Mona Charen

The result is found in the subtitle of "Teach Like a Champion": "49 Techniques That Put Students on the Path to College." Some of the techniques are inspired; others are quotidian but still important (like how not to waste time pleading for responses). The point is that teaching is a performance every day, which is not easy. Teachers must engage the interest and attention of their students (who bring all kinds of troubles from home), encourage the weak ones along with the strong, maintain discipline, and build a sense of team spirit. Lemov doesn't believe that anyone can be a great teacher, but he does think that with coaching and mentoring, good teachers can become great.

Some of Lemov's proven techniques will not surprise educational traditionalists. He believes in drill, though he calls it "muscle memory." A great teacher will drill arithmetic skills, for example, until they are second nature, so that students needn't stumble over the easy stuff when they get to algebra and geometry. (Education schools had disdained this as "drill and kill.") Another technique Lemov suggests is "cold calls" -- that is, having the teacher choose students randomly rather than just those who raise their hands. Each child, knowing he might be called upon, must be ready. (It works in law schools). A companion technique is "no opt out." If the child says he doesn't know, the teacher asks a related question to another student to narrow down the possible right answer and returns to the first child for a second chance.

There are broad suggestions about classroom management and more subtle and difficult challenges like maintaining "emotional constancy," that is refraining from showing anger when a child gets the wrong answer. Anger will teach a child to try to hide his ignorance rather than accept it as a normal part of the learning enterprise.

Teaching is a craft. It may be among the hardest to master. Renewed attention to teaching teaching seems long overdue.


Mona Charen

Mona Charen is a syndicated columnist, political analyst and author of Do-Gooders: How Liberals Hurt Those They Claim to Help .
 
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