I like this answer to a quora posting so much that i have to re-publish:
Original posting and anwer from http://qr.ae/t2VQr
Over the past decade I've taught incarcerated men, UC Berkeley undergrads, and middle-class suburban tots and teens. Here's a sampling of lessons I've learned...
What I've learned about learning - People need to feel safe, physically and emotionally, in order to learn. - Creating solid human relationships is more important than creating solid lesson plans. - Lots of smart people are great lecturers but only mediocre teachers. A good teacher will step back and let students actively make connections -- both conceptual and interpersonal. - Stories are the ultimate teaching/learning vehicle. If a picture is worth a thousand words, a great story is worth a thousand pictures. - Often it's better to focus on one idea, have fun with it, and delve deep... than to power through a dozen ideas efficiently. - Size matters. Class size, that is. It's possibly the most vital factor in the quality of educational experience. - Sometimes the best thing you can do as a teacher is not to dispense information, but rather to repair a student's shattered self-confidence. Self-confidence is the infrastructure. If you try to build an informational edifice upon broken fragments of self-confidence, you're setting it up to collapse. First build the infrastructure, and if that's all you have time to do, you've done a wonderful thing. Let the next teacher come along and help the student build the edifice.
What I've learned about students
- Students are humans first, students second.
- Every student has a human need for recognition, even if he/she doesn't realize or believe it. And everyone deserves the chance to speak and be listened to. If you create that chance for everyone in your classroom, and make it meaningful, for some it may be the highlight of their day... or week... or month... or year.
- Every student has the capacity to learn, to grow, and to improve the world around him/her. Even if that student is behind bars. Even if that student seems consistently cranky, frustrated, resistant, depressed, unmotivated. Even if he/she seems stuck in that phase for years. Every student has both the potential to benefit from education and the potential to contribute something unique to the world.
What I've learned about myself as a teacher
- At this point in life, I'm too passionate about teaching to do it for a large, bureaucratic, profit-driven institution. Even if it purports to have a public service mission. I pour too much into my teaching to handle the cognitive dissonance well. [Subject to change. I'm still growing.]
- I have limited faith in the grading system we use in higher education. In principle, I appreciate some of its intended functions; but in practice, I can't implement it with a clear conscience. My students come from diverse backgrounds: some are less privileged, less prepared than others; some are incredibly smart and motivated but have had terrible schooling experiences. They all have different gifts and character strengths. Our grading system is blind to all that; it judges and ranks them all by one set of metrics, rewarding certain gifts and devaluing others.
- I still have much to learn -- about education, human nature, and the learning process. Every class of students teaches me new lessons about the world; every year I spend in the world enriches my approach to classrooms. This process is ever-ongoing.
- I have a good heart -- but I can afford to lighten up, release my death grip on my ideals, and have more fun. Learning should be fun. :)