Thursday, October 11, 2012

Excellence in Teaching

On Valerie Strauss’ Washington Post education blog, there is an excellent article, “How long one teacher took to become great,” that highlights the evolution of a teacher, throughout her career, from a good teacher who followed the rules to an excellent teacher, who came to understand what teaching was all about. Her story parallels mine, as a psychologist, to some degree. I was trained in the standard techniques of psychotherapy which I practiced until I realized that the work I was doing seemed flat. Over my 35 years of work, I have become more engaged, more respectful of the world from the client’s point of view, more centered on the here and now, and, in general, freed from the constraints of my early training. This is not meant to knock my early training, just to highlight that with experience, one begins to challenge some of the “truths” that persist in a field. As a clinical supervisor, I have often seen young therapists burdened by attitudes I was taught, and through my work with them, I have tried to help them grow.

Obviously, one has to start somewhere, so it is important for anyone in any professional field to begin with a basic set of concepts that apply to that field. Yet, maturity and experience will lead the thoughtful professional to challenge prior thought.

Going back to the Washington Post article, I scanned the article for the word homework and found it used only once, in describing the writer’s work before her evolution. I think this is a telling fact and coincides with every account I’ve read pertaining to excellence in education. The H-word, homework, is never there.

Since teachers are taught by people who have been teachers themselves, I challenge those professionals in the field to bring up homework as a topic in the schools of education and begin to address it more thoughtfully than it has been so far. For administrators, keep in mind that, while your young teachers are learning their craft, they are given too much power over activities in the home, and that you should set limits on what they can assign. And for parents, respect and support your children’s young teachers. They mean well and they have to learn. Just draw the line on how much authority you are willing to give them for what goes on in your home.

Visit The Homework Trap website

Dr. Kenneth Goldberg, is the author of The Homework Trap: How to Save the Sanity of Parents, Teachers, and Students, published by Wyndmoor Press.

Wyndmoor Press now offers bulk rate discounts to parent, school, and community groups. We recommend Amazon for single copy purchases.

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