It is easy to discount information based simply on whether we agree with the author or not, but if we did that, we'd be just like our immature students. I nearly stopped reading Todd Whitaker's What Great Teachers Do Differently because of the following quote:
"I believe that what I am saying is important, and of course, I want my audience to give me their full attention--but it's my job to gain, and to keep, their attention. If I'm not doing that, I need to change my approach. Just like in the classroom, we must always work to engage the students. If the students are not focused, great teachers ask what they themselves can do differently" (34).
It comes at the end of Chapter 5, and it was nearly the last I read of it. First, there is one serious flaw in Whitaker's analogy. People attending his speeches have paid money to attend; therefore, we can presume those attendees want to be there. School attendance, on the other hand, is mandated by the state or parents. Our attendees don't all want to be there.
Second, Whitaker keeps with the notion that our job is to entertain our students, only he uses the eduspeak word engage. I take issue with the idea that my job is to engage. It certainly is a part of my job, and there are plenty of teachers with great knowledge who just can't convey that information to the student.
And yet, I still asked myself some tough questions. What if my subject matter, as it has been traditionally taught, is not all that important after all? I mean, does a student with no desire, or chance, to attend college, need to read Beowulf, The Canterbury Tales, or even Harry Potter? Maybe not. Instead, maybe we should focus on material that might engage students. Books like, Let's Get Real About Money! or the source of some recent posts of mine, Strengthsfinder 2.0.
Whatever the answer may be, I will hold firm in my belief that there are no close analogies that can explain the classroom. No system exists that is quite like it. Does that mean I can't be a great teacher? I hope not.