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July 17, 2010 / Brent Sears

What Great Teachers Do!

I came across this idea the other day about the two types of classed you can take:

Type 1. You can take a class where you learn technique, facts and procedures.

Type 2. You can take a class where you learn to see, learn to lead and learn to solve interesting problems.

Every great teacher, and I mean every single one, taught me the first type, but they all changed my life by masterfully employing the second type.  I will use Hopkins as the first example, but in the coming days I will be weaving these ideas through other stories.

Most of what we learned in Psychology of the Exceptional Child was techniques, fact, and procedure on how to instruct children and adults in special education: see Dr Bill’s Place for all that.  Everyday there were multiple examples of techniques that had been successfully employed by world-leading researchers, teachers, and parents with no academic credentials.  I still remember the woman with Down’s Syndrome who could type faster, and more accurately, than any other human being I have ever seen.

Bill taught us to see the world of people with special needs.  The situations were always real, never canned or looked at from a distance.  It wasn’t about the tests; it was about the journey.  It was about taking a guided tour through life, education, and the challenges that people face everyday.  It was about digging deep, looking at hard questions, and finding solutions to complex problems.

Trying to write about what makes a class the second type is far more difficult than writing about the first type.  It is easy to measure test scores, essays, and homework assignments; but it’s hard to grade emotional connection, passion, and what exactly it is that makes a class remarkable.  But the answer is simple; it was a great teacher/person/guide/researcher/mentor.  Thanks Bill!!!


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