November 5th, 2009

This I Believe


More than half way through a course you don’t really you have time or the inclination to consider your teaching manifesto—that is, what you believe about teaching and how you realize those beliefs in your practice. But as the demands of the semester start to mount, it can be energizing to read what others believe, especially when their beliefs about the importance and value of teaching are strong and positive. Here are several excerpts from a “this I believe” statement written by C. Roland Christensen:

• I believe in the teachability of teaching. … [G]ood teachers are made, not born. We can observe, analyze, and communicate the artistry of [teaching] to other practitioners. Effective teachers both practice and constantly search and research their own activities; their classrooms are both instructional arenas and laboratories.

• I believe that what my students become is as important as what they learn. The endpoint of teaching is as much human as intellectual growth. Where qualities of person are as central as qualities of mind … we must engage the whole being of students so that they become open and receptive to multiple levels of understanding. And we must engage our whole selves as well. I not only teach what I know, but what I am.

• I believe that the teacher’s challenge in evaluating students is less to separate the gifted from the ordinary than to find the gifts of the ordinary. And I believe we must communicate our evaluations in a manner that helps students understand their competence, or lack thereof, without destroying their confidence. … At best, grades are imprecise measures even of academic achievement. They do not weigh the worth of a student as a person, now or in the future.

Reference: Christensen, C. R. “Every Student Teaches and Every Teacher Learns,” in C. R. Christensen, D. A. Garvin, and A. Sweet, eds., Education for Judgment: The Artistry of Discussion Leadership. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press, 1991. Find Christensen’s statement of beliefs on pp. 116-119.