeare with them, but I did talk about Minecraft. Two boys brought it up and whenever they have free-writing time they write about adventures in Minecraft, and what they want to build next. We don't spend much time discussing it, but I think it's made a difference that I even know what it is. During a parent-teacher conference last week, one of these boys' mothers thanked me because her son says he likes English class now, which apparently he hasn't said before. Puts a smile on my face.

Great article and quite relevant as I am in my final year of a Bachelor of Education (Primary).

If/when I get a full-time teaching job (hopefully next year), I intend on using video games as a means to teach in my classroom. I will start with Minecraft because there are already teachers out there who created a perfect mod (MinecraftEdu) and I can see a lot of educational potential in a game like Minecraft.

After that I have ideas of bringing in point-and-click adventure games, puzzle games and story-driven games such as the Myst games (I am hoping they won't be too complex for students).

Does anyone have any other suggestions for video-games that have educational potential?

Please try to avoid anything M-Rated or higher as I will be teaching students no older than 12. That means no violence, swearing or sexually explicit content. I think RPGs would be great for teaching Maths but I can't think of any appropriate for students under 15.

pearcinator:
Does anyone have any other suggestions for video-games that have educational potential?

Please try to avoid anything M-Rated or higher as I will be teaching students no older than 12. That means no violence, swearing or sexually explicit content. I think RPGs would be great for teaching Maths but I can't think of any appropriate for students under 15.

Very few video games, including Minecraft, have real educational potential. They can make an okay attention-grabbing gimmick, and they can make for decent sidebar in the classroom discussions. Outside that? If you want kids to learn Math, they'll have to grapple with math directly. Here's the bad news:

1. Gimmicks have a shelf life. I think all of us, as teachers, have decided at one point that we've found the "Holy Grail" of reaching kids, especially early on in our careers. Eventually, we'll find that what we've really discovered is that novelty breeds interest. If you're a new, younger teacher talking about stuff the kids are into, you'll have their attention... for awhile. Novelty wears off.

Now, a lot of teachers never truly have to wrestle with the problems this can cause, because they see each kid for one year -- maybe two, at the high school level. As a band director, I have the rare opportunity to work with students for as many as eight years, so I can see the long-term effects gimmicky teaching can have. Be very mindful on how much you rely on them, because they can cause damage long term and make the next teacher's job even harder.

2. You can only take so much meat out of the steak before all that's left is fat. Using in-game physics to demonstrate and introduce parabolic flight paths can be a cute way to initially engage quadratics... but at some point, the kids are just going to have to do some real pencil-active problem solving. The problem is, if they're addicted to the fat, the steak leaves an increasingly bad taste in their mouths.

3. This is the biggest problem with the current obsession with "making learning fun." Yes, learning is easier when it's fun. Yes, happy kids are easier to teach. But too often we're doing things in a way that teaches kids it's always the world's responsibility to make things fun for them. This leads to two conclusions: 1) I don't have to do anything I don't immediately enjoy, and 2) It's your fault if I don't enjoy it.

Video games can be, used sparingly, a marginally-effective bridge for "meeting kids where they are." But unless we do something to move them, we'll be guilty of "leaving kids as they were." Never forget that we're in the business of changing kids, not making them comfortable.

fun stuff, shame there isn't a way to drug their water and just make them learn though
a game that teaches maths would be awesome, like hacking with algorithms
maby i should make this game... hmm.

'scuttles off to the code cave'

The Lugz:
fun stuff, shame there isn't a way to drug their water and just make them learn though
a game that teaches maths would be awesome, like hacking with algorithms
maby i should make this game... hmm.

'scuttles off to the code cave'

Best of luck on that front. Educational games are like the City of Gold -- long sought, never truly found. Every kid is able to perceive a fine line within the game, and on one side it's too "gamey," while on the other it's too "educationy" (See: Number Munchers, etc.) Your kids that genuinely enjoy "too educationy" games? Those are the kids that just may have enjoyed learning the content for its own sake... but sometimes overuse of the games can pull them away from that.

Dastardly:

1. Gimmicks have a shelf life. I think all of us, as teachers, have decided at one point that we've found the "Holy Grail" of reaching kids, especially early on in our careers. Eventually, we'll find that what we've really discovered is that novelty breeds interest. If you're a new, younger teacher talking about stuff the kids are into, you'll have their attention... for awhile. Novelty wears off.

