The teacher who explains something once and says, ‘Got that?’
One child tentatively raises their hand and says, ‘No. Could you explain it again, please?’
A huge sigh and rolling of eyes follows while Sir or Ms erases writing from the board and then explains in the exact same way again.
Is it just me?
If I am in a foreign country and I attempt to speak the language and cannot be understood, is there really any point in saying the same phrase over and over again?
If I want to be understood I have to say something different or find another way of trying to communicate.
Why do some teachers presume that only one way of explaining is sufficient?
I experienced this myself with a particular Chemistry teacher who just could not make the lessons clear. At least, to me. Endlessly wiping the board and writing the same stuff on it did nothing to aid learning and I, for one, gave up. After failing my Higher prelim in spectacular fashion, I decided I could not cope with listening to another lesson that just made no sense to me.
Now, maybe I was just crap at Chemistry but it wasn’t only me who had the problem. A lot of us in that class shook our heads in disbelief as Miss S. attempted to explain alkenes and alkines in the same way for the umpteenth time. I still don’t know the difference. And I don’t care. The need for a knowledge of Chemistry rarely occurs in my life now.
I do care though about the fact that this still goes on. Strangely enough, the subject area is Chemistry yet again. (Maybe I’ve passed on the crap Chemistry gene.)
When my children ask for help with their homework, I’m glad to give it. No, I’m lying. After a day of teaching, the last thing I want to do is more of the same. But I do it because that’s what mums do, right?
Well, the problem for me occurs when the subject area in question is something I know next to nothing about. There’s that bloody Chemistry cropping up again.
If my child’s Chemistry teacher cannot make the subject understandable to the class what chance do I have?
I’ll gladly sit with any of my children and explain the intricacies of fractions – vulgar, decimal and how they relate to percentages. No probs. I’ll explain in every way I know how about nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, pronouns, prepositions and any other grammar or spelling point they need help with. I’ll scrutinise their essays to help them find a better, more understandable, more entertaining way of writing. Hell, I’ll even help them research WWll and that’s been done to death with all of my children and myself as a teacher.
What I absolutely will not do (because I can’t) is try to teach them something I know nothing about. I would just be lying or making it up and that’s no help to anyone although it does prevent you looking like a div in front of your children. But I choose not to do that.
If a subject teacher cannot teach their subject effectively then what are they doing there?
In the case of my own experience with Miss S. I later found out that she was top-notch at her subject. The problem was, she found it all so easy that she just could not see how anyone else had difficulty or where those difficulties might lie.
A number of years ago, a rather fabulous journalist and sometimes agony aunt was reminiscing about her own mum on Mother’s Day. Her mother had been a teacher in a rather elite, private school while said journalist attended the local. A letter home from the school suggested that the mother might like to give some help on a particular subject area. Her mother promptly penned a note to say and I paraphrase.
‘I am paid to teach the children in the school where I work. I presume you are also paid to do the same. Please do so.’