"I'm too smart to be a teacher!"

Discussion in 'Secondary Education' started by SportsJunkie25, Jul 18, 2009.

  1. SportsJunkie25

    SportsJunkie25 Rookie

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    Jul 18, 2009

    I have a friend that thinks she may be too smart to be a teacher. Not because she doesn't think teachers have to be smart, but because she thinks she may be too smart and not able to relate to her students. Basically, she says it's hard for her to break stuff down to her students. She said once she explains it, if they still don't understand, she's not sure how to "break it down" (i.e. she can't understand how they don't get it).

    So, what do you guys think about this? Do you think knowing how to explain stuff, in easier terms, is something you can learn or is it one of those if you have it, you have it...if you don't, you don't?

    Fyi - she didn't go to school to be a teacher (so she's never taken a teaching course) but is a long-term sub. Thoughts?
     
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  3. TulipsGirl

    TulipsGirl Cohort

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    Jul 18, 2009

    I've heard this idea presented before - but by students: "He's so smart, that he doesn't know how to explain it well." Maybe there is truth to this. I know that I had a similar problem with a particular math class in high school. He just couldn't understand why we didn't get it.
    This is interesting to me because it's one of my favorite parts of teaching.... It's like a brain teaser to me: where is there a gap in understanding? what do the clues point to? what patterns can I find in the mistakes so that I know what to reteach? It is so satisfying to search for these clues and then try another approach that works!

    I'm not sure that this skill needs to be natural, but If it's not natural, you NEED to be willing to work on it.

    ETA: Being smart doesn't cause pple to be ineffective teachers. Your friend may just never have had to break things down for herself as a student, and therefore she has never really analyzed the learning process. Taking methodolagy courses may be very helpful in training herself to think differently about how students learn.
     
  4. cutNglue

    cutNglue Magnifico

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    I don't think it has anything to do with how smart you are. I know brilliant people who are capable of breaking things down and do so in neat creative ways because they are so darn smart. I'm thinking of a ph.D. brilliant college professor as I say this.

    I DO, however, think that not everybody is cut out to be able to break things down naturally and it does take practice.

    Think of it like this: Do you know some computer geeks who are brilliant at their job and can't explain it in layman terms? I bet you also know geeks who are brilliant at their jobs and CAN break it down in layman terms.

    There are some things I'm pretty good at breaking down and there are other things that I'm not so good at breaking down. It takes practice and skill and having a natural knack does help.

    Also, it could be that since she hasn't gone to teacher college and it isn't natural for her, she could benefit from having courses on child growth and development. It is helpful to know what ages kids can handle what kind of information and what the natural progression for learning is. Just a thought.

    Can your friend observe other teachers? Sometimes we just haven't been exposed to how to do this. If she is subbing, it is likely she isn't seeing other teachers explain things.
     
  5. SportsJunkie25

    SportsJunkie25 Rookie

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    Jul 18, 2009

    Good points you guys! I was kind of thinking the same thing but she gets frustrated as to why she can't think of "easier" ways to explain the material. Then, we started thinking of the professors we had in college that just seemed to not relate to us and weren't the best of professors (in terms of explaining things). I mean, they were smart but none of us really knew what they were talking about in class. It was kind of like, uuummm...bring it down a notch so our 'normal' brains can get it. :p

    Perhaps you guys are right; perhaps it just takes time and some people, originally, are better at it than others. I guess it can be linked to creativity...
     
  6. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    Jul 18, 2009

    Creativity, and a willingness to use things (or concepts) for purposes for which they weren't originally quite intended.

    Your friend might do well to start thinking in terms of analogies: how is event X that occurs in everyone's life like concept Y that they're not getting?
     
  7. WindyCityGal606

    WindyCityGal606 Enthusiast

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    I don't think teacher necessarily break things down into easier terms. What we do it learn how to look at it from all different ways. We learn the many ways someone might approach a problem. We learn to think outside of the box. There's more than one way to skin a cat. One size does not fit all. Looking at all perspectives. We are problem solvers so we are able to master this way of thinking. I think it takes an extremely smart person to be able to do that. We can teach because we are able to start at the end and take it apart all the way back to the beginning following the web of paths where they may lead.
     
