Thoughts on different teaching styles

by Krisha Moeller, high school art teacher
(in response to recent online debates on TAB vs. DBAE)

Teaching is a lot like parenting. Everyone has their own style of parenting and everyone has their own style of teaching. People are passionate about the topic because it is connected with the act of raising children "right," which I feel everyone (understandably) is simultaneously passionate about and also believes they do "right."

However, I don't know if there is one best teaching style any more than there is one best parenting style: I think there are better or different parenting/teaching styles for different kinds of kids. For instance, some kids actually do better under a more strict and challenging environment and do worse under leniency and ease, whereas others thrive in lenient environments with more supports and do worse in stricter environments with too many challenges.

In parenting, it is easier to try to adjust your parenting style to the type of child you have and to his/her personality than it is in teaching, where you have 150 kids, none of which you may even get to know to such a personal degree in the first place. Therefore, I actually think it is fine (and maybe even a good thing) for all teachers to have many different types of teaching styles and to stick with those consistently.

Sticking with your own style means that you can really make a difference with those particular kids for whom you really "click." However, it may also mean you will clash with those kids who don't like your teaching style.

But to be honest, I don't think this is such a bad thing.

As a student myself, I know there are professors/teachers for whom I did not do well because their teaching style just wasn't for me. However, I never framed this in my mind as "they are a BAD teacher;" their style of teaching just wasn't best for my style of learning, that's all. 

I had an "epiphany" in high school when I realized that the teachers for whom I did not do well actually were very successful with some types of students, so I couldn't really complain about them. For instance, I really did not like one of my teachers. He was way too easy and boring for the "straight A honor student" that I was and I felt like I learned nothing in his class. On the flip side, I noticed he actually did very well in engaging and supporting a particular group of rebellious boys who normally did not like school at all.

So, who was I to judge him?

After all, there were many classes I have been in as a student where I did extremely well and worked very well with the teacher, but although that teacher was great for me, that teacher was not for everyone in the class.

To be honest, I don't see this as a problem, though. To me this seems kind of normal, and maybe even a good experience for students.

I would rather have those one or two really wonderful and particularly memorable/impactful teachers who taught me exactly what and how I needed to be taught, even at the expense of going through those teachers that I clashed with, than to have all my teachers teach in exactly the same, "moderate" way.

Also, I feel it is actually GOOD for students to have to learn to work with and get along with teachers that they clash with. As an adult, you have to learn to work with different people with different personalities and different ways of doing things (either on a team or even with a boss). For instance, I have worked under a lot of bosses who have managed in ways I didn't like and I have worked under bosses who have managed in ways that I did like. But I had to learn to be adaptive (as we all do) to these different personalities.

 It is the same with being a student: I relished the times when I got a teacher who had a personality that meshed well with my own, but I understood that I had to learn to adapt and work with teachers who had personalities that clashed with mine (since, like I said before, teachers who mesh with me may clash with others, and teachers who clash with me may mesh with others).

So yeah, to summarize this whole thing: I think it is actually a good thing for students to have access to many different types of teaching styles, and it is a positive "growing" challenge for them to learn to adapt to ones they may not typically mesh with. I don't think we should worry too much about "correct" teaching styles.

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