Just a great story about a teacher and a student

Physical formulas on seamless blackboardI guess this is the time of year when I am looking for a little inspiration. Writing exams is fun; grading them is not. This is when, as a former colleague once said, you want to call the Provost and demand that your salary be doubled or offer to give it all back.

There is a story in the current Chronicle is a reminder of the difference one teacher can make in the life of one student, a student pre-programmed for failure, destined to drop out. A physics professor invests in a kid with few math skills and little interest or apparent aptitude, et voila! — two stars are born.

From The Chronicle:

But Mr. Khatri was tired of hearing what his pupils lacked, as if squandered potential were all their fault. The professor, then 60, had been around for four decades. After all that time, he had come to question how he taught. The summer program was a chance to try other approaches. He wanted to know if, in the problem he saw, one of the variables was him.

This is a CTE blog, so I feel obligated to close with a teaching tip from the article. It’s pretty basic, but it’s not as easy as it sounds:

Mr. Khatri resolved to “reteach” the basics and reimagine his role in the classroom. In Color-Blind Teaching, a book he and Ms. Hughes wrote, they describe how a teacher, like an actor on stage, should move around, change his tone of voice, make eye contact with students. “If you choose to … treat your students as nameless passengers in a waiting room, or present your message in a monotone,” they wrote, “then you really are a spear-carrier in the drama, not a star.” Calling on all students the same number of times was a form of “equal participation.”

The sermon endeth here, except for one last point: Teaching involves real skills, techniques, effort, and a few tricks, but there’s no substitute for caring about our students as real people. Professor Khatri really gets it.

About Thomas Mayo

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