I run a summer camp and am charged with training my staff of 25 in one week, immediately before campers arrive. I can’t tell them everything I know. What are the most important pieces of being a good teacher?
- Basic skills
- Keep them safe
- Advanced skills
- Let them be in danger1
- Basic Knowledge
- Safety policies
- Fun activities
- Hard skills: Cooking, pitching a tent, adjusting a pack (multiplying, dividing, solving a system of equations)
- Advanced Knowledge
- Edifying activities
- Stages of child development
- The bigger picture of skills: Where’s the best place for a tent? (Why do we solve systems of equations?)
Anything else? Look how much summer camp has in common with math ed!
The basic categories are easy enough to teach, but let’s look at some advanced topics in closer detail. These are the skills we use in math class, too.
Praise should be specific and direct. Criticism should be specific and direct. All feedback should be timely: “see it, say it,” right? How do you teach someone else to give good feedback? We all struggle with giving more and better feedback in our classrooms, and my counselors have as many kids as we do.
Kids on a bedrock of support and success will learn best when they’re challenged. We want them to feel comfortable most of the time, but acknowledge that most learning happens at some stage of discomfort (though we must avoid stages of panic). How do good teachers move kids out of their comfort zones in a safe way?
We want our kids to improve themselves, and as their role models we must improve ourselves. At camp, staff meet with supervisors once per week. In school, my PLC meets 1 or 3 times per month. How do you teach someone to improve?
At camp we have kickball, right? And in school we have, for example, properties of exponents. Both of these can be lead in a basic level 1 way or an advanced level 2 way. At level 1 we have kicking, running, adding, multiplying. At level 2 we have working as a team, changing the rules to make the game more fun, understanding why exponents are added, building on previous knowledge, verifying results. How do you teach someone to build level 2 into their activities? How do you convince them it’s important?
- a safe amount of danger, of course ↩