teachers not having the content knowledge

Discussion in 'General Education' started by teach42, Oct 10, 2012.

  1. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    Oct 12, 2012

    I think that foreign language teachers need to know all (or very nearly all) the grammar in the language. Vocabulary is something different, though. I think that foreign language teachers should know high frequency words and the 200 most commonly used verbs, nouns, adjectives, etc. It's darn near impossible to know the meaning of every word in a language, even one's native language, so foreign language teachers just need to do the best they can in that respect. At a minimum, they should know all the vocabulary words in their textbook and/or the passage/poem/prose being studied. That's my opinion, anyway.
     
  2. vivalavida

    vivalavida Companion

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    Oct 12, 2012

    Thank you. I appreciate your input! :)
     
  3. MissJill

    MissJill Cohort

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    Oct 12, 2012

    I'm teaching social studies right now, the only topic on the praxis exam that I have ever failed. I certainly don't know the subject well, but I am teaching myself as I go and learning with the kids. I have actually come to really enjoy the subject and will most likely take the exam to pass the test at the end of the year to become highly qualified.
     
  4. McParadigm

    McParadigm Companion

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    Oct 12, 2012

    While I agree 100% that a teacher needs to have and display a high level of authority regarding their discipline of choice, I'd like to point out that there is also a lot of value in admitting you don't know something.

    Teachers who acknowledge the occasional uncertainty, forgetfulness, or knowledge gap and then invite the class to help them pursue the answer are modelling life-long learning. And research consistently shows that it has a pronounced effect of engaging student interest...especially when the curiosity is specific to your content area.
     
  5. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Oct 12, 2012

    An occasional memory lapse is one thing, as is not being able to answer an occasional question from out of left field.

    But when those "I don't know, let's look it up" moments become the hallmark of your class, you change from being a respected professional to the punchline of a Facebook joke.

    Any teacher who has any hopes of being that respected professional we talk about needs to know the content, cold. We need to know far beyond the scope of the individual courses we teach, far beyond the scope of what's covered in the textbook.

    We SHOULD be able to answer a lot of those "left field" questions. We should know what they'll be learning next year and the year after that.

    We're in charge of educating our kids. We should know the material.
     
  6. McParadigm

    McParadigm Companion

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    Oct 12, 2012

    Is someone promoting making those moments the hallmark of their class?

    That's a part of it. But a profession is defined as a calling requiring specialized knowledge and skills not possessed by or common among those outside of the profession. Among its defining qualities are the presence of a unique cognitive base and a common professional language. I've known a lot more teachers who displayed a limited understanding of pedagogical theory and practice, or who literally did the exact opposite of what compounding research says is most effective, than I have teachers who didn't know their subject area at all. In fact, a lot of the teachers I've known over time were people who seemed to have loved their subject area so much that it's the reason they decided to teach it.

    I'll admit to only reading the last handful of posts before adding my two cents, before...which I justify by noting that I was really only making one specific point. So I don't know if anybody was vehemently arguing against content knowledge. But I find it surprising that anybody would.

    And we should know a heck of a lot about education, learning, psychology, and the physical development of the brain.
     
  7. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    Oct 12, 2012

    I think I might agree with you. I was talking in the sense of what a teacher should understand at the VERY LEAST. In think if the teacher only understood 80-90% of the textbook, he or she would be more like a glorified tutor. She understands and can help them through parts of it by working at it with them.

    I feel that ideally, every teacher should know 100% of the textbook and more though.

    I was also speaking in the sense of the teacher teaching only one grade as well, or one subject. i.e. if a teacher didn't understand whatever tense (I have ZERO capabilities when it comes to knowing the components of formal grammar), it may or may not affect her because she doesn't have to teach the concepts that comes afterwards because she isn't hired into that position.
     
  8. greendream

    greendream Cohort

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    Oct 13, 2012

    The debate between education major vs. content major is an interesting one to me. In my state, almost every high school teacher is an education major with a concentration in a specific subject.

    On one hand, I don't like that idea, but on another hand, sometimes higher-level college courses don't have a lot to do with the content of a high school class. I can certainly say this is true of English. In my higher-level college English classes, we spent lots of time talking about things like queer theory, Marxism, or advanced linguistics--stuff that would never make an appearance in most high school classrooms. When I started teaching high school, I had to go back and brush up on basic stuff I hadn't thought about in years, like direct and indirect objects and thesis statements.
     
