12 January 2007

What Makes A Good Math or Science Teacher?

A good math or science teacher first and foremost must inspire. They need to start by helping the students be open and interested in learning what is to be taught. There is no way to force students to learn if they are not open to it. But this task is not easy.

Our society seems to have an inherent fear of math and science. We tend to think it is inhibitivly difficult and that only a few specialists have a handle on the subjects. There is a sever disconnect between science and culture; a consciousness that science does not relate to the everyday experience. But this could not be farther from the truth.

Science and math deals with the world around us that we cannot escape; it deals with us! A good math or science teacher must get this point across to the students. She must point out everyday common experiences that can be better understood through science.

Further, a good math or science teacher must quench the student’s fears. Many people think that science is too hard or that they just don’t have the mind for it. But I think that anyone can understand scientific concepts and do the work if they have an open mind. A good science teacher must welcome the students and provide a comforting environment in which to learn.

Pedagogically, I think a good math or science teacher will present the material in clear steps and interweaving interesting tangents. The material is in fact often hard, but with a little mental work and organization the reward of the “Eureka!” moment is well worth it. The teacher must focus on providing each student with at least one “Eureka!” moment. That is the hook.

She must also be willing to stop and address the questions of the students. Math and science cannot just be presented and expected to be taken in without any dialogue, as so often it is. Math and science learning must be dynamic. The teacher must keep in mind that they are working with the students as guides and must help the students make connections to what they already know. If the student is unable to connect a concept or principle to something they already know, they will feel lost and defeated. But, on the other hand, if they are able to connect the new concept into there large picture of the world and even relate it to their own experiences, it can be one of the most exciting and rewarding experiences! The teacher should be there to help the student achieve this.

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