The Thing About Teaching

by irms

…is that you’re aiming at a moving target.

And it’s hard to say who you’re serving in the first place.  Is it the students?  Their parents? The board? The principal?

Oh sure.  Take the easy way out and say it’s the students.  No Child Left Behind.  All children have a right to learn.  Blah blah blah.  

There’s a very good argument out there that says that teachers are very much like prison wardens.

“And as for the schools, they were just holding pens within this fake world. Officially the purpose of schools is to teach kids. In fact their primary purpose is to keep kids locked up in one place for a big chunk of the day so adults can get things done. And I have no problem with this: in a specialized industrial society, it would be a disaster to have kids running around loose.”


Forget about that though, think about the audience:

The top 10 in-demand jobs in 2010, did not exist in 2004:
We are preparing students for jobs that don’t yet exist.
To use technologies that don’t exist.
To solve problems we don’t even know are problems yet.


embedded by Embedded Video

(Thanks Ryan, for sharing this video.)


It’s a moving target.  We can’t keep up.

So.  What does it take to be a good teacher?  If you listen to Paul Graham the best teachers have three things in common:

  1. They have high standards. Like three year olds testing their parents, students will test teachers to see if they can get away with low-quality work or bad behavior. They won’t respect the teachers who don’t call them on it.
  2. They liked students. Like dogs, kids can tell very accurately whether or not someone wishes them well. I think a lot of our teachers either never liked kids much, or got burned out and started not to like them. It’s hard to be a good teacher once that happens. I can’t think of one teacher in all the schools I went to who managed to be good despite disliking students.
  3. They were interested in the subject. Most of the public school teachers I had weren’t really interested in what they taught. Enthusiasm is contagious, and so is boredom.


Which comes down to:  

  1. Inspire them to see the world the way you do. 
  2. Teach them to teach themselves.  


I happen to know one woman who is doing that:

Cable in the Classroom Magazine Cover Feb. 2009

“It is difficult to pinpoint the exact moment a student realizes that a project is bigger than him, bigger than the school, so big that it envelops the world at large. When a student realizes that what he is doing makes a difference and affects those outside of class, he changes. He recognizes his personal and professional worth, develops passion for his work, and understands what he can contribute to a team. Those intangible qualities lead to the pivotal moment in the transformation of a student from an individual who simply completes a job to one who understands the connection between the project and the outside world.”



( photo credit: local photographer, Craig Kolhruss )

( full article: Cable in The Classroom, Feb. 2007 )


[ Notes:  Just so everyone is clear, in the original text, where it says “my game design class”, originally read, “the game design class”.  I have proof. ]