> : >Given the (admittedly unpleasant) choice between a teacher who >:> knows his subject but isn't very good at imparting it and one who >:> could teach it splendidly if only he knew it, which would you >:> choose?
> : What was his secret? Simple, he knew how to teach. By this I >: mean, even if he didn't know the answer to something he knew >: how to get it or help a student find it.
> I agree with you. But, keep in mind that the person you describe is > a rare bird, definitely the exception.
What this science teacher was was someone who understood the nature of learning; who had learned how to use the research tools of his discipline and knew that students who are mentally engaged learn more. I was reminded of this yesterday when I overheard two of my students talking. The conversation went something like this: #1: I'm really glad Mrs. young said we were through writing responses to prompts. Writing a paper every week has really been hard.
#2: Yeah, but I hope that doesn't mean she's going to show movies or give out worksheets. I was really bored watching that movie on the Crusades.
#1: No duh! I'd rather do the prompts. At least You have to think about what you're doing.
The "prompts" they refer to are writing prompts which set the scene for a short essay response about the history we have been studying. Our course of study begins with the fall of the Roman Empire and ends with Age of Exploration. Below is a sample prompt from a series of six prompts about African history which take students on a caravan trip from Marakesch to Timbuktu and from Timbuktu on a pilgrimage with Mansa Musa to Cairo and Kilwa.
"You are about to start the most dangerous portion of your 500 mile journey between Taghaza and Walata. As your Caravan moves along, you take this opportunity to learn abut the Sahara Desert. Briefly tell the history of the Sahara. Explain how sanddunes form and move (you might want to include an illustration of these actions). Tell what an oasis town might look like. Explain why caravans travel at night.
Just as you are about to ask Ibn Battutah about sandstorms, he grabs your camel's harness and pulls you to the ground. You are about to find out for yourself what sandstorms are like. As soon as you recover from the storm, write a description of your experience."
I expect a reasoned, researched two-three page paper from my students. Nearly all of my students turn them in.