Tuesday, November 12, 2013

THE TEN COMMANDMENTS OF TEACHING


As some of you might know, about five years ago I cofounded the website www.CPAreviewforFREE.com.   Since that time, we have provided CPA exam candidates with 2,400 free questions and answers which are (in my opinion) well written and well explained.  We do this because we firmly believe that everyone needs access to affordable materials so that they have a reasonable opportunity of passing the CPA exam.  The CPA profession should be open to all people, even those who cannot afford expensive study guides and review materials.  Over the years, many candidates have passed the exam solely using our questions and answers.  These are often young people with very limited resources.   These are the kinds of folks who keep the profession fresh, active, and innovative.

We have been searching for some way to fund this site so that we can continue to offer this assistance for free.   Over the last couple of months, I have been writing an entire book on Achieving Success.   I am thrilled with the way it has turned out – even better than I had hoped.   We will publish the book in January or February for under $10 (with proceeds going to support www.CPAreviewforFREE.com).   

More information will be available soon but I wanted to get this book on your radar.  It is intended as a guide for anyone who wants to become more successful:   more successful in school, more successful at work, more successful on tests, and just more successful in life.   You can never be successful 100 percent of the time but you can certainly increase the odds for success by adopting logical (and reasonable) strategies.   Success does not happen by accident.

When the book is published in early 2014, I hope you will consider buying a copy and telling your friends, neighbors, relatives, enemies, and anyone else you encounter all about it.   You will be helping us continue our mission AND I hope that my thoughts on achieving success will prove to be beneficial.
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I was in San Francisco a few days ago on business and had some time to waste.   So, I wandered around the city and played one of my favorite games.   In this game, I assume that I am a rich business owner who has an unlimited number of jobs to fill.   I need one of everything:   one bus driver, one plumber, one dish washer, etc.   As I walk from place to place and go in and out of buildings, I ask myself which people I would hire.   Who catches my attention for doing a particularly good job?   And, just as importantly, what did they do that caught my attention?  I am trying to figure out what makes someone excellent at their work.   I am obviously fascinated by success and this is one way that I can better see what leads to success.  Focusing on the essential nature of success helps a person become more successful. 

In life, a few people are terrible at their vocations whereas a great majority are basically average.   Luckily, the remaining folks (a relatively small number) are absolutely excellent.   What makes this last batch so very good at what they do?   How does Mr. A manage to do his job so much better than Mr. B?   What can we learn from these people?

For example, while I was in San Francisco, I had to rush across town and then hurry back to work.   The driver of the taxicab was wonderful.   He stayed calm in heavy traffic and was both friendly and helpful.   I would have hired him for my company.   I liked his attitude.  I liked his efficiency.   I liked his calm control while he navigated through all the cars.   If I drove a cab, I would want to be like him.

Later that day, I went to a deli (a large chain) and ordered a sandwich.   Four employees stood in line behind the counter making sandwiches.   Three of these people never looked at me even once, never smiled, never seemed to care if I lived or died.   However, the third person in the line looked up with a kind smile and asked how she could be of help.   She actually listened to my request and made the sandwich in the way that I had asked.   She was quick and efficient.   I would have gladly hired her for my company.   Her attitude made my day a bit brighter and she did her work with a genuine sense of enthusiasm.   If I made sandwiches for a living, I would want to be like her.

There are two ways to do things – the right way and the wrong way.   I was looking for people who did their job the right way.   And, they are out there but you will see them only if you look.

This game got me to thinking.   Let’s assume that I was going to hire someone to teach at my school.   What characteristics would I search for?   This question intrigued me so much that, on the plane trip home, I made a list of characteristics that I would be looking for if I was given the task of hiring one exceptional teacher.   Here is my list but you might want to stop before reading and make your own list for comparison purposes.   Remember, though, how I have defined the position:   a person to teach at your school.

Because I stopped at ten items, I refer to this as my Ten Commandments of Teaching.

--Walks in every day adequately prepared.   No one ever teaches well making up the lessons on the spot.   No one becomes a great teacher by just reading Power Point slides to the students.

--Has a true sense of what he or she wants to accomplish.   If you have a reasonable understanding of what you want your students to know on the last day of class, the entire semester goes better.   (I wrote about this in one of my first blog entries “Thinking about Teaching” way back on February 28, 2010.)

--Is able to impart a sense of excitement about the material.  If the teacher shows no enthusiasm, why should the students get excited?

--Is able to engage the students so that the energy for learning comes from them instead of being forced on them.

--Is fair to all students.   The education process breaks down almost immediately if students feel they are being treated unfairly.   Fairness usually requires a lot of open and frank communications.

--Stays as far away from memorization as is humanly possible.   With modern day technology, education needs to focus on using information rather than memorizing it.

--Cares about the students as individuals.  Teachers and students should be on the same side and not come to be rivals or enemies.   

--Makes efficient use of class time.   At my school, we have the students in class for 150 minutes each week.   That is not a lot of time.   It is important to make good use of every one of those minutes.

--Works to teach 100 percent of the students and not just the top 10 percent.

--Is not put off when students claim “I am stupid,” “I am lazy,” “I cannot do this.”  Education teaches students to push for a low threshold.   Don’t let them pull that trick.   If you don’t demand excellence, you’ll never get it.


Okay, what would you add or delete?   This was just the list that I came up with on a plane flight across the country.   But, I believe that a person who followed this list would likely be an outstanding teacher.   This job is not rocket science.   I think it is important to take the mystery out of teaching.   Most of us know what it takes to become excellent.   In fact, as you can see from my list, it is basically just common sense.  

Now, do one more thing.  Take your list or take my list.   That makes no difference.   Look at each of those ten commandments very carefully and give yourself a grade on each one.    Where are you strong and where are you weak?   That can be amazingly helpful as you strive to become a better teacher.   For the 2-3 areas where you give yourself the lowest grade, make it your goal over the next week or two to focus on them in particular.   If you can locate weaknesses and address them with some serious effort, your chances of becoming a great teacher go up immediately.

Make it your long term goal to be the type of teacher that an outside person would see and immediately say “If I were hiring someone to teach at my school, it would be that person because that’s a person who knows what it takes to be successful and can make learning happen.”

 

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