Fundamentals of Teaching

The fundamentals of teaching in today’s classrooms haven’t changed enough, in part because the tools and the learning environment haven’t changed enough. When computer labs were the newest and latest learning settings, most lab computers were put into rows, or faced the outer walls. In rows, teachers couldn’t see the screens, but could see the students, and against the walls, the screens were visible, but student backs faced the teacher. Look in classrooms, today, and you’ll see students, who are lucky enough to have individual computing devices and handhelds—still sitting in rows, and most of those computer labs look exactly the same as in the last century. Sitting in rows, or student backs to teachers and other classmates isn’t a fundamental of learning.

The majority of pre-service educators, who haven’t had the proper education in how to teach using technology—today’s tools, or understand the necessity of letting students lead tech-based lessons is overwhelmingly huge. These bright and open-minded young educators, when they land a teaching job, are really left to whomever, and whatever the mentoring program is within a school or district. Many times that ends up being what amounts to “things we don’t do in this district or school” mentoring. The thing is, no matter how much training, or experience a mentor has, very few are prepared to offer the kind of support needed for a new teacher today. The mentoring usually turns into classroom management 101, rather than teaching for the new learning environment and for students of a social media world.

If a new educator’s mentor doesn’t use the latest and best teaching and learning tools, and today, that means technology-based solutions, chances are his/her students don’t either. A fundamental of teaching today should be that all teacher mentors need to be instructional technology knowledgeable, and demonstrate that in lessons with students. They don’t have to be experts or instructional technology specialists, but they need to be competent in today’s teaching and learning tools. Additionally, every mentor should have an understanding of the new learning space, no matter what the physical classrooms at school, or in-district look like. If need be, mentoring teams should be created if all the fundamental skills haven’t been mastered by one mentor. At least, then, there would be a better chance new educators receive more of what’s needed today. Classroom management 101 can’t be the only mentoring goal. If students are engaged in their own learning—and education technology is a good way to get there—student engagement will help take care of a great deal of classroom management. Educating new teachers for today by mentoring with new skills is fundamental, especially during the first few years of teaching. We may keep more new teachers in the profession that way.

Teachers walking into classrooms each day have a great deal on their minds about just getting through the day, and that’s a fundamental that won’t change. But educators need to add another fundamental, which includes looking outside the four classroom walls to think and teach globally. It is almost embarrassing how few educators in the United States really think and teach globally, as compared to their colleagues and counterparts around the world. Educators, who don’t bring the world into their classrooms—to their students—and in turn introduce their students to the world—are doing a disservice to their students. Teaching beyond locally and learning beyond locally is a must. Parallel studies with classrooms in places around the world are great ways to start. Having global connections in every classroom should be a teaching and learning fundamental. There are so many instructional technology solutions for doing this, easily, today. A global classroom initiative should be a major discussion at large district meetings, too, and at ongoing faculty meeting discussion, led by school leaders, teachers, students, and even parents. Thinking and teaching globally should be a teaching and learning fundamental, and should be important to the entire school community. Make this a fundamental.

Ken Royal

Ken Royal is an educator with 34 years of classroom/school and instructional technology teaching experience, as well as a blogger on all things education and education technology. Teaching accomplishments include: 4-time district teacher of the year, Connecticut Middle School Teacher of the Year, as well as Bill and Melinda Gates award for Technology School of Excellence. He is an Education storyteller. Follow @KenRoyal on Twitter.
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