My thoughts about teaching and learning have come a long way since I first thought about being a teacher. I used to think that it was most important for me to know what I wanted to teach and how to deliver that instruction. While I believe that’s still important, I also know that it is critical for instruction to be delivered so that students can learn it. The driving factor when planning instruction has to be how will we know that each of our students has learned what we are teaching.
Throughout my years as both a general and special education teacher and administrator I have worked closely with students, teachers and families to provide a learning environment that meets the needs of our children, as learners. As I shared with parents at each yearly Back-to-School Night, there are four questions that each teacher must answer when planning their lessons:
- What is it that we want to teach?
- How will we know our students have learned the information?
- What will we do if they know it already, and
- What will we do if they have not learned it yet?
The other constant messages that must be delivered to all students, no matter where they are in the learning process, is that what we are doing is important; that they can do it; and that we are here to help them.
As an administrator for almost 20 years and now as an Educational Consultant for My Learning Springboard in the Washington, DC and Bethesda, Maryland area, I have always remained committed to providing our teachers and our tutors with the materials and support they need so that they can focus on what they do best – providing our students with the optimal learning experience and environment.
If we cannot meet our learners where they are, we cannot help them learn. An essential ingredient to being able to do this is to understand that each student has a different learning style and that the master teacher or tutor must have a wide repertoire of strategies and know how and when to use them.
I believe that we can teach our students to be smart. It’s not just something they are born knowing. As author and management specialist Peter Drucker said, “We now accept the fact that learning is a lifelong process of keeping abreast of change. And the most pressing task is to teach people how to learn.”