There is no right way to teach. If there were someone would have written the definitive book and anyone could do this job. There are, however, ineffective ways of teaching and that happens when we teach in isolation of thinking about our students. It happens when we value a plan over what our students are doing. It happens when we are not watching and noticing if our students are engaged and learning. So long as we keep our students’ needs front and center, and we know what those needs are, there are lots of different ways to teach.
A teacher was explaining how she had asked her students to participate in literature circles and then said, “Is that the right way?” My questions back were:
- Did the students talk in meaningful ways about their books?
- Did the students deepen their understanding of their books?
- Did you learn more about your students’ understanding of their books?
- Were your students engaged?
- Was the level of chaos acceptable to you?
She answered yes to all the questions. So, it was the “right” way. If the answers were negative then I would, as a teacher, rethink my method not blame the students. I would have chosen an ineffective way to organize the activity and would have to try something different.
The “right” way of teaching is the way that gets you what you want. In order to do that you need to know what you want. In order to know what you want you have to know the curriculum, the subject matter and your students. Steven Katz (educational guru) says that there isn’t a “best” practice; there is only the “next” practice.
Effective teaching is about being planned and purposeful. It is about knowing what students need to be able to know and do and figuring out a way to get them there. The art of teaching is finding the path that gets you there and there are many. And, different paths work for different students and different teachers. What is “right” in my classroom this year might not work next year, or in the next classroom over, or in Australia. Or it might.
The “right” way of teaching is professional reflection. It is that simple and that hard. So, when you want to try a new idea, don’t worry so much about whether you are doing it “right” or not. Look at what you want to do, look at where your students are at, and see what works. If it works, and you know that your students are engaged and learning, then it is probably the “right” way, for now.