“Much have I learned from my teachers, more from my colleagues, and from my students most of all,” is the quote that prefaces this wonderful book, Teachers as Learners by Sharon Feinman-Nemser. It is taken from the Babylonian Talmud, Ta’anit.
We’ve all had somewhere between 16 and 20 years of teacher training of the most powerful kind–as the subjects of our teachers. What it might take to extend deepen or undermine those powerful lessons has always seemed to me magical. For some it may take almost as many years to unlearn what we learned in such a time-consuming way. And then only if we use our teaching experience to learn from. Fortunately we’ve had – nearly always – a few exceptional experiences with teachers who changed our lives and a few ordinary good ones in school, not to mention, hopefully, many more outside of school from which to draw when we confront teaching ourselves.
But after those first 6 years the training to be a teacher programs we attend (“the education of a teacher” is such a better way of saying it) is critical. Sharon Feinman-Nemser lays it out in a thoughtful and highly readable book that I just recently discovered. (It’s been out for half a year). Since she has always been a special friend and colleague, I read it with care and hoped my granddaughter (who like Sharon “goes to” Brandeis) stays on to see whether they have put into practice some of the wisdom contained in this book. It’s no surprise to me that in her very first chapter, Sharon quotes from the work of David Hawkins who would have shuddered at the current “idea” that experience doesn’t mater. (Note an Ed Week story about a new study that says kids scores are as good with non-experienced teachers as with the experienced ones they replaced!!!) That so clearly proves how little value we should attribute to those scores. If you use an inaccurate measuring tool–in medicine or education–it doesn’t much matter whether you listen to the advice of your cleaning woman or your doctor (based on a joke on whether to use hot or cold compresses. For more details on the joke, write me.)
Having found teaching to be the intellectually most stimulating experience of my life I naturally take to Sharon’s thoughts on the subject. Enough–go read it. Enjoy
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