Monday, August 10, 2009

Final Countdown to the Start of School

Two weeks from today we start a new school year at Amarillo College. I hope to make these some of my best classes ever. I've been doing this for three and a half years now. During that time I've learned a lot about myself, about the subjects I teach, and about the kinds of things that work (and don't work) in the classroom.

From one semester to the next, I've tried to improve the content of each course and my own delivery of the material. One principle I keep going back to is that students learn and retain the most when they are actively engaged in what's happening in class. It helps them, I think, when they do a good bit of the talking: raising and answering questions, expressing what they've learned, etc. If a person can accurately describe something and clearly explain it, then it's a sure thing that they understand it.

I also try to accommodate the wide array of learning styles among my various students, giving them things to see and touch, as well as hear. I'll never forget the strained look on one lady's face as she listened to my sermons week after week. I thought she was angry or distressed. So I finally asked her about it. She told me that she didn't object to what I was saying. There was no "problem." She was just doing her best to really listen to what was being said. Sometime later, I noticed that whenever my sermons were accompanied by projected text or artwork, her expression was much more relaxed. It was a wake-up call on the importance of making it easier for people who are highly visual and who don't learn very well by simply hearing. (It makes me wonder if, for example, Jesus actually picked a flower when he said, "Consider the lilies of the field").

Anyway, these are just a few of the things running through my mind these days. Here are my questions to you: Who was the best teacher you ever had in high school or college? What made that person's classes so great?

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