Well, for a few weeks now I've been scouring the web for teaching jobs in the Houston area. So far I've applied to... well, heck, I have no idea how many I've applied to. A lot? Many? Numerous? The point is I've put in a ton of applications and have thus far gotten zilch in reply.

I'm told that a lot of schools hire in either February or July. I missed the boat for Feb., but July is just around the corner. Hopefully they'll start pinging me a little earlier than that so we can have some hope around Stately Tumlinson Manner.

I know what some of you may be thinking... "Didn't Kevin swear off teaching a couple of years ago?"

Sure did. I had decided the system was broken and couldn't be fixed. Of course, this coincided with my being let go from Angleton ISD when they had massive budget cuts in the district. It's just possible I was a bit disillusioned and upset over the whole thing. But honestly, a lot of what I said in various articles and entries at that time is still valid. I still think standardized testing is detrimental to the education system. I still feel zero tolerance policies are counter-productive to a student's education. I still feel that corporal punishment is a valuable and necessary discipline tool.

But over the past three years I've also come to a few positive conclusions about education. Now that I've finished the Masters of Education from HBU, I've had a chance to "cool off." I've had the opportunity to take what I learned there and look at the world through educator glasses.

The truth is, a great deal of what you learn in an education program is useless. This may offend many educators, I know. But honestly, does it matter who the researcher was that came up with the theory that is no longer used in schools because it was disproved by what's-his-name? I had four years of that kind of stuff crammed into my head and in two years of teaching it never came up. However, ideas like "modalities" and "learning strategies" and the like were useful tools. Kind of makes you wonder, what if teachers were taught HOW to teach before they entered a classroom?

Surprisingly, in four years of pursuing my grad degree I can only remember a handful of times where I was given a teaching strategy and told to get up and use it in front of the class. The rest of the time it was mostly theory.

I think a big complaint I had about the graduate program I was in was that it was a bit hypocritical. Many of the instructors absolutely refused to practice what they preached (though there were a handful that DID and they are counted as some of the best instructors I ever had). For example, the edict was "teach to the three learning modalities - visual, auditory and tactile-kinesthetic." Do not just pick one (usually auditory) and stick with that." The reason is that everyone has a different way of representing information to themselves. Everyone has a different way to learn. Hitting all three learning styles is essential to reaching as broad an audience as possible and getting the best results. But nearly ever course I took in grad school was geared towards auditory learning. Lecture and reading.

I'm an auditory learner, but I'm also tactile-kinesthetic. I can listen and learn, I can read and learn, but I need that little bit of "hands on" to make it stick. So my practice was to ask lots of questions, to engage professors in conversation, debate, conflict (my favorite). This helped me quite a bit. In 15 years of college (all together), I barely ever picked up a text book to study. Instead, I engaged in questioning and discussion. In other words, I played to my strengths.

Scoff if you like, but I got numerous degrees out of it, including a graduate degree. My buddy Todd felt like this was some kind of travesty, stating, "If you never had to pick up a text book then they weren't doing their jobs." In other words, if I didn't spend every waking moment cramming, straining my eyes, wearing myself out mentally and physically just to pass a test then the instructors weren't making it hard enough. And by extension, I hadn't really earned anything (the implication is that it was just handed to me).

Here's what I do... I read. I read on such a broad range of topics that you'd be hard pressed to find a common thread in my personal library (which is copious).

I also watch a lot of informative films and television programs. Since these are both visual and auditory, they hit two modalities at once and are thus more effective than lecture.

So here's an idea I propose if you want to learn something - pick up DVDs and books on the subject, watch and read these, then find someone with the same interest and engage them in conversation about it. That last part is the clincher for me. Its active. It takes an effort on my part to come up with conversational tid-bits, to link ideas, to carry a thought from A to B to Z. Intuitive leaps happen as I bounce ideas off of my conversational partner and they do the same in return. As we both look at it from our own unique perspective and point of view, and as we both lend those perspectives to the other, we grow and learn. And soon we have a deeper understanding of the subject than we would ever have gotten from a lecture.

As a teacher, I've seen this work in the classroom. Introduce a topic, show pictures or video, play some audio, do a little reading, but cap it off with discussion and you've got the recipe for a successful learning environment.

Can you do this for every topic? No. Want to know why? Because public school systems are geared more towards standardized testing than the nurturing of a love for learning. They're geared more towards memorizing facts, figures and dates than connecting those facts to the lives of the students. "Here's the path of history and how it relates to you," as opposed to, "You'd better memorize this list of dates and events because it's on the test."

I learned a few useful things about memory and retention during the program at HBU. They were things I had already been exposed to, of course, through my personal reading. But it helped a great deal to see them acknowledged in the program. And one important thing that I picked up was this - memorizing for a test is not learning. It's short term. The majority of what you pick up from a cram session is gone within 48 hours. It's not facts that make up "knowledge," it's the ability to connect facts to something personal and make it part of your internal dialogue.

I think writing is the skill to cultivate in people. If you have strong writing skills you can do anything. No matter what job you hold, being a proficient writer makes you better at it.

Actually, let me append that... COMMUNICATION skills are what's essential. Writing skills are vital, but they're still just a part of the whole ball of wax. It's your ability to communicate effectively and efficiently that will see you to success.

Well... I've gotten off on one of my patented rants. Let me wind this up by saying I'm actively looking for a teaching job. The benefit of teaching is that I'm surrounded by academia and learning, and I have the time, opportunity and encouragement to continue writing and researching. Not to mention the stable income, health benefits and retirement package.

It would be nice to have dental insurance again. *sigh*

And money. *sigh*

If anyone knows of any openings in the Houston area, please let me know!


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Kevin Tumlinson is the author of numerous novels, novellas, and non-fiction books, and the host of the Wordslinger Podcast. Try three of his best books for free when you download his starter library at kevintumlinson.com/starterlibrary.
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