Saturday, November 14, 2009


Over at A Difference by Darren Kuropatwa there was discussion that was similar to my recent post of Learning Now. At least it reminded me of that post.  
Darren talks about reading George Polya’s 10 Commandments for Teachers and how that has affected his teaching. 
In chapter 14 of Mathematical Discovery Polya lists his Ten Commandments For Teachers. They have been a guiding light for me as a teacher since I first read them.
1. Be interested in your subject.
2. Know your subject.
3. Know about the ways of learning: The best way to learn anything is to discover it by yourself.
4. Try to read the faces of your students, try to see their expectations and difficulties, put yourself in their place.
5. Give them not only information, but "know-how," attitudes of mind, the habit of methodical work.
6. Let them learn guessing.
7. Let them learn proving.
8. Look out for such features of the problem at hand as may be useful in solving the problems to come — try to disclose the general pattern that lies behind the present concrete situation.
9. Do not give away your whole secret at once — let the students guess before you tell it — let them find out by themselves as much as is feasible.
10. Suggest it, do not force it down their throats.
Darren continues
Polya identifies the single most powerful and infallible teaching method: "If the teacher is bored by what he is teaching it is a certainty that all his students will be too." I believe the inverse is also true: If a teacher is interested in what they are teaching their students will be too. Actually, "interest" by itself may not be enough; passion is a virus. There is a contagion in passion that can be passed on. I would rewrite Polya's first commandment as: "Be passionate about your subject." If you can't do that then I guess interest will have to do but if you don't have even that, do something else.
Passion for teaching is very important. Passion for learning is very important. Teachers must show a passion for what they are teaching. 

When students see that teachers are passionate about their subject, passionate about learning, then the students will see a reason to learn.

Teachers who are passionate about learning do not always get every page of the curriculum finished, but their students can carry on the learning on their own, for the rest of their lives.

Rather than making good marks on a true-false/multiple choice test at the end of each grade, students progress should be measured by how well they know how to learn, how well they can compete for the job that they have a passion for, how well they can convey that passion to their customers when they have that job.  These are true measures of learning and value.  We are not trying to prepare our students of the 21st century to be able to spout facts verbatim when asked.  We are preparing them for their futures, their lives, their livelihoods. 

If we, as teachers, can ignite a passion in our students to learn, to know how to learn, to know when it is necessary to learn more, we have succeeded as teachers, no matter what the test scores say.
How do you show
your passion for life,
for learning, and for teaching
so that your students know
its importance
in their own lives?
[As always, in my author quotes, the underlines, color changes, and bold type is mine, not the author’s!]

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