Journal of Secondary Alternate Education
Column: Lukiv's "Place" for Educators to Think About Teaching
Previous column: http://journalsecondaryalternateeducation.20m.com/blank_2.html
Principles of Instruction (from The Master Teacher. [2001.]
All methods I use as a teacher spring from my principles of instruction. I don't use methods, or theories, for that matter, simply because someone says they're terrific, or because someone is parading them on a bandwagon through professional development days or staff meetings. Some in The Quesnel School District have frequently paraded William Glasser's Choice Theory through such days and meetings over a couple of decades. I don't blindly follow trends. I use methods according to what I perceive as the educational and socio-emotional needs of my students--methods that my principles of instruction, which are based on my experience, tell me will work. I am suspicious of bandwagon approaches because they often don't address individual needs of all students; however, Choice Theory often does address such needs, and when it does I adopt Glasser's ideas.
I am, I'd like to add, suspicious of the term learning disabled. "This student is learning disabled," a teacher will say. Not necessarily. Perhaps the student needs a particular method of instruction that teachers haven't provided. From that point of view, the student isn't learning disabled, but rather his or her teachers are teaching disabled by not using appropriate methods of instruction.
My focus, then, is student-centered. A world of great stresses due to technology shock (accelerating technological advance), family dysfunction, uncertain futures due to the threat of global annihilation, the threat of never obtaining employment beyond minimum wage, the threat of illness due to a witches' brew of toxins that mankind has ingeniously (?) designed, and problems with peers, teachers, and assignments create, at times, mind-numbing turmoil for students. Teachers need to be aware of that, and need to apply principles of instruction that help students feel worthy and be productive in spite of their stresses and problems. Here are principles of instruction that I apply to help me help my students:
1. I choose methods that my experience says will work on an individual basis according to what I perceive as the educational and socio-emotional needs of each student.
2. I choose methods that show respect and concern for, and that value, the student, reinforcing for the student that his or her individuality and learning style, providing they don't encroach of the rights of others, are important.
3. I choose methods that adequately prepare a student for his or her career path. If that means providing a rigorous learning experience that enables a student to score high on government exams, so that he or she may enter a prestigious university, then I provide such.
4. I choose methods that allow for negotiation between myself and student and that keep the dignity of both intact.
5. I choose methods that enable the student to acquire skills as a lifelong learner.
Every so often, I re-look at my principles, and tinker with them. I make changes as society changes, the needs of students change, and my knowledge increases. I do that to present myself with the best direction as a teacher that I can muster. The list could look different next year. Maybe you have suggestions that will improve my list. If you do, by all means send them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.