Good teaching is good teaching.
Whether one discusses Macbeth, The Doppler Effect, or first grade reading rudiments, one knows that there are approaches to successful teaching which are timeless. Over the decades, I have managed to codify my approach to teaching into eleven “pretty good rules.” I didn’t read them in a book or copy and paste from Wikipedia. They are what, I believe, any good teacher knows to be true. I just wrote them down. Here they are.
1.) There is absolutely no substitute for subject matter expertise, excellent preparation, and contagious enthusiasm. None.
2.) One must like children and young adults. If kids are going to be the enemy, then find another profession.
3.) One must believe deep within his or her heart that every child can learn. While all students are not equal academically, each deserves an equal opportunity and access to an education.
4.) Self-esteem cannot be conferred. Students need to earn their grades and accomplishments while finding good reason to be proud of an individual effort. Good teachers find ways for students to be successful beyond paper and pencil or test and iPad.
5.) One must come to class prepared every day. Students can immediately sense if the teacher doesn’t know what he or she is doing. It can be like sharks to blood. Do not voluntarily be a part of the lower food chain.
6.) The best discipline plan is an excellent lesson plan with built-in contingencies.
7.) One must be fair, firm, and friendly. It is not necessary for a teacher to be a buddy. A pleasant, vibrant, non-confrontational atmosphere is always highly conducive to learning.
8.) Always remember that the class you teach may not be the most important thing in a student’s life that day. Keep things in rational perspective. Your genuine demonstration of concern and kindness may be the only positive reinforcement that child receives. It never hurts to smile on purpose.
9.) Personally, I want my students to look forward to coming to class every day and to expect the unexpected. It should be cool to be in math, or physics, or history, or music, or journalism. I placed a big fluffy welcome mat in front of my classroom door and meant it.
10.) It is important for you to be both human and humane to your students. Always ask yourself at the end of a long day, “Would I have wanted to be in my own class?” If not, then don’t be so hard on your kids if they do not respond as you wished. Fix things and do better.
11.) Teaching is all about making connections with other human beings, many of whom happen to be assigned to your classroom. We are not just information dispensers and test preparation technicians. We are professionals. We are teachers.
I never regretted for a moment choosing teaching as my life’s work. Although many teachers harbor lingering concerns about personal economics, there are rewards in education which defy the legers of finance. They are, as we all know, the “million-dollar bonuses” which sometimes drop into our lives.
Several years ago my wife, Donna, and I were eating brunch with friends at a favorite local restaurant when the waitress approached and said, “Which of you is Mr. Hansen?” I immediately thought, “Oh gosh, what have I done now?” I could envision my car illegally parked and now being violently dragged away by the giant truck from Zebo’s Crush It and Bury It Towing Service.
Instead, she said a patron who had left a few minutes earlier wanted to convey to me that I was a teacher who had changed his life for the better and that he was eternally grateful. Slightly embarrassed and pretending I had something in my eye, I said, “Thank you” and mentally cashed one of those million-dollar bonus checks a teacher sometimes receives.
Teaching is still a great profession.
Del Hansen is retired from teaching math and physics at the high school level, but has also taught at NMSU and Clovis Community College. He has been a high school assistant principal and a gifted facilitator and currently teaches music history to senior citizens in Las Cruces. Del resides in Las Cruces with his wife, Donna McCoskey-Hansen, while volunteering as an evaluator with Golden Apple. He recently has been accepted as a member of the Golden Apple Academy.