A letter to trainee teachers

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An excerpt on a book about educational psychology:

"Emphasize how to learn, rather than what to learn. Students may never know a particular fact, but they always will need to know how to learn. Teach students how to read with a genuine comprehension, how to shape an idea, how to master difficult material, how to use writing to clarify thinking. A former student, Anastasia Korniaris, wrote to me, "your class was like a hardware store. All the tools were there. Years later, I'm still using that hardware store that's in my head."

Include students in the process of teaching and learning. Every day ask basic questions such as, "what did you think of this homework? Did it help you to learn the material? Was the assignment too long or too short? How can we make the assignment more interesting? What should the criteria for assessment be? Remember that we want students to take ownership of learning...

Useful research has been conducted lately on learning styles and frames of intelligence. Read that research. The basic idea is to keep in mind that students should think for themselves. Your job is to teach them how to think, to give them the necessary tools. Your students will be endlessly amazed at what they can do. You don't need to show them how intelligent you are.

In the early years of teaching, you must expect to put in hours and hours of time. You would invest similarly long hours if you were an intern in medical school or an associate in a law firm. Like other professionals, teachers work much longer hours than outsiders know.

Here are four final bits of advice. I've failed at all four of them for years - except the last one, which has kept me sane. When I follow my own advice, my teaching life feels happier:

1) Sign up for season tickets to cultural events. Schedule regular outings with friends.
2) Hunt for a place to work. Try to get your own classroom. Moving all your belongings every 50 minutes will drive you crazy.
3) Try to stay out of petty politics. There is more squabbling in school than you can imagine.
4) Find a friend with a sense of humour...

You have the potential to be an excellent teacher. My only concern is that you exhaust yourself before you begin. Naturally, you will want to work hard as you learn the craft."

- Margaret Metzger

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