Now, a lot of teachers never truly have to wrestle with the problems this can cause, because they see each kid for one year -- maybe two, at the high school level. As a band director, I have the rare opportunity to work with students for as many as eight years, so I can see the long-term effects gimmicky teaching can have. Be very mindful on how much you rely on them, because they can cause damage long term and make the next teacher's job even harder.

2. You can only take so much meat out of the steak before all that's left is fat. Using in-game physics to demonstrate and introduce parabolic flight paths can be a cute way to initially engage quadratics... but at some point, the kids are just going to have to do some real pencil-active problem solving. The problem is, if they're addicted to the fat, the steak leaves an increasingly bad taste in their mouths.

3. This is the biggest problem with the current obsession with "making learning fun." Yes, learning is easier when it's fun. Yes, happy kids are easier to teach. But too often we're doing things in a way that teaches kids it's always the world's responsibility to make things fun for them. This leads to two conclusions: 1) I don't have to do anything I don't immediately enjoy, and 2) It's your fault if I don't enjoy it.

Video games can be, used sparingly, a marginally-effective bridge for "meeting kids where they are." But unless we do something to move them, we'll be guilty of "leaving kids as they were." Never forget that we're in the business of changing kids, not making them comfortable.

I remember seeing a study made in the US about good teachers. They collected data on some of the better-rated teachers in schools all over the country, and noted the methods they used (among other data). One interesting conclusion was that the specific teaching method didn't correlate with how "good" the teacher was. The top-rated ones used many diverse teaching methods and not a single one was universally favored by good teachers. (Unfortunately I don't remember the title or any way to reference the paper).

This corroborates the idea that using gimmicks or other kinds of "fun" methods is not necessarily the way to go. Maybe the key is in the charisma of the teacher and his/her ability to relate to the students, at least for children. People like to think there's an "easy" way to teach, a silver bullet, but it doesn't seem to exist. Paraphrasing Barbie, Teaching is hard, let's go shopping!

Thanks for the love, Everyone! This is Cari Scholtens, but my account name is jedi88. I think the Escapist created a new account for me or something. I appreciate all the feedback and am so glad for those of you who got the point of the article. Teaching isn't about being an end all beat all expert of your subject as much as it is being able to relate to kids. This article wasn't about my teaching kids about videogames. It's about using videogames as a Trojan Horse to hopefully sneak some little math gremlins into my kids' heads. For our discussions, they don't hate math. Frankly, kids hate math so when students tell me that my class is their favorite often my response is "Really?" with a raised eyebrow. I don't think it's the math as much as the relationships and the comfort they find in my room. I love my students and I love my job! Thank you all for the support and reminding me that maybe "different" is an awesome way to be!

Godspeed, you magnificent teacher, you. Please don't burn out - good middle school teachers are a gift rarely given to humanity. Many thanks to all the teachers who have posted their thoughts here, and thanks for the job you do.

pearcinator:
Great article and quite relevant as I am in my final year of a Bachelor of Education (Primary).

If/when I get a full-time teaching job (hopefully next year), I intend on using video games as a means to teach in my classroom.
[snip]
Does anyone have any other suggestions for video-games that have educational potential?

Pearcinator, I humbly submit the point of Scholtens' article was not using video games as a means to teach, but as a means to engage with her students. THIS IS AWESOME. She makes a point of saying the methods by which she teaches are the same as her colleagues. Generally speaking first year teachers have enough on their plate with lesson planning / classroom management / assessment without also trying to re-invent the wheel. If teaching is your career, you're in for the long haul. I recommend piloting any ideas you have for games as instruction in an extra-curricular activity before taking it into your classroom (where your principal, among others, may need to be convinced of its validity).

I love games as a pasttime but Scholten's use of them to foster dialogue with her students is probably the most pragmatic use in a school setting. They are, relative to teachers delivering knowledge, a terribly inflexible medium. Ratings aside, the medium has all the rigidity-related flaws of standardized testing and none of the focus on pedagogy - the point of games is to entertain. If you were planning on teaching english, arguably you could get kids to learn story structure from some games. History, maaaaybe from some of the more rigorously researched RTS games. But math, which is indubitably at the core of all games, is not something I'd recommend videogames for as the mechanics of the math are hidden.

