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 Question for the Profession: What is teaching?

The question I pose to the profession today is this: “If student learning is dependent upon the quality of the ‘classroom experience the teacher provides,’ then where do you learn and develop these skills?”

It says on your résumé that you are a “teacher of agriculture,” but what exactly does that mean? What is teaching? What does it entail? Is it primarily based on an understanding of the technical content? Is it knowing how to structure learning objectives, build a lesson on those objectives, deliver the lesson, then assess the students’ learning? If this is a good representation of teaching, then which of these is the most important step?

Think back to your college days and your best teachers. Why did you choose them? Now, think of the worst teacher. What is the difference? Is it because your best teachers had the clearest objectives and lesson structures, or did the worst teacher give the most poorly designed tests? While these are critical to effective teaching, I doubt if either of them were evident to you as you were selecting your best teachers. I strongly suspect it had to do with that teacher’s presentation or delivery and his or her ability to completely engage you in the learning process. Am I right?

Now, think about all the inservices and professional development workshops you have sat through over your teaching career. Remember the ones focused on how to structure objectives, authentic assessment, six-trait writing, reading strategies, learning styles and modalities and test-taking skills? Have you ever had a professional development workshop on classroom presentation style or how to engage students in the learning process? Keep thinking; I’m sure you’ll remember one. Surely, you’ve attended a workshop on asking effective questions, engaging learners, giving effective directions or creating the learning environment for the student. No? Having trouble recalling these training sessions? Well, after logging 27 years in the classroom, I had the same problem!

Do we continue to treat effective presentation as a “talent from birth?” Do we accept the fact that some teachers “have it” and some don’t, or do we take it upon ourselves to identify and provide quality professional development opportunities so that teachers can truly become masters of the classroom?

I have the questions, now you have to provide the answers! As a new feature of Making a Difference, we will ask a question of the profession, much like the above, in each issue. Your opportunity to answer that question is provided by the NAAE Communities of Practice. Have your comments and answers ready. Click here to share your thoughts with your colleagues. We want to know what you think!