As I’ve mentioned in many blog posts, I struggled a lot in my first years as a teacher. I began my teaching career at a time when schools were desperate for math teachers. I got an emergency credential and was allowed to teach before ever taking an education class or doing any student teaching.
I really had no business being in a classroom, and I basically replicated the same troubling experiences I remembered from being a student over the previous decade: the teacher lectures and the students repeat what they heard. I’m not proud of it, but it’s where I came from and it helps me realize how far I’ve come.
When I look back and think about moments that helped me fundamentally change my teaching philosophy, reading the article Never Say Anything A Kid Can Say by Steve Reinhart is near the top of the list. It woke me to possibilities I had not considered. It painted a picture of what a classroom could be, which was not the classroom I had. Even almost two decades later, the strategies he shares still ring true.
So, this blog post is basically a short love letter of the reasons why I treasure his article and why I think everyone should read it (though I’m guessing many of you have already read it and love it too).
- What struck me first was that he writes like he’s one of us, not our superior. He talked about his struggles, his realizations, and his quest to be better. He said things like “Making changes in instruction proved difficult because I had to learn to teach in ways that I had never observed or experienced.” Wow! That statement is just as true in 2019 as it was in 2000! Thinking about it now, he probably inspired me to be transparent when talking about my own struggles because the way he wrote made me feel normal for not having it all figured out. Remember that this was published in 2000, which was a time before most educational blogs when the only things that seemed to get published were success stories and not struggles.
- He succinctly articulated a massive paradigm shift when he said “My definition of a good teacher has since changed from ‘one who explains things so well that students understand’ to ‘one who gets students to explain things so well that they can be understood.'” When I read that I totally knew he was right and that it would take a lot of work to accomplish.
- He shared five straight-forward steps for making this happen (I’m only sharing the names of the steps so you’ll have to read his brilliant article for details)
- Never say anything a kid can say!
- Ask good questions.
- Use more process questions than product questions.
- Replace lectures with sets of questions.
- Be patient
- He was a huge proponent of think-pair-share. If you’ve ever seen me work with students or teachers, you’ll know that strategy plays a huge role in my teaching. I can’t remember if I learned it from him, but it certainly made me use it more.
- He introduced me to the idea of a “warm call” where you prep a student for being a part of the conversation. He said, “Asking a shy, quiet student a question when I know that he or she has a good response is a great strategy for building confidence and self-esteem. Frequently, I alert the student ahead of time: ‘That’s a great idea. I’d really like you to share that with the class in a few minutes.'”
What part of the article resonated with you? Did it make an impact in your career too?. Please let me know in the comments.