How much do you know about your subjects?

Discussion in 'Elementary Education' started by tabasco4sale, Aug 7, 2008.

  1. tabasco4sale

    tabasco4sale Rookie

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    Aug 7, 2008

    I'm a bit obsessive compulsive when it comes to this sort of things, and I feel like I need to know every little detail about a topic before I have the right to teach it--which results in hours and HOURS of research. I know in the bigger scheme of things my wealth of knowledge matters less than my attitude toward the students, but I can't help wondering how much other teachers (in general) know. Examples will help.

    (Your answers will help me avoid crossing the line and heading straight to the path to insanity, so thanks beforehand.)
     
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  3. gab

    gab Comrade

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    I say do what you feel you need to do if it isn't overwhelming or stressful. If it's overwhelming or stressful than maybe you need to pace yourself and give yourself time to learn things...I learn as I go all the time even though I've been teaching for 14 years.

    As far as other teachers go...I wonder too though it's not my place to judge. I do judge though because when you see and/or hear a disrespectful, inappropriate, group of students, whether you've had them or not, you might wonder about management skills.

    When I get students from the grade prior I often wonder, with one teacher in particular, just what he did the whole last year with the kids. He's taught at least 6 years, is in his second career(he was military,) but still struggles and likes to blame the kids rather than looking at what he's doing or not doing. Sorry, I shouldn't get too specific.

    Anyway, I say you do what you think is best for you and your kidlets!
     
  4. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    In the big scheme, what you know DOES matter... but controlling each little detail is probably less necessary than having a sound enough grasp of the fundamental principles and patterns of each subject area that you can reason in it.

    I cover the same material multiple times a year - and every time I learn something new.
     
  5. cutNglue

    cutNglue Magnifico

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    Also it is more important to know how things LINK together than knowing small details. Though both can be important.

    You want to keep in mind that while YOU should know your stuff, you should also be a facillitator for THEM to get to know the stuff. They should be doing some of that work for themselves.
     
  6. iheart5thgrade

    iheart5thgrade Comrade

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    I think it's important that you know how your material will affect students later on. For example, sometimes I feel like teaching my students factors and multiples is a waste of time, but its not because eventually it helps them understand lowest common denominator.

    Especially in math, I find that SO many teachers don't understand how what they teach affects their students in math in future years. (For example, I am currently on a mission to find which teacher is teaching the kids that a > sign is always pointed towards the smaller number. Yeah that works when you are just analyzing 8 > 4. But what about when I teach inequalities? Find x >3. The kids look at me dumbfounded because they don't know if that is a greater than or less than symbol because there isn't two numbers for them to compare.)

    Sorry I kind of took that thread and vented for a second. But I am SO PROUD to hear that someone is worried about the details. I wish more teachers gave thought as to what they teach and how it impacts the students as they progress through school!

    P.S. If I messed up on my affect/effect, don't attack me! There's a reason I'm not the language teacher! Haha.
     
  7. cruiserteacher

    cruiserteacher Comrade

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    When I student taught, my CT knew SO MUCH about history!! I felt so inadequate. But she kept reassuring me that she has been teaching 30+ years, and that I'm not expected to know the little details. I will learn as the years go by. I think teaching history is the toughest, but I have learned to master, "That's a very good question, you should research that to find out!"
     
  8. cutNglue

    cutNglue Magnifico

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    People can know a lot and still not link them together. What you are referring to is the fact that many teachers teach in isolation. Understanding the big picture is just as important as knowing the details and in my opinion, more important. You can in fact, know a lot about a subject but never look at the bigger picture.
     
  9. Mable

    Mable Enthusiast

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    I make sure I do my homework and know what I am teaching.
     
  10. snickydog

    snickydog Groupie

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    I understand where you're coming from in a way. When I taught 8th grade, the bulk of our year was spent doing chemistry (which I knew quite well from college classes). There was a unit on astronomy too, which I knew NOTHING about! I did a lot of reading in high school level books and internet sites to find out not only what the students needed to know, but also things I thought they might ask about or things that would be confusing.

    That said... if you get asked a question and you don't know, there's NO shame in saying that you don't know and that you (and the students!) should find the answer to share the following day. It's better to do that than say something you don't know is true!
     
  11. becky

    becky Enthusiast

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    Lol- so I'm not the only one to feel like this. Tabasco, thanks for this thread!
     
  12. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    It's ok for you to say to your students, "I'm not sure of the answer to that question- let's find out together"...I think it models the teacher as the 'head learner', not the 'know it all'...
     
  13. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    It's also good to model a process of reasoning out both where to look and what the limits on the answer are likely to be based on what we already do know.
     
  14. pamms

    pamms Comrade

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    Of course you want to have good core knowledge. you certainly don't want to give any inaccurate information. But I don't think you need to be an expert in all areas. Keep in mind that part of what you are teaching the kids is how to learn so they can become lifelong learners. That won't happen if you just give them all the information. You shouldn't be their only source. I think it it good for them to stump you sometimes IF you then follow up with how you (or they...depending on age) will find the info. I teach early grades so sometimes I have to 'pretend' I don't know something 'for sure' so I can say "hmmm, let's look that up...where could I find that?" and seek their input, sometimes even looking things up in different sources to see if the 'book' was right. If you have decent backgound info (in elementary) and maintain an interest in those subjects, I think you can help the students far more than if you simply study and present facts in class.
     
