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The Teacher Tip

Good Teaching Isn’t Rushed

March 7, 2018

Adapted from Embarrassment by Tom Newkirk. 

The first thing we need to do as teachers is to realize that it is not about us. Maybe we all harbor, somewhere, that model of the brilliant, charismatic teacher, one who is dazzling and eloquent and impressive. But teaching, I am convinced, is not about us being brilliant, it is about students being brilliant. There are few generalizations that hold for all good teachers, but I will hazard this one: Good teachers never appear rushed. Or make students feel rushed. 

We can break this typical pattern with what I call the blank turn—a refusal to evaluate the student response and go to the next student. It sounds like this: “Say more about that.” Or this: “Yes, go on.” Or like this… just silence. Sometimes the student apologizes—“Boy, I’m just rambling on.” And, if I’m on my game, I say, “Keep rambling.”

Particularly as a writing teacher, I need students to hear what hasn’t been written. It’s pointless to write “expand this” or “more detail” if the student doesn’t hear the detail he or she might add. They need this second text, the alternative story that they create orally. Then and only then can they see how the written one could be different.

To learn more about Embarrassment and download a sample chapter, visit 

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