Abundant Preparation is Essential

In our last article adapted from Joshua Fitch's writing, we discussed the value of the teacher's preparation of the lesson, and how important it was in keeping the interest of the students.  Today's article explores that concept in further depth.

There is another reason to be abundantly prepared.  No one can ever teach all he knows on any subject.  We probably can't even teach half of what we know.  If you want to be a good teacher, you must have studied far beyond the lesson.  We must look at any fact we want to teach from very different, and perhaps distant points of view in order to comprehend its true relation to other facts.

If a teacher throws together a lesson from printed notes, and is only barely provided with the knowledge actually required for his class, he is sure to fail, both in securing attention, and in getting the subject understood.

Children will always carry away with them far less than you bring.  Make up your mind at once to the fact that a large percentage of even a successful lesson, is always lost in the very act of communicating it.  Therefore, if you wish children to receive a given amount of instruction, you yourself must be provided with a great deal more.

Have you ever had a teacher, or observed one, that was obviously approaching the limits of his own knowledge?  This is a pattern that often occurs:

1.  He falters.
2.  He becomes embarrassed.
3.  He loses confidence in himself.
4.  The children soon detect his weakness.
5.  The lesson loses interest immediately.

Now, even a veteran teacher isn't going to be prepared for all the questions the students will come up with.  When that happens, I am very honest with the student and tell him or her I simply don't know.  I praise him for his sharp thinking, write down the question, and tell him that I will research the answer and get back to him.  And I do.  This is important.  Follow through with that promise.

But getting back to the earlier dilemma, what steps can we do to avoid the loss of confidence because of poor preparation?  Here are some suggestions.

1.  Get all the subsidiary and illustrative information you can possibly accumulate about your lesson, before you give it.
2.  Anecdotes, definitions of hard words, illustrations, verses of poetry, parallel texts and allusions, may or may not all be needed in the lesson.  But they certainly will be needed by you, to give life and vigor to your teaching, and to make you feel confident in your own resources.

Adapted from "The Art of Teaching," by Joshua G. Fitch 
Adapted by Jessica Gerald.