It's just my opinion but you might have more luck introducing kids to game design. Let them apply math to rules they make up and prototype their work in paper and cardboard. It is fast, cheap and tactile. It can be done as group work or individual assignments. It can be a one-off project or something that's ongoing and made of many steps. It has tons of cross-discipline potential.

I hope you'll pardon my unsolicited comments and wish you every success as a teacher.

tautologico:
I remember seeing a study made in the US about good teachers. They collected data on some of the better-rated teachers in schools all over the country, and noted the methods they used (among other data). One interesting conclusion was that the specific teaching method didn't correlate with how "good" the teacher was. The top-rated ones used many diverse teaching methods and not a single one was universally favored by good teachers. (Unfortunately I don't remember the title or any way to reference the paper).

This corroborates the idea that using gimmicks or other kinds of "fun" methods is not necessarily the way to go. Maybe the key is in the charisma of the teacher and his/her ability to relate to the students, at least for children. People like to think there's an "easy" way to teach, a silver bullet, but it doesn't seem to exist. Paraphrasing Barbie, Teaching is hard, let's go shopping!

Indeed. I think the fundamental problem is that no one can come up with a definitive answer on what makes a teacher "good." Sure, we like to think it's easy to see which teachers get good results and which don't, but one of the biggest problems facing education right now is that many teachers disagree with whether or not our current data-gathering methods are actually a valid way of looking at results.

So, we can't really go with standardized test scores (though that doesn't stop us). We can't look at who the kids say their favorites are -- for one, because that won't always be reflective of what's best for them, and also because (being kids) that will change from minute to minute. We tend to go with whoever is doing something different at any given moment, or who seems to be grabbing the most attention... and we only look at them for a short period of time.

It's a lot like a romance story: We see the short-term victories and heartwarming moments that ultimately lead to the big "Awwww!" moment, and then we simply assume happily ever after. We don't see the aftermath. We don't see if it really has staying power. We don't see the unintended side effects of finding romance in a situation like that. We see something that seems super-lovely, and we assume it stays on that trajectory forever.

And some teachers can live that way, because they wave goodbye to the kid after just one short year. Like grandma, they can spoil the kid and be "the favorite," and then pass him/her back to their parents all spoiled and ready to be a brat when it's time for chores. Unfortunately, the public eye is myopic, so we don't mind those short-term results.

Elijah Newton:
[snip]

I phrased my response wrong. I meant to say that I intend to use games as a means to engage instead of teach. Initially, I will use games in the classroom sparingly (once a week at most) just to try it out and see its effect. I have no idea if it will work because I need to be a teacher for more than a few weeks (as a student-teacher I have little control over what/how I teach because I need the approval of my mentor teacher and I play it safe so I don't fail). However, I see a lot of potential for learning in a virtual world. Virtual worlds are complex and for students to interact properly they have to understand all sorts of important aspects of the world (map reading, understanding symbols, comprehending text etc.) Students who are engaged in the virtual world understand all of these things simultaneously.

There's also the 'hidden-curriculum' benefits of co-operative and collaborative learning. You can 'take' students to new worlds/cities/countries without all the safety concerns and paperwork involved in an actual excursion. I always hear and read about how teaching has changed very little and students today are highly stimulated by media from a very young age. If teachers continue to teach 'by the textbook' then students won't be engaged at all and no learning will be made. I understand that the purpose of video games are to entertain but I believe learning can be made at the same time (but only with the right games).

My final practicum (6 weeks) starts on May 6. I have been allocated a Year 6 class in a rural school. I doubt I will get much time to make experimental lessons but I will see what my mentor teacher thinks.

Dastardly:
It's interesting to me to read this, as a teacher myself. While we most likely work with different age groups (middle school, for me), I think it's the difference in subject matter that's the most interesting to me.

I teach band, which is ostensibly one of the "fun classes." Yet with the kids in my classes, love them though I do, I find more and more of them are unwilling and unable to accept the existence of more than one kind of Fun... and a lot of that has to do with their gaming habits, truth be told.

The younger students, especially in middle school when kids develop the age-typical-hyper-self-consciousness, they tend to back down from challenges for fear of embarrassment. But that's always been the case, and it always will be. That's just human nature. However, modern video games (unlike older video games, and the "lower tech" diversions kids once had to turn to) present a very skewed effort-to-success "exchange rate," and that has seriously cut down the amount of challenge they are willing (and perhaps able) to stomach.

