How Are You Teaching?

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By Dan Coulter

How are you teaching your children?

Are you as effective as you want to be? If you’re frustrated that your children don’t seem to be learning the lessons you’re trying so hard to share, you’re not alone.

You can see the evidence in an article by Elizabeth Green in the New York Times Magazine from March 7, 2010 titled, “Can Good Teaching Be Learned?” Many of the ideas the article covers are especially relevant for the parents and teachers of children with Asperger Syndrome and similar conditions.

While I recommend you read the article yourself, here are some paraphrased highlights:

* Many students don’t follow instructions because they don’t understand what they are supposed to do. When you’re teaching, you need to be specific and direct.

* Get your students’ attention. If you don’t think you’re getting through, keep repeating your instruction in positive ways. Don’t get frustrated or cross. Act as if your students were not able to hear through no fault of their own.

* Take your students’ point of view. This can help you find a channel of communication into their minds.

* Don’t multi-task when you’re giving instructions. When you’re giving an assignment, stand still and look at your students. This also will help you see if they’re paying attention.

From my perspective, these techniques would work just as well one-on-one as they would in a classroom setting. I think, too often, we think we’re teaching when actually we’re just talking. Teaching happens when we ensure students are absorbing a lesson.

I came across an example of effective teaching recently when my wife and I had dinner with one of our daughter’s former college roommates who is now teaching 13 year olds. She was conducting a class discussion when “sexting” came up (kids sending racy text messages or pictures of themselves with little or no clothing to each other via cell phone).

One girl in the class said, “Well, if it’s your boyfriend and he loves you, then it’s okay.”

The teacher had two thoughts, “I’m going to get fired,” and “What can I say to help these kids understand how wrong and dangerous this is?” Then, another student did it for her. The kids all knew this student was the daughter of a single father and lived in a tough neighborhood. She didn’t speak often. When she did, they listened.

“First of all, I just want to say that my daddy raised a lady, and that what those girls are doing, that’s not ladylike. And if a boy says he loves you and he’s thirteen years old? Guess what, he’s 13 years old and he don’t really love you. And if someone tells you to do like that, you need to respect yourself and realize you don’t need to do it because you need to respect your body.”

Whatever else this girl’s father has accomplished, he’s also an exceptional teacher.

You can access the New York Times article mentioned above online by following this link:"building%20a%20better%20teacher"&st=cse

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Dan Coulter is the producer of ten educational DVDs about Asperger Syndrome and autism, including "Asperger Syndrome: Success in the Mainstream Classroom." You can read more articles on his website:

Copyright 2010 Dan Coulter All Rights Reserved. Used by Permission.

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