From the Teacher’s Desk

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Teaching/learning concepts

Over a 27-year teaching career, I’ve seen many instructional patterns, or theories of education, come and, in some cases, go.

Take for example the innovative program called ‘inventive spelling’ that achieved notoriety about 20 years ago under the umbrella of the whole language approach to literacy development. The proponents of this principle of pedagogy suggested if students of LA in the early grades came up with an approximate spelling of a word then that was okay.

Their key concern, from the way I saw it, was these aspiring writers would be able to write cogent sentences and paragraphs without being slowed down by fussing over the correct spelling of a word.

I can still remember seeing the joy on some of the students’ faces as they frolicked in the reverie of writing outside the constraints of exact word spelling. (I didn’t quite notice many of their teachers smiling though).

I can also still recall the consternation on the faces of some of those students and their parents a few years later when the short-lived thrill of inventive spelling had passed its due date – at least in their estimation.

At that time the demands of high school English teachers, who apparently had not gotten (or paid no attention to) the memo on this fledgling program, ran afoul of the teetering confidence of the subjects of this experiment in learning.

In the past 10-15 years there’s been a shift towards concepts called ‘differentiated instruction’ and ‘brain-based learning’ – to name just two. Based on the wealth of research and successful classroom practice that has gone into these ideas, it’s safe to say their merit as teaching philosophies is above reproach.

Both of these learning strategies are an attempt by teachers to better engage their students, while at the same time addressing their individual needs as learners.

"When patterns are broken, new worlds emerge." – Tuli Kupferberg

Nowadays, with all the information available to educators about reaching students through a better understanding of their learning styles, combined with increased teacher and student access to technology, like Smart Boards and the Internet, the classroom experience has taken on new significance.

In the virtual learning environment, where I’ve been teaching for the past few years, it seems like on a weekly basis there is some new teaching tool clamouring for my attention. That’s exciting!

It’s a real thrill at this point in my career to take the foundation of over 20 years in the traditional classroom, and infuse that knowledge with cutting edge technologies, like Moodle, blogs and glogs, QuizStar, elive, and Wikis.

Also, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Twitter. What an amazing facet of social media that is!

By tapping into, or following, a number of key educators around the globe, I’ve been blessed with a constant flow of information to pick and choose from to improve my teaching practice.

When I consider what an interesting and exciting time it is to be a teacher, I’m reminded of the wise words of Abraham Lincoln. (With all due respect to the former U.S. President, I’ve qualified in brackets his use of the word ‘stormy’.)

“The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy (innovative and inspiring) present.”

Organizations: Smart Boards

Geographic location: U.S.

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