In my class, which is supposed to be "all about fun" in minds of most, they discover the hidden truth: Making music is fun, but learning how to make that music is challenging. Often, it's frustrating. In a lot of ways, it's like a challenging video game -- the fun comes from the hard work, and through it we learn that hard work leads to a better kind of fun. But for many other students, the plethora of easy-victory games out there has promoted (I won't say "created") a culture in which struggling is a sign that something is "not fun."

So, while gaming (and, ugh, "gamification") is the current go-to for making the required, "drudgery" classes more appealing, I'm finding that the culture surrounding many gamers is working against the ability for a lot of kids, particulary in the late elementary-middle school range, to have what I call "serious" or "hard" fun. And then I watch as those kids move on to the high school and, most often, carry that same weakness with them.

Now, relating to high schoolers via after-school pastimes is something I also see in my day-to-day. Of course, my work with the high school students is entirely volunteer and outside of the school day, but I notice a marked difference with those students who are aware that I have a life outside of school. (Well... I notice a difference in their disposition toward me as a teacher, if not the subject matter itself.)

The gaming culture is emerging as our newest two-sided coin, as sports used to be (and continues to be). On one hand, it can, if used right, foster some pretty favorable character traits... but on the other hand, if used wrongly (or just not as rightly as it should) it can lead to some counter-productive habits and traits, too. Unfortunately, it seems to me that it more often does the latter than the former -- if you're not intentionally doing it right, you're at least accidentally doing it wrong.

(I also have to say that my years of experience in various settings has taught me that schools still need twice as many "bad cops" as they do "good cops" in the classroom. If every doctor was House, sure, we'd be a miserable institution... but the same would be true if all of us were Patch Adams. Treasure your time as Patch!)

It's not quite so simple as "people don't like challange"

Speaking from my own time in middle school:

Band class for me was a tedious hell courtesy of going from a school with a strings program (Which was awesome.) to one without and getting handed a freaking clarinet. Ditto a friend who had been playing the piano since ever who got stuck with the glockenspiel where he was graciously allowed to plink away for an hour twice a week (Bonus, they HAD a piano they could have let him play.)

It wasn't unpleasant because it was hard, it was unpleasant because it was tedious, boring and utterly uninspiring.

More recently: I tutor english, math and physics for high school student and eight or nine times out of ten it's the same problem.

English courses expect them to memorize and regurgitate bullshit, they need to hack their way through shakespeare, everything else is still written by a centuries dead white guy and god forbid they be given a novel that's actually FUN! It's tedious for them so it doesn't engage so it doesn't inspire, but if you're able explain the archetypes and the symbolism, then show how to relate it to things within their experience, just watch them go.

Math, they're expected to do shit by rote because they're told to. There's no fun stuff, there's dirt simple algebra, learning how to graph shit with some good old fashioned rote tedium thrown it. Physics is much the same with the added bonus of the textbooks being utterly disinclined to give a question that requires the slightest bit of logical thought. "Do these 40 questions" and they're all variations on Q=mcT. It's tedious for them so it doesn't engage so it doesn't inspire but give them something that will challenge beyond "Put dots in the right places and you'll start generating interest.

More simply: that bit of inspiration and interest, that taste of success is the difference between a virtuous cycle and a vicious one. Challenge is almost never the issue, it's finding the gratification in meeting it.

When I was in school I got a new math teacher in 8th grade (talking about Germany here). In addition to being a math teacher that guy also was the schools principal (automatically causes you to have at least some respect, right?).

Anyway, he was a totally different kind of teacher compared to my previous math teacher. He also talked about some fun things to do in his or your free time. In addition he was easily able to explain math. He told you something once and you simply got it. Once I didn't fully understand a certain concept he explained. I went to him during a 5 minute break and he explained it to me again quickly but in a way that I was easily able to follow.

Thanks to him in my final math exam I reached a perfect score.

So yeah, what I'm trying to say is it's all about the teachers. Great teachers can even make difficult subjects look simple. Bad teachers can even make the simplest topics look like quantum physics...

I agree with this article so much. I was lucky enough to have two fantastic engaging teachers when I was in secondary school, one in maths and one in English, and those were my two best subjects.

