Teaching as an art form

I’m preparing to be a chemistry teacher. In addition to chemistry and teacher prep classes, what else should I study to become an effective teacher? More math or physics? —T., Colorado

While math and physics are important (especially if you’re pursuing other certifications), you also could become familiar with another language and the special education requirements in your state. You could pursue a personal interest in history and geography, literature, or the arts to better connect science with other subjects.

As a teacher, you’ll be “on stage” every day. Many teacher prep classes don’t address how to communicate with students and share your enthusiasm and passion for chemistry. That’s where acting experience or a class may help. This doesn’t mean putting on a contrived show but rather using your voice and body language effectively.

After several teachers in my school were recruited into a community theatre group, our confidence and communications in the classroom improved in several areas:

  • Enunciating clearly and reaching every corner of the room without shouting and straining your voice
  • Incorporating humor and timing
  • Improvising based on student interests and questions
  • Dealing with distractions
  • Showing interest in a student’s question or idea, even if we’d heard it several times before
  • Being mindful of your position in the classroom and moving around
  • Using strategies such as props and wait-time
  • Choosing a well-aimed glare or a quiet whisper to stop some misbehaviors

Who knows what topics you could change from dull to interesting for students?

Online Resources:

Photo: https://www.flickr.com/photos/spcummings/361167519/

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One Comment

  1. Harry E. Keller
    Posted March 28, 2017 at 7:14 pm | Permalink

    The suggestions above are excellent. I will just add something about chemistry as someone who has a Ph.D. in chemistry and is a former chemistry professor.

    Make sure that you really understand chemistry deeply. Read constantly. Articles in Science News or Scientific American can help. Read biographies of scientists, especially those in chemistry or related fields. Develop an intense understanding of the nature of science, not just the phrases that you may have heard in your classes.

    Every field of science contains great excitement, the excitement of discovery. Even though your students are not at the cutting edge of science, they discover, through you, wonderful facts about the world around them every day. Allow them the space to make those discoveries for themselves rather than telling them as often as you possibly can.

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