Ancient words reveal the modern truths of teaching

Student teaching is indeed a worthwhile experience. In student teaching one encounters many interesting people. There are many very well qualified adults both at the university campus and the campus at which I am in the classroom. That is Fairfax High School of the Los Angeles Unified School District. The students are the people that count in the education profession.

My field is secondary education. I am in the single-subject Spanish program. Last semester I taught one Spanish class at James Monroe High School, another school of the same district. That class was first-year Spanish. My current students are in the following classes: first-year native speakers, second-year native speakers, and second-year Spanish. I also volunteer beyond my assignment as I help some interscholastic sports participants with academic work. As a former Olympic participant I know the importance of interscholastic sports. All groups are diverse, interesting and a challenge.

I believe that the best way to write about any teaching experience is to examine some of the vocabulary that often appears in the education profession. It is far more than just jargon. Some words have meanings that are very relevant in school today.

The word teach is from a Germanic root, teocan that meant something similar to the English verb to tell. Yet teaching is much more than telling. The American colonist Benjamin Franklin said, “tell me and I will forget – involve me and I will learn.” This is the goal of the student teacher and any teacher.

Many people are often unaware of the true meaning of the word education, at least the meaning based on origin.

It comes from the Latin word meaning to lead forth. Hence it is a positive word. It does not mean to place knowledge in a person from without. That is a very negative word from Latin, to indoctrinate. That is something that the student teacher and all educators avoid.

Another word is also very relevant and very positive for the student teacher. That is the from Latin origin of the verb, to instruct. The word means to build from within. Instruction comes from the teacher, the helpful coach that guides the student to build himself/herself from within.

This is far different from just presenting knowledge from without.

Pedagogy is also a very relevant Hellenic word, which means to build from the foot. The ped or foot refers to the youngster. With adult education some have spoken of androgogy. In a presentation about adult education foreign language I also coined the term geriogogy, the education of older adults. All are relevant in education today.

All of these words are worthy goals for the student teacher. All are equally challenging. Certain aspects of measuring student progress are scientific. Grading may not even be the best measure of progress or even the most scientific evaluation. Yet it is something that is quite a challenge for the student teacher.

As a student teacher I hope that the students do as well as possible. Yet I also want to be as far in the evaluation as I can. I want this to happen even if the system is not ideal. Grades may not be the best measure of progress but they are at least fair indicators. Hence I aim to be fair in my evaluations.

If education measurement is a science, albeit far from an exact science, then teaching is an art. I rank the art first in teaching, medicine, dentistry, or any high profession. If one loses the science one is still left with the art. To quote a surgeon, “If you lose the art you are left with nothing.” What is true in his profession applies to education as well.

A mathematical computation of the points of a test is a science. It is quite an art to explain a grade to a student or a parent. Any student teacher would do well to remember the title of a book by Jacob Bronowski, Science and Human Values. That book could be good as a textbook for student teaching.

Science and art are not antonyms. They are words that complement each other. They supplement each other at times in student teaching. There is another word that is perhaps the opposite of both of them, pedantic. People often associate pedantic as being like a teacher.

It is actually more of an ostentatious display of knowledge. This word is quite a challenge for me as a student teacher. There is a very strong temptation for me as a student teacher to want to display what I have learned in school. It is challenging for me to avoid this in classroom presentations.

My main goal in student teaching is to have the students receive a good education. I hope that the student teaching course of CSUN will benefit them as much as it does me. One can sure learn from any student teaching experience.

Henry J. Klein is a credential student in secondary education.