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May Issue

Vol 30|No 5|May 2020

Face-to-face classrooms

By Jamie McKenzie (about author)

As the Coronavirus struck country after country this year, schools were closed and many students were asked to continue their learning online.

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It should be obvious to most people that online learning cannot match what happens in a classroom with a real live, effective teacher. This is especially true of elementary clasrooms, but great, life-changing teachers may also be found in high school and university classrooms.

A good teacher can do so much more than impart knowledge.

They will often change a child's life for the better, working a kind of magical transformation, igniting a passion for learning, restoring a sense of worth and value when one has been robbed of it, building skill, character and volition while lighting fires that will endure well into later years.

Anyone married to such a teacher knows of the sacrifice they make to bring about these great awakenings, but they also know that it is not uncommon for grateful students to return each year as young adults to thank the teacher for "changing my life."

When learning moves online, the intimacy required to work such magic is very difficult to sustain or create.

Unfortunately, there are too many real, live teachers who do not teach with passion, empathy and artistry. The benefits of face-to-face classrooms will only appear if the teacher is capable, caring and skillful.

It is chilling to read comments by disgruntled former and present students who applaud the closures and dismiss the value of traditional classroom learning.

Sadly, not all teachers make good use of their time with students. They may lecture too often and do little to engage their students. They may rely on busy work, ditto sheets and textbooks. They are just going through the motions.

© iStock.com

Lazy, inadequate teaching squanders the opportunity to generate enthusiasm, ignite deep learning and equip students with a combination of knowledge and skill that will serve them well in life. It turns schooling into little more than a baby-sitting service, prompting songwriters like Paul Simon to sing:

When I think back on all the crap I learned in high school
It’s a wonder I can think at all
And though my lack of education hasn’t hurt me none
I can read the writing on the wall

From Kodacrome

What is quality face-to-face teaching?

Really good teachers know how to blend artistry, science, craft and alchemy to make learning engaging and inspiring.

Artistry, science, craft and alchemy!

Effective teaching requires a dynamic orchestration of the four aspects listed above, orchestration that cannot be found in any book or score. The teacher must dart and weave, dance and charm.

Ho-hum-drum teaching leads to stagnation and disappointment.

Spirited teaching provokes, sparks and enlightens.

For a full description of quality teaching, read "Quality Teaching: From Theory into Practice."

Schooling after Coronavirus

How will schools and schooling changing?

Parents depend upon schools to provide child care so they may return to work, especially at the K-12 level. It is unlikely that we will see major changes at that level, but universities may find themselves under pressure to justify staggering tuition bills after students have been sent home for months and assigned to online classes. They must provide something greater and more valuable than mere seat time.

Written materials, art work and photography on this site are copyrighted by Jamie McKenzie and other writers, artists and photographers. Written materials on these pages may be distributed and duplicated if unchanged in format and content in hard copy only by school districts and universities provided there is no charge to the recipient. They may also be e-mailed from person to person. All other uses, transmissions and duplications are prohibited unless permission is granted expressly. Showing these pages remotely through frames is not permitted. FNO is applying for formal copyright registration for articles.

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