Posts Tagged ‘habits of good teachers


The Mythbuster Philosophy of Education: Failure is always an option.

Pop culture does teachers few favors. Most teachers on television are either boring busybodies who lecture ad nauseum (think Ben Stein’s character in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off) or energetic zealots who inspire students to learn through sheer force of charisma (Robin Williams in Dead Poet’s Society.) Perhaps I’m naive, but I think a lot of new teachers go through a stage where they feel like developing their own teaching style consists of finding a way to lecture without putting students to sleep and inspire without telling students to ritually sacrifice the introductions of their text books. I say this because in the beginning of my teaching career, I felt like I was navigating this dilemma: how do I deliver content while still being interesting?

The longer I teach, the more I realize that neither of these models is anything to emulate. Lecturing as the sole means for delivering content is a bit like trying to build a sandcastle by tossing mud at a pile of dirt at twenty paces: some of it sticks, some misses the target, but most washes away in the next tide. Charisma is nice to have and can certainly be a tool, but it only gets you so far; without a solid structure to the lesson being taught, you’re not maximizing your assets.

That’s why the best teachers on television are on the show Mythbusters, and if you’re looking for a philosophy of education to emulate, they offer a lot.

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Continue reading ‘The Mythbuster Philosophy of Education: Failure is always an option.’


What Mario knows that you don’t: Video games and assignment design

Back when video games came in cartridges and video stores existed, I rented a Nintendo game only to get home and find the instruction booklet was missing. Without that booklet, the game was unplayable. Random button mashing did not result in any productive action from my avatar, and I kept dying on the second screen.

Video games no longer require cartridges, and now it looks like they no longer require printed instruction manuals either. At least that’s the thought of Electronic Arts (EA), the gaming company responsible for many popular games, including the Madden football games. Last month, EA announced that they’d no longer include printed instruction manuals in video games. EA’s decision follows Ubisoft’s strategy who made the same decision to go manual-free last year.

While I’m sure that environmentalists will appreciate the trees that will be saved, this news should have more of an impact on teachers. What the video game industry has provided for us is a referendum on how our students acquire necessary skills and stay engaged in learning.

The lesson of EA and Ubisoft is that we could do a lot better. Continue reading ‘What Mario knows that you don’t: Video games and assignment design’


Motivating students – when “giving a sh*t” meets the “oh sh*t” moment

Think about the students you have the most difficult time dealing with. Plagiarists. The back row slouchers. The grade grubbers who complain their A- is not an A. In-class texters. The sleepers who are dead to the world. Know-it-alls who insult other students with in-class comments and then don’t listen to the rest of the class. The smart kid who won’t say a peep in class but then complains about their class participation. The student who wants you to tell you exactly how you want the paper. The student who writes that you are impossible to please on the end-of-class evaluations. We all have them. Some educators take the approach of taking pleasure in these students’ failures, saying that these students deserve to fail. And maybe they do. But sometimes they need motivation. Or more importantly, a way to tap into their own motivation and keep it charged. Continue reading ‘Motivating students – when “giving a sh*t” meets the “oh sh*t” moment’

Good Writer, Bad Writer

Good writer, bad writer reflects the philosophy behind the first writing lesson I attempt to teach students. Too many of them come into college believing that their writing abilities are set in stone. The bad writers continue to struggle, and the good writers don't take enough risks in their writing, figuring that any misstep will throw them back into the "bad writer" category.

Good writer, bad writer is my attempt to break the power of that dichotomy. On here, I share the lessons and attitudes that I teach, but I also talk about the attitudes I have towards my own writing since many of those have informed my own teaching. Thanks for visiting.

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