  9. paperlabs

    paperlabs Rookie

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    Oct 13, 2012

    As usual, I will say some things here that most would not dare suggest.
    I actually feel like some principals want some teachers to fail. I don't think all of them really like students that much. Students are political tools to some of them.
    I feel like my former "principal" hated my "arrogance" at teaching chemistry. I just loved the subject matter and wasn't the shy little person she expected when I taught chemistry. I don't know, but maybe she wanted to be the reason for my success. In the spring, she asked me to teach Algebra II for the next year. I had made it clear to friends that I tried to teach Alg.2 in the past without much success. All summer long I studied to prepare to teach Alg.2. I told friends how I studied all summer and felt confident. I wonder if they told her because near summer vacation's end the "principal" called me on the phone and told me she wanted me to teach pre-calculus instead! Though I try to do anything and everything everybody wants, I refused. She never had to hire another teacher and we got through the school year just fine except she did not renew my contract for the next year.
     
  10. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Oct 14, 2012

    I think that passing a test, or becoming certified, is about an attempt to try to ensure minimal content knowledge. It's an attempt to weed out those who simply do not know enough to teach the material. It's probably not always an accurate measure; I imagine sometimes the inept get through and sometimes the qualified get caught up. But it's an attempt to ensure that teachers know their stuff.

    Anytime we make a blanket statement about people we don't know, there are going to be inaccuracies.

    In my opinion, a teacher will not and cannnot be effective without:
    - Content knowledge. It's number one on my list. You need to know far, far more than what you're teaching. You need to be able to answer those "what if" questions. You need to know what they'll be learning next year and what they learned last year. You need to be able to pique their curiosity about your material , so they go home and do some research simply because they're curious. You need to know how your material applies to the real world, because your kids are going to want to know. You need to have alterate explanations at your fingertips. You need to be able to decipher those "last year's teacher taught it this way" questions, even when the kid only remembers half of what last year's teacher said. You need to know your stuff.

    But that's not all.

    -You need to know pedagogy. You need to know what's likely to produce results, how to teach it and explain it. You need to understand how kids learn. Simply knowing the material, without knowing how best to communicate it, will not make you a good teacher. An encyclopedia doesn't teach, it presents information. We need to be far, far, more than that.

    - You need the flexibility to know that sometimes one method won't work with your kids, and the willingness to try another method. And another. And another. And another. And of course, you need to know al those alternative methods.

    - You need strong classroom management skills. This one is tricky, because what works in one classroom may not work in another period, or with different kids, or in a different subject or on a different day. You need to develop your own style, your own way of relating with the kids. You need to develop a relationship that lets them know that you're on their side, but that you're not one of them. That you want their sucess, and will work with them to achieve it, but that ultimately it's theirs to attain. But without classroom management, it doesn't matter how magnificent a lesson you have planned, because no one will be able to hear it.

    -You need a thick skin. You need to know that kids are kids, and not to take it personally when they act like kids. And to know that there's a difference between what's OK for "just kids" and when behavior crosses a line that makes it not OK.

    - You need intuition. You need to know when something is wrong, and be able to judge the severity of what's wrong. One kid who puts his head on his desk may have a migraine, another may need immediate medical attention, another may just be tired and a 4th may just be zoning out for a minute. You need to be able to judge how to react, and you need to be right.

    - You need the ability to multitask. Big time.

    -You need to like kids. I know it's basic, but I've seen a number of teachers over the years who simply seemed not to like kids. It's not even about job satisfaction, it's about the fact that those kids need and deserve to be with someone who basically enjoys their company.

    OK, you get my drift. This is just the tip of the iceberg.

    I have yet to see the exam or certification program that will accurately gauge most of this. That doesn't mean that I'm against those tests, merely that they're not going to guarantee success. They're an attempt to keep the worst teachers out of the classroom, not to pull forth the best. That's something that we, as the individual professionals, need to do for ourselves.
     
  11. blazer

    blazer Connoisseur

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    Oct 14, 2012

    In the UK most High school teachers have a subject degree (mine is Chemistry) however once you qualify as a teacher (usually via a post graduate course) you just become a 'teacher'. You would normally be expected to teach your subject but can be asked (and compelled) to teach any subject the school management wishes. All science graduates are expected to be able to teach Chemistry, Biology and Physics as a minimum. Quite a few of us are asked to teach Maths as well. However to fit the staff into a timetable a teacher could be asked to teach any other subject. It is not unusual to have Geography teachers teaching History or Religeous studies. There are several subjects in UK schools that don't even have degrees such as PHSE and Citizenship. Anyone can teach those. It has only been since I started teaching that specialist ICT teachers have come along. When I began the subject would be taught by any teacher who may own a computer at home and knew how to turn one on! In fact many of the older ICT teachers in schools are people who bought a computer as a hobby back in the day and now run the departments!
     
  12. Emily Bronte

    Emily Bronte Groupie

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    Oct 14, 2012

    In order to be certified in my state, one has to have a content area degree for the secondary level. I wouldn't expect a high school English teacher to have read every single one of Shakespeare's works. That certainly does not mean that he/she is not qualified to teach English. Even college professors have areas of specialty.
     

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