Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Review: Notes on Teaching: A Short Guide to an Essential Skill

I grabbed Notes on Teaching: A Short Guide to an Essential Skill as I was walking out of the library. It was in the new books section, one of my favorite places to find random things to read. It's essentially a collection of relatively short tips (each one or two paragraphs long) about being a better teacher.

Here's a couple of examples:

16. Come prepared.
Students work hard for a teacher who works hard.l Successful preparation depends on practical details: accurate estimates on timing (plan for everything to take twice as long as you think it will), materials at the ready, technology tested before class...
The satkes are high. Sweat the details.

17. Don't over-prepare.
Stuffing the agenda with the whole phylum Arhropoda or history of Australasia undermines absorption, reflection, and spontaneity. In a 45- or 50- minute session, you can focus on, at most, one big idea.

I found the book delightfully easy to read, and plan to bring back a number of copies to bring back to my middle and high school self, to hand out to teachers, if time travel is ever invented.

Pondering the lessons of the book, though, I found that it had a much wider appeal than I might have originally thought.

See, if you're a parent, or child care provider, or manager, or salesperson, or bus driver, or just bout any other job that involves interacting with others - you probably do some teaching. And I do believe this book could help you do it that much better. The above points apply just as much to middle school teachers, as it does to someone running a sales call, or a scientist presenting his data.

Definitely worth picking up.

A book like this also cries out for some kind of mobile app. I should be able to click a button and get a random bit of advice as I'm standing and waiting for the next metro train to arrive. There's a whole class of books out there that provide wisdom, which really needs to be read a number of times, that could benefit for that sort of app.

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