My math teacher was a younger guy who taught us probability and ratio by bursting into the classroom dressed like Neo and telling us there was a glitch in the Matrix. We had fun countdown style math problems on the board each lesson, first one to solve it correctly got an extra credit. He taught us perseverance by example, he'd do these nunchuck demonstrations, telling us how long it took to get good at it, but how fantastic it was to be good at it. It looked so cool.

My English teacher was an older guy with enormous disdain for Carol Ann Duffy, a penchant for Winston Churchill quotes and a great interest in his students. He once asked us if we wanted to read a book about sex, violence, gang warfare - and then he whipped out Romeo and Juliet. It's a pretty old line, but when you're thirteen and haven't heard it before, it's pretty bad ass.

Those teachers have always stuck with me,and I've got an enduring affection for both maths and English. A teacher who engages their students, challenges them in a way that isn't repetition - now that's a good teacher in my book.

I was fortunate enough to have at least two really great teachers in my day.
One was a doctor of something, he was some sort of baron, too, and he'd been all around the world. In his geography class I had a solid C all throughout my years with him, even when all my other classes started showing Ds and Es.
I wasn't engaged because I was so interested in global weather phenomena or how different parts of a glacier are named - it was always the stories.
Every time a part of the world came up that he'd visited, or he had observed something in his life that was now on the teaching schedules, he'd take out 15 minutes and tell us the story, about how he criss-crossed the Andes, or how he taught German in Bolivia during times of civil unrest, or a story of the tribes he met when he was the driver of some "civilisation" project in Africa in the 70s.
The second teacher just treated me with respect.
He was an old, fat Oxford-taught history professor, the dean of our school, always waddleing through the halls, wearing his sweater vest and a bow tie. Whenever we came over some latin or greek word or phrase he'd chalk it on the board (oh, chalk boards, how nostalgic I am for you) and showed us by comparisson which modern words derived from it.
"Folks, you are all young, intelligent, thinking humans. You can figure this out." or "Mr. X (not me), have I just seen you read a Bild Zeitung? Surely, you are better than that. For god's sake, son, here, read my newspaper, and not that drivel. After class that is, of course." He'd address everyone as "ladies and gentlemen" and even the problem students jumped when he asked them to pick up some trash and but it in the bin, while he was doing his patrols on lunch break.
Good teachers are a rare thing.

halfeclipse:
It's not quite so simple as "people don't like challange"

It's not always so simple as that. But often, it is. And there are times where it might not be that, but we never get to find out because that gets in the way first. It's case-by-case, sure. So is everything.

More simply: that bit of inspiration and interest, that taste of success is the difference between a virtuous cycle and a vicious one. Challenge is almost never the issue, it's finding the gratification in meeting it.

Sorry for the snip, it's just for tidiness.

I'm not talking about folks that just aren't interested in a particular topic, or topics that are taught poorly (here meaning "using counterproductive methods"). Those are a separate issue. I'm talking about a couple of other phenomena that are related, but on the other end of the spectrum.

First, there are many kids who you can watch flit from hobby to hobby or team to team, playing it as long as it's new and easy, and then dropping under the claim that it's "not fun anymore." Everything gets to a point where the fun stops being free and you've got to work for it. And often, sure, you discover you're not that interested in it (which is why I don't golf or know how to do a backflip)... but other times, no one in that child's life is pushing them past that point, so they never learn there's anything of greater value beyond it.

And then there's the other type I'm talking about. The ones that feel something should have to be fun/engaging all of the time. Learning math requires some rote memorization of the basic skills, so that when you're tackling more advanced problems you're not getting bogged down in the minor steps that connect the major ones. Learning scales on the clarinet is necessary to develop the muscle memory for your fingers, so that your brain can concentrate on the other, more interesting elements of the music.

A certain amount of tedium is unavoidable. And you're right, each person eventually has to decide whether the benefit at the end is worth what it takes to get there, but when it comes to middle school kids and younger? They're just discovering the power of "No," and they will use/abuse that power unless a parent says, "Sorry, kid. You're finishing this one."

For me, I had zero interest in joining band. My dad had other ideas. So, I was dragged, kicking and screaming, to sign-ups and forced to do it for at least two years. Practicing was tedious and uncomfortable, but my dad made sure I was putting in at least half an hour a night. And then something magical happened: I was pushed to audition for an honors band, and I made it. I suddenly discovered that I was now good at this.