  15. MissFroggy

    MissFroggy Aficionado

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    I know almost nothing about first grade except what I have read here so next year will be learning for me ALL DAY LONG... I would say I know a little about everything I teach, generally. I have a degree in English and Creative writing, so the literacy part comes easy for me.

    When I had fourth graders though, I often found myself looking up stuff to be certain of my memory before I taught something--- like which is the mean and the median?? I always mixed them up! When I taught US History I did have to read the book before I taught the lessons, but have a good general understanding--- for example, last year we read a few books about the election. Kids would ask questions about how this happened, or why we have the constitution and things like that and of course I could answer the questions, even though the topic did not come up formally in my lessons. I am not a fact person, so remembering facts and knowing things like that is hard for me. I have to study up on a lot of stuff before I teach it if I had very little knowledge about it. Most things kids wonder about I have enough information to talk about it, and then beyond that we could learn together.

    If I was a HS teacher I could teach English or Drama with almost no problem, as I know those subjects easy as pie... but if I was stuck teaching math or science I'd be screwed!!
     
  16. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    One trick is looking for ways in which the subject we're not so good at is like things we feel we know better.
     
  17. cheeryteacher

    cheeryteacher Enthusiast

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    Last year I was definitely relearning as I went along. I understood what I was teaching, but I learned so much from my kids. I teach math, and some kids think it is a foreign language. So I think the important thing is that I saw math from their point of view, which will help me out in the long run.
     
  18. Jem

    Jem Aficionado

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    I was blessed to have a teacher for a mother and a history fanatic as a father, so we were always learning growing up. Our family vacations in the summer were two week road trips out west to national parks, or touring civil war battle grounds. I think I have a really firm grasp of a lot of things because of that. My husband and I are very political, and always have CNN on in the background, so I'm very up on current events. I would hope that I know enough to teach third grade math and spelling. So I feel pretty good about what I teach. But then you run across subjects that you KNOW, you just don't know how to present to the kids. Like communities. Ok, I get communities. I've lived in them all my life. I feel in my heart what is important about communities. But how do I present that in an orderly fashion to the kids? That's where the work comes in for me. So whereas others might be researching what the actual causes of the Revolutionary War were, I know that-I'm working on the best way to present it to the kids.
     
  19. cutNglue

    cutNglue Magnifico

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    I'm terrible at math or so I thought. I recently took my math methods class and suddenly feel in love with how the teacher was teaching us to teach it. Basically she presented it like a global picture and we are to teach our students skills (especially problem solving) and present authentic scenarios (when possible). I always focused on what I couldn't do and that prevented me from seeing how much math I use everyday, how much I teach my children on a regular basis and how much I liked math when presented from this view instead of isolated facts.

    Granted I need to know MORE, but first I needed to LIKE it. I need the confidence. I need to see the larger picture outside my one lesson.

    Recently I've figured out that if my teacher didn't PUSH me to take Math workshops, her favorite and obviously not mine, then I would always be taking the ones in subjects where my strengths show (L.A.). It's interesting that she pushes me to take these knowing these are my weakness but I don't see her taking many of the L.A. (her weakness). Hehe...I'll point it out eventually.
     
  20. becky

    becky Enthusiast

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    Now, can you imagine how difficult it sometimes gets for this homeschool mom?? I don't have the training or background you all do, and I've got to get used to a new grade each year. I'm extra sunk when the lesson plans aren't that good. It has helped a lot hearing that you all have some of the same concerns I have.
     
  21. cutNglue

    cutNglue Magnifico

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    Becky, on the other hand you know your student extra well and you have more freedom for more incidental life moments than we do.
     
  22. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    (insert here TG doing happy dance)
     
  23. kpa1b2

    kpa1b2 Aficionado

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    So that's why when I was growing up I was never taught that the nose is pointing to the smaller number! I've always, and still do, have a difficult time remembering which is greater than or lesser than. When I put it on my math word wall, I also put something like, mouth points to the larger number, then the symbol and lesser then or greater then.

    I think it's important that we also teach the correct vocabulary. It's not take away, it's subtraction. In order to do that, then we need to know our subjects!
     
  24. shouldbeasleep

    shouldbeasleep Enthusiast

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    I think that a lot of us love learning, so if we don't know enough about something, we study it and learn about it. Leastways most teachers who would bother to be involved in a discussion board like this one. We're interested in what we do for a living and want to improve. Unfortunately, there are some idiot teachers out there who could care less...and a few that are just plain ignorant and power driven... a lethal combination.

    I really wasn't very knowledgeable about weather, for example, before it became a Science topic a few years ago when I taught fourth grade. I made sure I understood what I needed to teach so that I could explain it in my own words as well as the words of the book or video or whatever.

    That said, "difficult" questions from a group of bright inquisitive kids don't throw me at all. I just say, "I don't know. That's interesting. I'm going to find out more about it. See if you can research it too. We'll get back to that one tomorrow." That sparks that idea of learning being a lifelong process.

    But to answer your question specifically, I do think you have to know the topic enough to explain it in a variety of ways.
     
  25. becky

    becky Enthusiast

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    But the vocabulary changes!
    In Jeannie's math book you do not 'borrow' you 'regroup'. I'm forever using the word 'borrow'!
     
  26. kpa1b2

    kpa1b2 Aficionado

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    Becky,

    I use both words, as I have a tendency to say "borrow" too. My kids correct me on that one.

    My point is, even if the vocabulary changes (and we need to change with it) that we need to use the correct vocab. It's something that when the kids at my school take standardized tests have a hard time with!
     

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