"The world is moving at a tremendous rate. Going no one knows where. We must prepare our children, not for the world of the past. Not for our world. But for their world. The world of the future." This quote by John Dewey was brought to my attention this week by Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach first at Twitter and more at her blog at 21st Century Collaborative. She made me think about all the theorists I learned during both of my degrees. I am a strong supporter of the constructivist theory of teaching. I believe that students need to take ownership in what they are learning in order to engage fully. I believe that teachers must be a "guide on the side" instead of a "sage on the stage." I believe we must prepare students for the world they are going to live and work in. I believe that particularly middle school students (because that is what I know the most about) are social creatures that learn best in cooperative learning situation. I believe it is my job to excite students about a topic and then turn them loose to discover whatever there is to know about it. I need to observe their process, nudging them back on track if they should stray, and, ideally, give them a wide variety of methods to gather and give back the information they retrieve.
My first thought is that all teachers SHOULD teach this way. And I do believe that. But then I remember some of my favorite teachers from high school. Back then (that was another life ago) teachers still routinely taught with the "suck and puke" method. They would lecture and assign textbook pages and we were expected to suck in the information and puke it out on worksheets and tests. Amazingly, I managed to learn a few things along the way. My government teacher was a pro with this method. I think she had been using the same overhead note sheets for years.
Even more, I had an English teacher that did what most of us would consider unthinkable now. She would assign a composition that would be due on a Friday. Monday we would come in and above someone's desk would be the "Golden Gong Award" for the student that had the most spelling errors in their paper. Both of these teachers use methods that are no longer acceptable, but they were a couple of my favorite teachers. I learned a great deal from these ladies. Why? Because these teachers exhibited a love of learning that I still remember. They cared about their students. We knew that they would go above and beyond for everyone of us.
My point? While I believe that we need to use the best methods for our students, being a concerned and caring teacher is every bit, if not more, important. We need teachers with the whole package. Our students deserve it.