The Dancing Puritan

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Preparedness: Key Quality of the Powerful Teacher



As a pastor, itinerant conference speaker, writer, and seminary student, I spend most of my time either preparing to teach or actually teaching.

Today I read an excellent piece by Rob Jenkins, "The 4 Properties of Powerful Teachers." Jenkins is an associate professor of English at Georgia Perimeter College. Writing about his experiences as a faculty member for 30 years, Jenkins argues:
Those experiences have led me to conclude that, when we boil down all the metrics, we’re left with four qualities that all powerful teachers possess. I’m not just talking about adequate, effective, or even good teachers. I’m talking about the ones who most move us, who have made the most difference in our lives, and whom we most wish to emulate. Perhaps we can’t all be that kind of teacher, but I suspect many of us at least aspire to be. 
Personality, Presence, Preparedness, and Passion.

All of Jenkins' points are excellent, but I want to focus on preparedness. According to Jenkins the foundation of a teacher's preparedness is rooted in his advanced degree. The advanced degree should serve the teacher well in his day-to-day teaching. It is the water-in-the-well that provides the teacher with essential foundational knowledge.

However, water that ponds up is stagnant and teachers, to be excellent, must be fresh. The water needs stirring.

Jenkins offers several points of consideration that, when followed, will help the teacher to become a powerful teacher. If the advanced degree serves as long-term preparation for the teacher: What does the teacher need in the medium term? The powerful teacher needs to be robustly engaged in continuing education. There are several continuing education examples that Jenkins offers (my comments follows them):

Reading: Teachers need to read extensively in their field. Excellent teachers want to know everything that they can know, in the time that they have, about the subject that they are most passionate about.

Attending Conferences and Seminars: Conferences and seminars provide a personal dynamic that reading cannot. Attending an excellent conference led by passionate teachers, inspires, informs, and provides an instructive model. Sadly many pastors seldom (or never) attend conferences and/or many churches never provide them opportunities to attend conferences.

Conducting and Presenting Your Own Research. The joy of discover in research is invigorating for a teacher. It is one thing (a necessary thing) to read the research of others. It is another thing to dig into foundational source material and come to your own conclusions about your topic. When you present (verbally and/or in print) you grow in knowledge, in your skill as a teacher, and in your ability to help your students.

Continue to Learn and Grow as a Teacher. We have all met the teacher who has stopped growing. Well, don't be that teacher. It is not only important to learn all that you can about your field of study but to also learn all that you can about teaching.

A short-term requirement that Jenkins offers for powerful teaching: "Go to every single class meeting as prepared as you can be, given the time you have."

Do you "go to every single class meeting as prepared as you can be, given the time you have?" Teaching is a stewardship. Your students will forgive you for your out-of-style hair, and your lack of knowledge about Taylor Swift's transition from Nashville to New York, but they will not forgive you for wasting their time.