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Teacher Leaders Make Learning Fun

By Peter Jeff
The Leadership Mints Guy

Here’s an idea to enhance your teaching effectiveness. Reading time: 4:02

      You’re at the top of your game- a subject matter expert who swings a mighty bat in the major leagues of your profession. Baseball_GameOther big hitters envy your prowess and seek your advice, guidance, and direction.

       But then you throw them all curve ball.

     You voluntarily give up that challenging and ego-building prestige, power and position to coach Little Leaguers.

      Now you’re teaching youngsters too inexperienced to appreciate the finer points of the game; youngsters still groping with the fundamentals of the game, youngsters still struggling to get a hit let alone hitting home runs like you did metaphorically and regularly on your Field of Dreams.

      Some of these Little Leaguers are frustrated with baseball. Others are bored by it. Many are questioning why they even tried out to play baseball any way. And now you have to baby sit and cajole young minds to focus on your baseball specialty whether they want to or not.

      Who would ever suffer this coaxing and coaching headache instead of basking in the limelight of power and prestige? Leaders, that’s who. Leaders like Enrico Fermi.

   The Father of Atomic Fission would volunteer to teach a first-year college physics class because it challenged him to make learning physics more fun, more relevant, more meaningful in their day-to-day lives.

     Enrico Fermi, the Nobel Laureate in Physics demonstrated a key leadership skill : simplify the essence of your expertise so that neophytes can better understand, embrace, and value your subject matter. Like the most effective leaders he framed his vision so that others could see the possibilities in the future and make better sense of today.

Entering the Soul of the Pupil

Enrico Fermi teaching a class

Enrico Fermi teaching a class

        He entertained students with simple yet intriguing concepts that made the magic of physics come alive and rekindled his own passion for stirring the brew in the physics cauldron, a brew that has virtually changed the world from space travel to satellite television to atomic warfare.

     In stirring that brew, Fermi understood that the most effective Teacher Leaders command attention, compel involvement and spark enthusiasm in their students.

      These Teacher Leaders are like entertainers. They readily understand what public education pioneer Thomas Mann meant when he said trying to lead or to teach without first inspiring the pupil to learn is “hammering on a cold iron.”

      Indeed Teacher Leaders entertain their followers with a passion that engages students to think for themselves, to respond, to take action. They endorse William James’s notion that teaching is the “insertion of a creative mind between a fact and a pupil.”

       They recognize the utility in author John Milton’s observation that the best teachers are those “whose spirit enters the soul of the pupil .” Indeed, engaging Teacher Leaders enter the souls of the students.   Memorably.

      bookConsider the math-rapping teacher rhyming his way through algebraic formulas. Consider the English teacher who taught narrative movement in literature by listening to movements in classical music . And consider the Language arts teacher who introduced new vocabulary words with student presenters as if they were introducing nominees for an Academy Award. “And the envelope, please.”

     All of that creative energy pays off in rekindling the fires of learning.

Rekindling the Fires of Learning

     That’s why the most engaging Teacher Leaders feed off the light that beams in a youngster’s eyes the first time they learn a counter-intuitive concept.

      You can almost see the wheels turning in a young mind that’s learning —turning faster, and faster, and faster  —-when they realize a counter-intuitive concept, when they realize for the first time for example that if you add two odd numbers the result is always even.

     Too bad the experts in the field yawn at that odd+odd=even fact. That’s why the most effective Teacher Leaders force themselves to unlearn and relearn their subject matter so fresh again that they rekindle not only their learning but their yearning to know more.

      Just like the Nobel winner making the concepts of physics come alive again with a fresh view and an invigorating perspective that ignites the fires of learning in others, that sparks the creative drive in others,  and that turns a teacher into a leader, a Teacher Leader.

      At the top of their game.

          Today’s ImproveMINT

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