Thursday, February 7, 2008

Continuing the thought

Wendy, I am glad you brought up George Hall, because he is the perfect embodiment of the single quality I find most indispensable in a teacher: respect. As I think back - hankie at the ready to catch the stray tear - I can see that the common trait of the worst teachers I ever endured was their complete lack of respect for the individual student. The great teachers, the ones who made you hunger to learn regardless of their field, had in abundance the passion, humor, and connection you talk about plus - or perhaps first and foremost - a profound respect for the student.

It is this respect that allows the great instructor to listen, to carefully observe, to treat each student as a unique and infinitely valuable human being rather than as a case, a type, a capita, or a regrettable nuisance.

That's the Holy Grail of Teaching.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Back to School...

Laurel and I are getting ready to teach a series of workshops which brings to mind all the teachers who have influenced me over the course of my life. Some for good and some for slightly less good, but all of them have certainly had a role in shaping my own behavior as an instructor.

Sometimes it feels as if the negative experiences loom larger… The Elementary school PE teacher who said that I’d never succeed in life, or have any friends if I was not good at sports (I am happy to report that my inability to play a proper game of kickball has in no way hampered my career prospects or my ability to sustain long term relationships.)… The acting teacher at an august drama school who abused and hounded one of my classmates until she dropped out of school before the end of the first month … The teacher at a music camp who seemed to feel that abject public humiliation was the surest route to musical success… From these people I learned the words and actions of a moment can take a lifetime to undo, and that meanness does not equal greatness. Fortunately, I have had many good and even great teachers. While all bad teachers seemed to be unique in their tourtures, the good ones always have several attributes in common.

Connection: There is nothing more wonderful that a teacher who can connect with each student on an individual level.

Passion: An instructor with a real love of their subject can make all the difference between loving a class and hating it.

A Sense of Humor: Okay, if I were completely honest this would be at the top of my list. one of the most wonderful teachers I know, George Hall, told me that Judy Dench once said that she could not work on a set where there was no laughter. I think a classroom should be the same way. There’s nothing to be gained by unremitting gloom.

I could make a list that goes far beyond this, but it’s time for my partner in crime Laurel to weigh in on the matter. We’d like to hear what you think too! Tell us about your most influential moments in the classroom. If you could create the perfect learning environment with the perfect instructor what would that be like? Let’s get the conversation started…