I felt that a post, rather than a short comment, was required to reply to a very thoughtful comment to my previous post. Thank you very much for the input.

In my time as a private tutor, I have not been shy about telling students that I am learning from them with every single interaction. Every exchange gives me more information about the student and how to help him or her; that’s because I’m extremely observant and heavily emphasize feedback.

When I was being shown presentations on how “the old ways” were obsolete, I saw a circle of students with arrows pointing to the teacher as the “obsolete” form. First of all, that’s a misrepresentation: the lecture method is purely frontal and is the in-person equivalent of a television broadcast. Far more importantly, lectures should be used, when they must be used, to explain something; they should never be used for a “telling” method rather than a “teaching” method. Rich, context filled explanations that grab the attention of a learner is OK, but there is a better way.

Let’s imagine the sage method in its inception: a circle of students sitting in a grass field with the sage standing in the middle. The sage is on stage, but he is not alone; the students are on stage with him. They, too, are actors in the drama, and the sage can turn and look each and every one of them in the eye, making everyone feel involved; and yet, while he is center stage, he teaches not simply with words, but with his posture and actions. Everything I have ever done in online private education is simply replicating this method with textual and image emphasis where a small turn of the head and a hand motion would provide emphasis in real life.

It has been said that, were Martians to study the languages of the Earth, they would consider Italian to be a primarily visual/ sign language occasionally punctuated by spoken words. Explanations, and therefore teaching, are all about where to place the emphasis. This is the proper role of the classroom. Information is legion; determining what is important, and what is not, is the role of the teacher, even with myriad feedback from inquisitive students (which I strongly encourage).

In addition, were I to use a purely lecture method for a particular, narrow purpose, I would treat the matter with the seriousness of a businessman; I would engage in “market research” both before and after to discover just how my words were being received. My #1 concern would be ensuring that my own message is understood.

As for regurgitation, let me be blunt: it’s not about what a student says to me; it’s about what a student thinks. It’s about whether a student has been stimulated to think, or not. Differentiating between regurgitation and genuinely held beliefs is one of the key communication skills known to man. No teacher, particularly one working through the disadvantage of the lecture method, should allow these skills to atrophy.

In conclusion, the true sage – the modern classroom strategist – teaches on the front lines. He possesses, at the same time, a vast command of his subject matter, complete accessibility to the students while engaged in teaching, and a zeal for learning that keeps him grounded and relevant to the learners before him, be they children or adults. An effective teacher is “teaching,” not “telling”; he is not merely conveying information, but explaining that information with emphasis at the proper places, demonstrating with his every word and action that the information is important, and also, why it is important.

In teaching, it is not the quantity of the conversation that matters; it is the quality.

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