  8. each1teach1

    each1teach1 Cohort

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    Jul 18, 2009

    I struggle with that. In fact, I've been told that during de-briefing after an PDAS observations. My evaluator said that it was obvious from watching me that I was really intelligent, but that I had to be careful because I'm not teaching to a classroom full of me's. In fact, I'm teaching to room full of kids that are closer to the polar opposite, so I need to "get down and dirty" with the kids and make sure I'm not teaching over their heads.

    I do have to be careful, because I see things just completely different. For example, I'm really good at discerning patterns and that's one of the things that helped me pick up Spanish so quickly, but my students don't see those patterns and I've learned that I simply can't get them to see that pattern. I can show them the pattern the way I see it a million times and I may have 2 or 3 kids whoever pick it up.

    That's one of the things I'm working on this year is letter how to explain things better.
     
  9. WindyCityGal606

    WindyCityGal606 Enthusiast

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    With the patterns, you would need to learn the how's and why's of patterns to be able to teach them. If you know the logic behind it, you should be able to figure out how t teach it many different ways.
     
  10. MathManTim

    MathManTim Companion

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    Jul 19, 2009

    LOL at this thread. I saw this problem all the time at Purdue's math department. "Professor X is clearly a brilliant mathematician, but he couldn't clearly explain the Chain Rule to a freshman calculus class if his life depended on it." When this issue happens at the college level--and college math departments are notorious for this--the reason is usually that the professor was hired more for the research he or she can do rather than the quality of his or her teaching. In all fairness, most mathematicians I've known were very professional and took their teaching duties seriously. There are still some hardliners out there, though, who view teaching as a nuisance and an unwelcome interruption of their research duties.

    Clearly, teaching requires both mastery of the content you wish to teach, as well as the ability to clearly explain the material to people with differing amounts of background knowledge, and to help them understand the material for themselves.

    SportsJunkie25, if you ever want to get snarky, then insist that because someone can't successfully teach the material, then they are not smart enough to be a teacher. :D

    MathManTim
     
  11. chebrutta

    chebrutta Enthusiast

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    I struggled with this my first year (I hadn't taken any education classes at that point). I mean - it's EASY! OBVIOUS! - why couldn't they comprehend it?! It wasn't until I got into the concept of Multiple Intelligence and Bloom's that I *really* started to understand how to adjust my teaching for my students.
     
  12. Sarge

    Sarge Enthusiast

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    Jul 19, 2009

    I guess no one here has taught first grade before.
     
  13. HMM

    HMM Cohort

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    Jul 19, 2009

    There is no such thing as being too smart to teach.

    Now I did have profs that thought teaching wasn't important and as a consequence they were not good at it. Then again, I also had some profs that were very smart, strong researchers, and were exceptional educators.
     
  14. each1teach1

    each1teach1 Cohort

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    That's exactly what I meant. I'm learning to approach the subject from lots of different view points and angles.
     
  15. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    If your friend were REALLY as smart as she claims, wouldn't she be able to come up with a way to break something into small steps? If other people can figure it out and she can't, doesn't it mean she's not as smart as they?

    I can see her point-- I think that very often, a teacher who has struggled a bit make a great teacher because he or she has real empathy for those struggling students.

    But I think she's justifying her decision by putting other people down. Maybe she's not cut out to be a teacher after all.
     
  16. bandnerdtx

    bandnerdtx Aficionado

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    Jul 19, 2009

    I know some really dumb people who can't break things down for others, too.

    It's a different skill set.
     
  17. myangel52

    myangel52 Comrade

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    Jul 19, 2009

    I struggle with it, too, at times. Some things come so easily to me that I have a harder time seeing it from other people's p.o.v... and finding a way to make them understand what I am saying has taken practice. Each time I have to do it, I get better.

    I hadn't really connected the multiple intelligences idea to it, even though I try to use various ways of showing/explaining... that has given me much to ponder on! :) Thanks!!!
     
  18. SportsJunkie25

    SportsJunkie25 Rookie

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    Jul 20, 2009

    Well, that's the problem. In her mind, I guess it seems to be broken down 'plain and simple'. And, I don't think she was trying to look down on teachers so don't take offense. I mean, she's a teacher, too. I just think she was trying to say she doesn't understand how her students are confused, after she breaks it down, b/c in her eyes, it seems plain as day.

    But like some of the other posters said, I guess it will just take her a while to learn how to explain things differently. And, if that never happens...I guess you're right - She may not be made for teaching.
     

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