During the past few years, friends, colleagues, and my wife of more than forty-six years, have suggested that my insights and feelings about secondary and university-level education, tested classroom methods, knowledge of the skills of teaching, and my experience of thirty-eight years of elementary, secondary and college classroom experience be recorded. Doing so, they argued, would help others interested in the profession of teaching to put into practice concepts tried and tested in the classroom and then, after their own experiments with my suggestions, they, these either new-to-the-profession teachers or veteran classroom teachers interested in polishing their own skills, could determine for themselves whether they might benefit from my mistakes and/or successes. That was a rather heady suggestion which, at first glance, was, I thought, presumptuous. After all, who made me an authority on anything?! Here’s this guy from who knows where thinking that a little experience would give him the right to suggest the right or wrong way to do anything. Then, I thought, what do they, those who are honestly interested in making themselves more effective in the classroom, have to lose? After all, I, too, had questioned my own teachers among whom was Madeleine Hunter, her protégé, Ernie Stakowski, and others about what worked in the classroom and what didn’t. I had taken classes in over four universities in Europe and Canada, and in the United States, I had earned good grades and bad in at least ten colleges and universities on my way to earning three university degrees. In all those schools, I took notes and learned from other teachers what worked and what did not. Somewhere along the way, during my thirty-six- year career as a secondary school foreign language head and teacher of French, I was asked to be a member of a four-teacher-team of teacher trainers of those in my school system. Part of our team’s training required that we work with national leaders in the field, and we, the four of us, accumulated over 200 hours in training with Madeleine Hunter and her colleagues. Over a period of four years, that team trained over three hundred elementary and secondary teachers in classroom techniques and methodology in Saratoga Springs, New York and in surrounding communities. And, since 1992, my work has been carried on at Union University’s Master of Arts in Teaching Program in Schenectady, New York, where I am presently the foreign language methods teacher. Hey, maybe I do have something to offer! But, I have some advice to the reader/learner, and it is simple. See for yourself. Make up your own mind. But, whatever you do, come up with your own approach to classroom teaching and make sure that it works.
In the following pages and chapters, I will not document and footnote many items. You, the reader/learner, are skilled enough in research should you want to focus on documentation. I have borrowed from many authorities, and I have adapted many suggested techniques based on nationally and internationally renowned educators. In short, if it is neither illegal, immoral, nor unethical, I will use it, and if my students learn more, learn faster and more efficiently in my classroom, God damn it, I will use it. I am too old to worry about whether or not I have given credit to this writer or that, and if your lessons become more sophisticated, more effective because of something you might have learned in this text, don’t tell me. Continue to use what you might have learned, and carry on your efforts to improve. But, there is one added area of content.
The material outlined on the following pages is generic in form. While my own experience is in the area of second language learning, the concepts described in this text in no way are limited to my area of expertise. Teaching is a skill profession. Good teaching is something which can be learned if practiced effectively and diligently. Whether you are a math, science or social studies teacher matters little as long as you use the skills of a good teacher. Practicing those skills, evaluating whether they work, determining whether your students learn more as you use these techniques, these are the things on which you must focus. And, mind set is important, too. If you are determined and motivated to become a better teacher, the chances are good that you will be successful. It is up to you. Not me.