January 7th, 2010

All That Teaching Entails


The February issue of the newsletter contains highlights from an amazing article—one written by a faculty member who describes himself as a “bad teacher.” The piece chronicles his transformation as a teacher. It’s one of the best articles I’ve read in a long while (and you know I read more than a few articles).

What I’d like to share here is a wonderful quote found in the article. Author (and teacher) Mark Cohan is writing about how transmission of knowledge is such a small part of teaching. Here’s how it describes the other parts. “Beyond it, there are the intricacies of tone, presence, and demeanor that make up our in-class performance. There is coaching and coaxing, as we try to convey to students the full extent of their abilities. There is class management—the ways we foster and negotiate student-to-student interactions, positive and negative. And there is role modeling, the picture we give students of what constitutes an educator and a professional in our field. All of these elements can be molded and refined by learning about pedagogical practices. But they emerge from who we are and transforming them means transforming ourselves.” (p. 36)

Cohan’s piece explores how much teaching arises from and is linked to personhood. Changes in pedagogical practice may transform what happens in our classroom, but they may also end up changing who we are and how we orient to teaching.

Reference: Cohan, M. (2009). Bad apple: The social production and subsequent reeducation of a bad teacher. Change, (November/December), 32-36.

  • John Thompson


    Thanks for bringing Mark Cohan's reflections, "Bad Apple: The Social Production and Subsequent Reeducation of a Bad Teacher," in the Nov/Dec 2009 issue of Change to our attention.

    Mark's sociological account — "the personal is always also social" — of his transformation is remarkable: candid, articulate, courageous, and inspiring. Nadine and Kareem will continue to remind us of the gifts our students are — as persons who bring their stories and their lives with them into our courses, though are too seldom are they heard. And Mark as a teacher who, in listening to and hear their stories and them, has found his own story and gifts as a teacher.

    My thanks to Mark for sharing what I will remember as a 'good apple' story. Many students will be blessed by his presence, attention, knowledge, and care.

    John Thompson, Sociology, University of Saskatchewan

  • Rich Young

    In recent years I have been more likely to want to be known as a facilitator of learning rather than a teacher. Sure, this sounds like a bit of semantics, but certainly at the college level we are hopefully finding alternative ways for students to learn, and in many venues this will mean learning from one another. Sometimes for my MBA classes on the first day of the semester when we are going through introductions and review of the syllabus I will make it point of saying that it is entirely possible that students may, in fact, learn more from one another than they will from me; however, it is my role to create the environment where that can happen.