"By wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established; and by knowledge
the rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches." ~Proverbs 24:3-4

Not Just For Kids

Teachers and Teaching

“I touch the future. I teach.” ~Christa McAuliffe

Teaching is the process of helping others learn and gain knowledge by providing experiences, giving demonstrations, and offering instruction in skills. Each new generation can get a head start from the wisdom of those who lived before, thanks to teachers.

Almost everyone, at one time or another, has taught another person something. Mothers and fathers are our first teachers. They taught you many things before you were old enough to attend school. Parents who homeschool their children continue to teach them throughout the school years. But usually the word “teacher” brings to mind a person who has a professional career of teaching other people’s children.

The first teachers were priests, and they taught young men who were studying to be priests. Later, there were scribes who knew how to read and write. These scribes taught young men to become scribes, so they could keep the accounts and records for kings and noblemen.

The first teachers to have schools were probably the scholars of ancient Greece. They taught Greek boys about language, history, poetry, music, and exercise. Roman households kept Greek slaves as teachers.

During the Middle Ages, youngsters would learn a trade from a master craftsman, be trained as a knight, or receive a religious education from monks or nuns.

In 19th century England, upper-class families had live-in governesses teach their children. Some wealthy families still hire private tutors.

Pilgrim and Puritan parents focused on teaching God’s word and biblical principles to their children at home. The Bible itself was used as the main textbook along with primers, almanacs, some classical writings and history books.

In early American schools, all of the students were taught by one teacher. Each age group, or grade, would be taught in turn while the others studied. They had few books and no pencils, pens, or paper. The students learned from reading and listening to what the teacher said.

Once it was believed that a good teacher had to show or tell his pupils everything he expected them to learn. Now many educators believe that teachers should give the student a chance to learn things for himself. These teachers are more like facilitators who provide direction, answer questions, and give advice.

There is so much knowledge available in the world today that it is difficult for any one person to understand all of it well enough to pass it on to others. Consequently, modern teachers are more specialized than they used to be. There are specialists who teach science, history, languages, mathematics, etc. Within these special groups there may be teachers who teach just one part of one subject.

Teachers may do their work almost any place, but the majority work in schools. Most teachers have a college degree from a school of education, where they receive special training in educational philosophy and classroom management. Teacher’s colleges used to be called “normal schools,” which means “a college where rules are learned.”

Arizona State University, originally called Territorial Normal School, was the first institution of higher learning in the Southwest. Since the frontier territory of Arizona suffered from a teacher shortage, its sole purpose was directed toward teacher training. By the end of the 19th century, the Normal School at Tempe had become Arizona’s main source of teachers, thus ending the shortage that inspired its founding in 1885.

For centuries, people have tried to decide on the best way to teach. Many methods have been used over the years, and various means have been combined at times. The method chosen usually depends on its suitability for the subject and the students, the teacher’s personal preference, and the demands of the school system.

For many years, teachers taught students by the catechism method. The teachers asked certain questions and the students were taught to give certain answers.

The mnemonics system has been the most widely-used method of teaching. The teacher presents facts for the student to memorize, then the student repeats facts from memory whenever he is tested on them. Many teachers, particularly in elementary schools, continue to use this method.

The lecture system is also widely used, especially in high schools and colleges. The teacher summarizes, in one or more speeches, all of the necessary information on a subject while the students take notes. This method is most effective in subjects covering a lot of detailed information, such as history.

The unit study approach focuses on teaching a particular theme or specific topic for a period of time. The teacher integrates material related to the theme from several different disciplines such as history, literature, and science.

Learning by doing makes education more meaningful in almost every subject. This method involves laboratory experiments, student projects, and class discussions. Research has shown that students learn more—and remember it longer—by actual hands-on activities, rather than just listening to facts.

Whatever method is used, good teachers make sure their lessons are appropriate for the students’ ages and abilities. Teachers do not need fancy equipment to make learning fun, but they must like to teach, they must like the subject, and they must like the students.

Teachers generally don’t earn a high salary, they need to continue their studies while they teach, and they spend much of their own time and money preparing for their work, but they choose this profession because they love teaching.

Watch the movie, Stand and Deliver (1988 - PG), starring Edward James Olmos and Lou Diamond Phillips. It’s the true story of Jaime Escalante, a math teacher at Garfield High School in East LA who inspires his inner-city students to study and prepare for the AP Calculus Exam.

Did you know…? Cardinal Mazarin (1602-1661) taught the boy King Louis XIV of France by playing card games with him. The cards were marked with things that Mazarin thought the young king should know.

Some of the greatest authors, poets, scientists, and philosophers have been teachers. Meet some famous teachers and learn about their contributions to education at: http://www.knowledgehouse.info/njfkeducators.html

See Also:
Education Through the Ages
One-Room Schoolhouses
One-Room Schoolteachers
Learning for Life


These pages are a continuous work in progress.
Copyright © 2000- by Teri Ann Berg Olsen
All rights reserved.

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