Thursday, June 23, 2016

What About Teaching Like a Teacher?

So many books out there for teachers to read... So many blogs to follow... So many Twitter chats to attend and tweeting educators to follow. And it seems that there's tons of advice about how to teach better, much of it advising us to be unlike what we are.

My first experience with this was Rafe Esquith's book Teach Like Your Hair's on Fire. I had a positive impression of this book and of this man when I finished, but at the same time, I remember thinking that much of what he advocated would be frowned upon in many schools. Alas, I believe he has retired under pressure, or was being investigated for his methods, or that some kind of brouhaha was going on.

Next there came Teach Like a Champion. I avoided this book for well over a year basically because I don't like sports analogies. I'm an English teacher, and an author, and I take pride in being a bookworm, a bibliophile, and a sesquipedalian. I don't need to be a champion; I need to be the professorial, yet engaging, teacher that I am. However, I read this book, and now I recommend it to many teacher with whom I work, mainly because it focuses quite a bit on how to conduct effective classroom discussions - and I see so many educators who need this kind of support.

Now there's Teach Like a Pirate. This book is on my Kindle, but I've yet to open it. Again, the name is part of what's putting me off. Why teach like a pirate? What if I don't particularly care for pirates? I've not seen one of the Johnny Depp pirate movies. I've never been on any pirate-themed excursion. I could care less when it's Talk Like a Pirate Day. This book is big with my Twitter friends, and I even follow the author (and his wife) on Twitter. But I still can't bring myself to read the book.

Why can't we just teach like teachers, darn it? What's wrong with that? What have the best teachers always done? Well, they've been passionate, both about their subject matter and their students. They've been engaging. Great teachers compel you to join in. And they've been models of what lifelong inquirers and lifelong learners are. They don't get complacent. They continue to learn and grow and share themselves with others. They also push you to be better today than you were yesterday. They believe in the power of continuous improvement.

I don't need to set my hair on fire, or be a champion, or emulate a pirate. I just need to be me. And being me helps me be the best teacher I can be.