While students sit in class and tirelessly listen to their instructors lecture and scribble down notes, this manner of teaching is only one of many that exist in the teaching world. The thought of how a teacher may direct learning may not mean too much to students presently, but is one of the first stepping stones that lead to future communication skills and future professions. According to US History teacher David Egan, the role his teachers played throughout his high school career had benefits and drawbacks.
“Many of my teachers, or at least in social studies, it was just a job where we would just sit and read the textbook,” Egan said. “And just answer the questions out of the back. It didn’t force me to think or really challenge me.”
As an avid basketball player in high school, Egan professed that academics weren’t as important to him in high school because of his other priorities. The simple procedures that a few of his teachers allowed him to do in the classroom such as busy work and no actual instruction, he preferred this over the more complicated angles of teaching some of his other teachers provided for him.
“In the moment I appreciated that [his teacher’s teaching strategy] because I wasn’t a very academically-driven student,” Egan said. “So those teachers who just had me read the textbook or just fill out worksheets, those weren’t hard, so I actually preferred those kinds of teachers because my priorities were with my social life or with playing basketball.”
Along with his own methods of teaching today, he expresses how integral it is to reach out to every student’s learning needs. Although doing this takes years of experience, he acknowledges how each student comprehends education distinctively.
“Every student is unique, and every student has a learning style or a manner that makes sense for them,” Egan said. “I think that one of the challenges for teachers, and I don’t know that I’m very good at it, is that we really need to try to differentiate and individualize our instruction as much as possible to make sure we’re reaching to all kids.”
One of the many students at RBHS, junior Sydney Cunneen expresses her accustomed choice of learning. Straying away from the norm of structured notes, she prefers media to help her focus on the task at hand.
“I like videos because I pay attention to them,” Cunneen said. “I don’t really like taking notes or taking lectures, I like activities and big presentations.”
She also said that working with her fellow peers allows her to learn more advantageously. When teachers are more stimulated in their teaching, it improves her interest in what is being taught and to pay attention further.
“If they’re really boring then I really don’t pay attention to what they’re teaching me so I don’t learn it,” Cunneen said. “But if they’re enthusiastic about what they’re teaching, then I learn it better because it makes me excited to learn it.”
Realizing what he learned from his previous teachers, Egan admitted that he didn’t learn as much from the teachers that allowed him to work independently out of the book. The teachers that were more invigorated with their thinking and caused their students to ask questions about what they learned, were the ones that have positively impacted the way he teaches today.
“Looking back on it now, now that I’m in the profession,” Egan said, “it’s made me realize that the teachers I didn’t like in the moment because they made me work hard and they challenged me were the best teachers I ever had.”
The act of focusing on a certain kind of teaching appeals to senior Zach Watson. Making sure that they work with him to help him configure the problems, he explained why one on one work is an essential element in learning.
“It probably impacts me a lot [how teachers teach] and whether they teach visually or orally,” Watson said, “Or make you actually practice it. If they just like talk about it I probably won’t remember anything they talked about. But if they write it on the board or actually make you write it down, or make you do the problem, it helps a lot.”
Learning basic fundamentals is something that is taught in elementary and middle school provides important skills that are integral to trades such as reading, spelling and writing. Watson believes that most of what he gained from his education was earlier in life.
“I don’t say [that I’ve learned as much] as middle school because they taught you communication skills and how to interact,” Watson said. “But I don’t think teachers right now play a huge part, I think that was more in the earlier years of school.”
Although learning today is similar to Cunneen and Watson, this form of teaching wasn’t always how students were educated. In the 80’s, teachers were strict and directed instruction at all times leaving little to no room for personalization to students’ learning needs.
“It was lecture, directed instruction and a lot of lecture assessments,” Social Studies teacher Chris Fischer said. “There was no formative process, so if you messed something up you were just out of luck.”
Even though the structure of teaching that Fischer endured wasn’t an easy one, he admired the persistence that his teachers withheld. The duty required by his teachers were to do their absolute best to make sure that the students got paramount grades and to build relationships with them as well.
“You could always tell that [my teachers] had their best interest in mind,” Fischer said. “My science teacher, who was our student council representative, every waking moment was his students, so he was pretty inspiring.”
Along with teachers and their anticipation that their students should possess exceptional grades, the relationship that is built between the two is just as important to Fischer. His connection with his previous teachers have encouraged him to understand his students more and to constitute fondness towards his own pupils.
“My football coaches were inspiring and you knew that they always had your best interest in mind and really cared about you,” Fischer said. “And I think that’s probably the one thing I would take from that experience was that I think it’s more than just teaching content and teaching skills, but trying to reaffirm the relationship you have with students.”
By Luke Wyrick
What is your favorite way to learn?