The Teacher’s Method

Many teachers have specific ways of doing things in the classroom. Some of them read from notes written years ago and expect their students to copy these notes and know them for the test. This is one way of doing things. Other teachers try desperately to entertain their classrooms and be a friend to their students. There are so many teachers I have encountered as a student and the one thing I know for certain is that fighting whatever model your teacher chooses to use it often a losing battle. This is not to say that there aren’t bad teachers (there are) but just an acknowledgement that there are a lot of good ones with a lot of different methods.

A long time ago I had a teacher of the first method: read from old notes. As it turned out, this instructor very much did the same thing every year. He would teach his students how to take notes (Roman Numerals, Upper case letters, etc…) and then he would proceed to read from his notebook for the remainder of the course. The students would frantically use their ink pens (pencil was impermanent after all) to scribble these spoken words onto their notebooks (this was pre-laptop days — no typing). The instructor would stop to spell out words that might be unclear because the students would eventually be expected to correctly spell this information as well. When the test came around you learned that there was no multiple choice or wordbank. Fill in the blank. How much rainfall did this certain mountain get every year (in inches)? That first test was a fear-inducing thing to most of the students (for good reason). Over half of the class failed.

I’ve got to say right now that I don’t like this method of teaching one bit. However, I’ve also got to say that I learned a great deal from it. I learned how to take notes quickly and effectively. I learned how to study raw data without any form of context or greater meaning (memorization). I also learned that fighting this particular instructor was less useful than trying to do it his way. Are there battles you should fight? Maybe. Sometimes, however, students are looking at the wrong thing. Maybe the class really wasn’t about Social Studies, like the syllabus said, because maybe it was about something else. In this case it was about note-taking and memorization. Whether good or bad these two skills (that I learned in that class) immeasurably helped me throughout highschool and college (and still today). Sometimes teachers have tricks. Sometimes when you don’t understand why you’re doing something there is actually a reason. Sometimes it’s even a good one.

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