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What is Teaching Really Like?

What is Teaching Really Like? (1.3)

"A teacher can never truly teach unless he is still learning himself. A lamp can never light another lamp unless it continues to burn its own flame."

-Rabindranath Tagore

The Realities of Teaching

  1. Reality : The Unpredictability of Outcomes...The outcomes of teaching, even in the best circumstances, are neither predictable nor consistent.
  2. Reality: The Difficulty of Assessing Student's Learning ...It is difficult to access what students learn as a result of being taught.
  3. Reality: The Need for Teacher-Student Partnership...The teacher's ability to influence student behavior is actually quite limited.
  4. Reality: The Impact of Teachers' Attitudes...With the role of teacher comes the power to influence others by example.
  5. Reality: The Drama and Immediacy of Teaching...Interactive teaching is characterized by events that are rapid-changing, multidimensional, and irregular. While working with students, a teacher must be able to think, deal with behavior problems, keep all students on task, monitor students for signs of confusion, and respond to ever-changing situations.
  6. Reality: The Uniqueness of the Teaching Experience...Teaching involves a unique mode of being between teacher and student-a mode of being that can be experienced but not fully defined or described.


Domains of Teacher Expertise

Subject Matter Knowledge
Teachers know the subject matter they teach and make it accessible to learners.
Teachers consider their goals for student learning and their knowledge of students and the subject matter as they develop and sequence learning activities.
Teachers address learning goals for student learning and their knowledge of students and the subject matter as they develop and sequence learning activities.
Teachers collect varied kinds of information related to learning goals and involve students in assessing their own progress.
Classroom Management and Discipline
Teachers establish and maintain safe environments that promote fairness, respect, and responsibility
Professional Growth

(Adapted from California Department of Education, 1997, and National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, 1998.)


Activity 1

Six Realities of Teaching

Observe the teacher and students within the classroom environment that you are working in. Look at the domains of teaching. As your mentor is "teaching" is he or she demonstrating one of the domains listed? Which one?For instance, if your mentor is giving a test, then the domain that is covered is "assessment" . Choose one of the "realities of teaching" that are stated above. Observe which domain your teacher is completing within your classroom observation, and look for one of the "realities" that we discussed. For example, if during the test, a student finishes early, and earns an "A", can the teacher assume that he or she taught the subject well? (reality 1)Are there other factors involved? Write a paragraph about what you observed.



Realities of teaching-actual conditions teachers face in the classroom; the demands as well as the rewards.

Interactive teaching-teaching characterized by face-to-face interactions between teachers and students in contrast to proactive teaching.

Proactive teaching-the stage of teaching when a teacher prepares to teach or reflects on previous teaching experiences in contrast with interactive teaching.

Teachers thought processes-the thoughts that guide teachers' actions in classrooms. These thoughts typically consist of thoughts related to planning, theories and beliefs, and interactive thoughts and decisions.


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