Educator Jeffrey Benson wants you to know that the best lifelong teaching practices are the simplest ones. They’re the ones that stand the test of time for every student and every teacher.
He knows learners and learning well, having worked in his 35 years as an educator in everything from elementary schools to graduate programs. That’s why his TeachThought article Keep It Simple: Do These 4 Things Every Time You Teach is worth a look. He suggests 4 lifelong teaching practices that work with every student, even our most challenging and vulnerable ones.
Different learners mean different learning styles and varying thresholds of engagement. This is an experience that happens in every classroom when learning begins. As such, Jeffrey advises that the key is to provide direction and opportunity for all learners from the onset:
“It happens a million times a day in schools: a teacher starts a lesson. The strong students seize on the new learning opportunity. Typical students figure out enough of what they have to do to succeed. But students who struggle in school may flare up, or shut down, at this critical juncture … there are many unpredictable ways your new lesson can trigger an old wound in a challenging student. Teachers can reduce those sudden negative reactions by planning to provide directions in four ways.”
Jeffrey’s 4 lifelong teaching practices focus on the key areas of understanding, clarity, empathy, and practicality. We provided a summary of each one is below. Additionally, you should read Jeffrey’s article on TeachThought for more of his insights into employing these 4 lifelong teaching practices in your classroom.
4 Lifelong Teaching Practices for Every Teacher
- Help them understand ‘why’—One of our students’ most frequent questions is, “Why do I need to learn this?” Interest always precedes learning, and relevance to the student pretty much guarantees that. Our students merely want us to be honest with them when we explain how the learning benefits them. They especially want to know why you’re excited about exploring the topic with them.
- Make what’s important clear & and what’s clear important—Lifelong teaching practices still include the basics, even in our complex and transformational age. This means making direction clear, but leaving out just enough to encourage students to question and to think independently. Jeffrey describes it this way:
“For many students with processing weaknesses, words are like helium balloons that float away if they are not quickly tied down, so tie down those directions! I embellish mine with very primitive stick figures, arrows, balloons, and underlining. My students smile at me and pay attention.”
- Make sure you know what it’s like to do the task—Showing students that you understand both the processes and the inherent challenges of a task demonstrates two important things. First, it shows that you were once a learner yourself and still are in many ways. Second, it confirms that you’re not asking them to do anything that you couldn’t do yourself.
- Provide a model of a finished product done well—”Too often,” Jeffrey says, “students do not know what we want from them. Most adults, when assembling a piece of furniture, continually refer back to the picture on the box.” With a clear picture of what a sample project or assignment would look like, you eliminate much of the guesswork for students. This translates to higher productivity and a greater consistency in the projects that aligns with your determined criteria for assessment.
Learn more about Jeffrey’s 4 simple lifelong teaching practices here at TeachThought.