And I was good at it because my father had made me do what it took to be good at it. Realizing I was good at it suddenly made it fun, and it opened up the door to opportunities outside of the standard class and practice settings. These were things I'd have never discovered if I hadn't been very firmly pushed in that direction -- because I was eleven, what did I know?

(Related story: He tried the same thing with baseball, and it didn't take. He pushed me to do it, practiced a bunch, and eventually decided it wasn't for me -- but not because I hadn't tried it.)

______

In short, yeah, some teachers/schools emphasize the more tedious aspects more than others. And that creates problems. But there's another side to the issue, and it's that many kids are increasingly intolerant of any tedium (because, at home, if the game gets hard or frustrating, they can be playing another in a minute and a half), and parents are increasingly unwilling to apply pressure to their tweens and teens to see something through. Both sides need to be dealt with, but I'm just talking about one for the time being because it related to the topic.

Sigh. When I think about it, it's pretty amazing how my teachers could kill my curiosity and interest in EVEYRTYHING. The "best" teachers I had simply didn't interfere much and just didn't stand in the way much. The worse teachers were just complete utter jackasses and trolls of the worst kind. The worst kind had the uncanny belief that their completely useless and stupid topic was oh so very important.

When I hear about good teachers, it's like reading about the mirror universe.

Finally got around to reading this.

Good to hear you have a good rapport with your students. That's often key to a classroom, and getting the most production from your students.

That said, if you were one of my teachers I'd smack you around the head for being lazy.

You have a context that's interesting to your students, and yet you haven't exploited it yet. Maths is the core of video games. You must be able to find examples of the material you want to teach within any game. Even better if you can teach them maths techniques to help them play their games more efficiently.

Here's an example: I was tutoring a 9 year old in some basic maths. When the subject of multiplication came up, we started talking about video games. He liked to use abilities which gave a big solid chunk of damage in one hit, as 'It does more damage.' This became our context for multiplication. I showed him bleed effects. Suddenly maths had a context and a purpose, and multiplication became a useful tool for him to win his games. I can guarantee now, that whenever he comes to a new game and has to pick an ability, he'll actually work out the calculation in his head.

At my school, rapport and classroom presence is such a basic thing it's not even considered special. I want you to think on this. Start looking at what you do in a classroom more critically.

To help you, this is what you're doing in your classroom that's different from your colleague: You are doing a warmer exercise. 5-10 mins to get your students settled and in a receptive mood. Tell your colleague across the hall that, see if he thinks it's a good idea. See what advice he can give you to make it better, and more focused to what you want to teach that day.

You've got a long way to go, newbie.

pearcinator:
I phrased my response wrong. I meant to say that I intend to use games as a means to engage instead of teach.

Thank you for the elaboration - despite my earlier comments I agree with you that there is a lot of potential for learning in a virtual world. I hope you do great things with it and enjoy teaching in general. The best teachers, in my experience, are those who love what they do. If you feel like dropping a line during or after your practicum I would be interested in hearing how it goes. I did my student teaching in rural north eastern United States about 15 years ago as a high school English teacher. Loved working with the students - introducing texts, asking / taking questions, talking about writing - but classroom management was pretty stressful for me, as was giving students bad grades.

Hope you have a great time.

Oh, and for what it's worth I did think of a game which might have some educational value. I can't say it speaks to all subject areas or ages, but it was well researched and (I thought) well presented : http://db.tigsource.com/games/peacemaker

I'm a student teacher in the middle of my second practicum (we do three of them at my University)in a remedial high school English class. I've noticed that using games of all kinds helps build positive relationships with students, which is what is the important take-away from the article. I don't use games to help teach, or even really use game comparisons in my lessons. Instead, just before class or in the last few minutes before the bell I'll BS with my students about games. They then feel more comfortable around me and when I ask them a question or assign them a task. They seem to realize that I'm not out to make them look or feel stupid and so are generally willing to open up and answer questions. We studied Romeo and Juliet this term and despite nearly all of my students having trouble with the language they were engaged enough in the discussion of the play to want to figure it out and would often break into impromptu discussions about different characters or the plot. It isn't that using games "makes learning fun" but rather that they are more engaged and willing to work when they can relate to the teacher. Like the author, I don't believe I do anything revolutionary with my lessons, learning activities or assessment tasks, but I rarely get complaints about lessons or homework because I've built a level of trust and camaraderie with my students.

 

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