In teaching we talk about methods, objectives, and outcomes. We also rely on research and data to guide our instruction, from the design of a textbook to the strategies we apply in the classroom. We can acknowledge a certain science in our work, and yet there is most certainly art in our performance. Unlike a piece of technology, our instruction is not based solely on empirical evidence but is influenced by emotion, instinct, and personal experience. Unlike a computer application with its concrete settings and filters, our lesson plans are malleable from start to finish, and changes can be made not only by a single user (the teacher) but by all users on the same network (teacher and students). Furthermore, we cannot click on “Run Program” and operate automatically.
The beauty of teaching is that it combines science and art. We must be grounded in theory and well-versed in methodology, yet without art we cannot engage or inspire our students. We add our personality to the delivery of a lesson. The same lesson plan carried out by two different instructors does not result in identical learning experiences for the students. Also, we can set firm objectives and choose concrete strategies, but because we are human we can err when applying those strategies and fall short of our objectives. This is not to be feared. When we falter, we regain our footing, we reflect, and we commit ourselves to doing better. This is the process of becoming more skilled in our art and more confident of our science.
To aspiring and beginning teachers, I would recommend:
- Being the scientist – be clear about your objectives, use logic in determining strategies, and look for measurable outcomes in each lesson.
- Being the artist – mold your classroom and your approach to create a positive learning atmosphere, be sensitive to nonverbal cues, be flexible in your delivery, and always be yourself.