Common Sense Education

I am a college professor, and every Monday I work from home for course planning and marking. I decided to volunteer as a teacher in my son’s grade 5 class every Monday for one to two periods. The major purpose of this was to free up the full-time teacher in order to focus on my son’s learning group. The full-time teacher has multiple learning groups, which naturally creates the problem of providing individualized attention and of meeting the curriculum requirements by the end of the school year.

I was a little concerned that while being a college professor, I would have a hard-time adjusting to teaching younger students. I am glad to report all went well, and the kids, the full-time teacher, and the special needs assistant thought I did an excellent job. But most important of all, I didn’t embarrass by son in the process!

To be honest, I don’t know why I should have been worried. If you are a good teacher, then you should be able to adapt to any teaching environment. But more than that, teaching should always include the following rule:

Make it fun for the learner…

After instructing elementary, high-school, and post secondary students, I believe that the above rule is the most important one to follow – period! It seems that every year the same questions are asked during our departmental meeting, “How do we retain our students?”. This year’s meeting provided a huge series of suggestions and discussion. The same old debate circulated about Generation Y, and the old “finger-pointing” of blame towards high-schools. But then a new approach was introduced to help break out of this “infinite loop”. Our departmental chair compared this debate to a negative feedback loop. In his slide show, he included a picture of lego building blocks depicting a continuously revolving set of stairs (an optical illusion). This was used to drive home the point – when we say our students are getting worse, we are fooled by our own flawed perception. It is not fair to judge our current students based on standards that we may have set for our course when we designed and implemented it in previous semesters / years / decades. We as educators also need to evolve…

Here is a link to the slide show [ ]

In my opinion, it comes down to making the learning experience fresh (throw in some unexpected and new things) to liven it up. Again the rule:

Make it fun for the learner…

For the first time in nearly two decades, based on student diversity the focus has been shifted:

Students will only attend class if they believe they will get something out of the class – most are now NOT interested in marks. It is up to the teacher to inspire, motivate, negotiate, cajol students toward success

I believe as educators we must fight the urge to remain the same, and to try new approaches. In addition more parents should volunteer in elementary classes to assist teachers that are obviously overburdened with students of varying needs and suffering from budgetary contraints.

As for myself, I will continue to incorporate new approaches in the classes that I teach (both professional and voluntary) and follow my new golden rule… I like to keep things simple…


~ by Murray Saul on January 7, 2009.

3 Responses to “Common Sense Education”

  1. I encourage open discussion on this topic

  2. When tutoring students one on one, It’s far easier for me to gauge the best way in which I can connect to the student, than it is to do so for a large classroom. A teacher can go very far in leading the learning process, but there is a limit to building their half, or 3/4 of the bridge.

    The dynamic of college and university classrooms are constantly changing, now more so than ever. We are seeing an influx of a wider demographic of students turning to post secondary education.

    In terms of student retention, those who can succeed will stay and finish their diploma. Those who can’t succeed may contribute to the colleges high turnover rate.

    Why are some students not succeeding? Why are some students, whether they care about their marks or not, hovering at “C” grade averages?

    It’s obvious that we can’t give away grades, but if we can foster student accountability and really drive home the importance of the “Successful” completion of our programs, will students be attracted to finish their 2 year or 3 year diplomas without getting demotivated and giving up half way through?

    Teaching methods do go very far with motivated students. I think it’s also very important to nurture an overall perspective of our programs, at Seneca specifically, that would motivate students to take advantage of the wide variety of teaching styles and educators that the our instructors offer.

    Good topic for further discussion.

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