Tuesday, March 12, 2013


Some of the most exhilarating moments for a teacher are those times when the students are so teachable. They are actively listening, they are discussing, they are reading, and they are following your train of thought -- thinking your thoughts with you -- and they are compliant with assigned work.

Some of the most depressing times for a teacher are those when the students are unteachable. They choose not to listen, they choose not to discuss but argue or complain, they do not read assignments, they do not follow your thoughts, and they do not study assigned work. They mentally check out.

Such has been my weeks since Christmas vacation. Frankly, I've never had students like this before. We all expect a slump in February, but not in beginning in January and continuing through a grading period. I am a bit consoled that I'm not the only one having the problem. And if contracts were issued or performance evaluations based upon student outcome, I'd not receive a contract or a positive evaluation. It's just that bad.

And their parents, well, it should be interesting to see who wants a conference after grade reports are received. I've had several of the conferences scheduled this past quarter only to have the parents cancel at the last minute ("Something came up...") and never reschedule. Some parents genuinely want to know where their child is missing the beat and help him. Others, which are most, seem to want the teacher to fix the problem, even when the most common problem is the child not doing his homework or class preparation. 

David Murray's article, "The Most Essential Life Skill: Teachability," sums it up. Read excerpt below, then hop over to his site and read the whole thing. Excellent words. Unfortunately for me, I see an overwhelming majority of unteachables in today's classrooms. That makes the teaching life hard.  

The Most Essential Life Skill: Teachability

There’s one characteristic that separates the successful from the unsuccessful in every walk of life: teachability. Those who are teachable, and remain so, usually succeed. The unteachable usually fail. 
Think of all the successful people you know, what is it that distinguishes them all? It’s teachability, isn’t it.Think of all the people you know that never really made the most of the gifts and opportunities God gave them. Unteachability is the common thread, isn’t it?

So what does unteachabilty look like?
  • Don’t take notes, read books, or learn anything unless it’s the bare minimum or what’s essential for exam purposes.
  • Don’t ask questions or attempt anything that might reveal your ignorance or risk you looking stupid.
  • Don’t accept responsibility for your failures but blame anyone and everyone else.
  • Don’t listen, but talk, talk, talk about yourself, especially when you’re with someone you could learn a lot from.
  • Don’t take criticism or correction without resentment or retaliation.
  • Read more here. . . .
In contrast, teachability means:
  • You admit limitation, inability, and ignorance to others who can teach and help.
  • You regularly ask for help, instruction, guidance, and advice (before the event, not after disaster strikes).
  • You listen to others carefully and patiently with a desire to learn from everyone.
  • You’re prepared to move out of your comfort zone, try something different, make mistakes, look stupid, answer wrongly, etc.
  • You don’t give up when you fail at something, but seek help, and try again and again until you get it right.
  • Read more here. . . .
There’s another word for teachability.

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