Teaching differs from other jobs. What other career have you observed day-in-day-out for 13 or more years before you embark on it? Most of us are lucky enough to observe only hours of the work of a doctor, a dentist or a mechanic. Unless we have a family member in the job, we’ve probably only seen a couple of days or weeks of the work of a nurse, a shopkeeper or a hairdresser. But most of us have observed teaching for several hours daily for years on end.
Because we’re so familiar with teaching, it looks easy. It doesn’t have the mystique or glamour of jobs such as software designer, barrister, entrepreneur, newspaper editor, engineer or chef. But in looking easy, teaching is deceptive. It is a complex and difficult job to execute well. As David Labraee says, in learning to teach we have to contend with learning the complexity of something that looks easy. We also have to be careful about who we learn from because many people who express opinions on teaching know little about the work.
What we know about the work of teaching comes from many different sources. Sometimes the information we receive about teaching is consistent and sometimes it is contradictory. The strength of influence each source has on our learning varies from one teacher to the next.
Your teaching today may be shaped by some of the following sources of learning about teaching:
• Experience as a student in a classroom over 13 years, what Lortie calls the “apprenticeship of observation”
• Conversations with colleagues in your own school or in other schools
• Websites, such as this, this or this.
• Professional development while teaching
• Initial teacher education
• Professional journals
• Teaching experience
• Discussion boards
If you were to rank these sources in order of which they contributed to your learning as a teacher, how would you order them?
If you were to rank the sources in order of which they are to be trusted, would the order be the same?
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Things Are Not Always As They Seem!
Appearances are deceptive. We are all influenced by what we see. This is true in our everyday lives, in our interactions with our world, in everything we come upon. We judge with our “enayim”, our eyes, our ears and our senses, as well as our past experiences. On closer examination we find something other than the packaging, known also as the outer shell. There is an old German children’s song which expresses this truism so well: “An einem Bäume da hängt ‘ne Pflaume die möcht ich gerne haben, am anderen Bäume wächst auch ‘ne Pflaume die möcht ich gerne haben. So nimm sie dir sie beide so nimm sie dir sie doch, die eine hat eine Made, die andere hat ein Loch!”(on one tree there hangs a plum which I would like, on the other tree there also grows a plum which I would like. By all means take them both. One has a worm in it and the other one has a hole).
We find these parables in our Bible as well. Brothers should love each other. Yet look at Jacob and Esau. The latter sold his birthright for a bowl of porridge. When he later recognized the results of his exchange, he wanted to annihilate Jacob. Joseph was not recognized by his brothers when they came to get food in preparation for the seven years of famine in the land of Canaan, where Joseph had become the “commissioner”. They believed he was who he appeared on the surface to be, and they gave him the greatest respect and deference.
In the field of psychotherapy, we experience people who are exceptionally polite, “sweet”, and models of virtue. Underneath this surface behavior we not infrequently see a woman or man who is raging with anger and destructive thoughts. In criminology we have seen a man like Ted Bundy, an educated, refined, suit wearing gentleman, whose inner caldron was forever yearning to kill. He managed to lure and murder innumerable unsuspecting women! The differences between reality and make believe in the lives of film actors are well known. To name just a few: The well remembered sex bomb, Marilyn Monroe, with her winning smile and sexy figure which matched her unusually seductive ways, overdosed because her outer behavior and inner feelings were totally incongruous. Elvis Presley, the “happy” singing dancer, star, and idol of his multitude of fans, lived a short life due to his drug addiction and inability to accept himself. Judy Garland, the adorable young girl actress in the Wizard of Oz, shortened her life for a number of reasons which have forever puzzled her family and fans. Her accolades were enormous and live far beyond her lifetime, when she so skillfully and artistically played the unforgettable Dorothy.
Our politicians are the perfect example of folk who lead us to believe that they are working for the people they represent. On closer scrutiny we find that their main motivation is to praise themselves. The successful ones are those who are outstanding actors. They are people who live to aggrandize themselves and who turn their proverbial coat according to the wind. Whatever it takes to win the political battle, they do, regardless of who they step on to reach their goals. Regarding our current leader, we find him to have a winning smile; his speeches are superb in their presentation, but are nothing but rhetoric and meaningless, often potentially destructive in their ultimate consequences. He appoints self-hating Jews who will help him to assist the Muslims/Arabs to destroy Israel; he redistributes the hard earned money of those who have worked and saved to folks who do not value work. He believes in the communist doctrine for others but he himself earns millions of dollars a year. He asks Americans to drive small vehicles to save the economy while he is chauffeured in a most costly, bulletproof car. He is exempt from all that he preaches to a hoard of the deluded masses.
Now that we have just celebrated our holydays, let us pray to Hashem (G’d) to give us health, “parnosse” (work/livelihood), sustenance, love, and peace for all of our people and all of humanity!
Dr. Ursula A. Falk is a psychotherapist in private practice and the co-author, with Dr. Gerhard Falk, of Deviant Nurses & Improper Patient Care (2006).