Friday, September 23, 2016

Book Review - Teaching to Change Lives by Howard Hendricks (Review by Andy Jobson)

I recently decided to re-read Teaching to Change Lives by Howard Hendricks. While much of the content is directed to Sunday School teachers, there are several sections that I think are appropriate to any educator. The ideas below all come from his chapter, “The Law of the Teacher.”

1.    As teachers, we must consistently grow.  Like many of you, I try to keep up with a reading program.  Hendricks reminded me of the importance of spending time thinking of what we’re reading.  He says, “If you have an hour set apart to read, try reading the first half hour and use the second half hour to reflect on what you read.  Watch the difference it makes.  You’re reading too much if you reflect on it too little.”  Good thing I read this in summer when time was a little more available, but the advice seems relevant at any time of year.

2.    “The good teacher’s greatest threat is satisfaction—the failure to keep asking, ‘How can I improve?’”  Pre-planning has all sorts of details to attend to, but have you asked yourself how your ideas about teaching have changed over the last year?  With the separation of a few months, what worked and didn’t work last year?  What do you wish you had done differently?  What new insights about people, or your subject, have you gained that will impact your methods or curriculum?

3.    In addition to reading books, we should learn to read people.  That includes getting to know your students outside of the classroom whenever possible.  Some of my colleagues have distributed notecards in the first week of school and asked their students to write down some biographical information, including things like “languages spoken at home,” “favorite hobbies/activities,” “Something people don’t know about me is __________,” or “My attitude toward [this subject] is ________________.”  The value of such cards is twofold:  first, if you can reference the material in class, you demonstrate that you are interested in their lives; second, you can use the details in the building of bridges—the ability to relate your lessons to something important to your students.

Most of us spent at least some time reflecting over the summer.  Don’t neglect that task as the new school year begins and your schedules get more hectic.  If anything, it’s even more important now.

Have a great year!

An educator of 22 years, Andy Jobson has taught government, economics, and U.S. History. Currently teaching English literature at Riverside Military Academy in Gainesville, GA, he’s also  been an administrator, a STAR teacher twice, and taught elementary school with Teach for America.