The Good Teacher

"It was a thrill just to be there…"

"A good teacher gives us the courage to trust our own experience.”
— Cameron Thor

What is good teaching?

Goodteaching – wait, the word “good” just doesn’t mean anything. How about…effective teaching is….And what about “effective”? How is THAT defined?

GeorgeMitchell challenged me, pushed me, and he did so not-too-gently. Hetold me I could be a different writer and was relentless in showing mehow. But so was I, relentless in my desire to at first please, but thenlater, just to explore and experiment. His authority was one that Ifelt safe deferring to. Religion, literature, history, psychology allslowly merged into a two-year journey of both the world and my place init, with Mr. Mitchell as my guide. At a towering 6 feet so many inches,his balding pate and baritone bravado commanded the classroom. It was a thrill just to be there.

MadameCardoso lit up the room and with her energy also kindled a passion andenthusiasm that made it easy and exciting to explore the Frenchlanguage. Learning was fun and she was a joy to watch – always smiling,laughing with us, never needing to raise a voice, make a threat, orremind us that we were in a classroom. It didn’t feel like learning,but rather a beautiful climb with scenic vistas. It was a thrill just to be there. 

Sowhat is good, what is effective? Looking at these two educators above,a good language or writing teacher (and of all my teachers, thegreatest were the ones that taught me how to use words) is a motivator,a challenger, an alchemist, a guide, a performer, a fire-starter, athrill-inducer. But from these lofty descriptions, what was my role asstudent in negotiating these challenges, these identities, andinterpreting these experiences in education uniquely as I have justtried to do? Were they not first and foremost people who were just doing their jobs?

Itsure seems that the most effective teachers in my educationalexperience were those that reached just a little further, drank just alittle more deeply, and most importantly, loved what they were doing tothe point where it was no longer a job, but a joy of everyday living.Good teaching is finding something to say and a way to say it thatresonates with one’s identity. Good teaching is good living; honesty,passion, fire from the soul. Good teaching is excitement, spontaneity, making mistakes and learning from them. When I leave class each day and people ask me, "How was your day? How do you like working at IUP?" My response doesn’t require much thought: "I had fun! It’s a thrill just to be there!"

*Above image from Robert E. Morgan at .



One Comment Add yours

  1. jenaantonelli says:

    marlen, its about quarter to two and I cant sleep so I decied to read some blogs, like how you said youve done in class the other day. well anyway, i really like what youve written, especially your last few sentences. i totally agree and loved the teachers who loved what they were doing and hated the ones who didnt enjoy what they were doing. i hope i can be a “good” teacher like you!

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