Brookfield's The Skillful Teacher and McKeachie's Teaching Tips: Takeaways

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There has been a great deal of change taking place in the field of education over the past few years. It seems that every time we turn around a new approach is being heralded as the best in terms of teaching and helping students to excel. Most of these works come and go, as they more often than not, involve fads of sorts. With books like “The Skillful Teacher” by Stephen D. Brookfield and “Teaching Tips” by McKeachie there is hope that we can find the teacher that we always wanted to be within us. In Brookfield’s book we see a personal approach to teaching students and an approach that not only takes the students into account, but also the teacher. In McKeachie’s book we find many helpful tips that we can take into the classroom, no matter what the age of the student. In the following paper I will share with you some of the things that I have learned from these books and how I can utilize them in the classroom.

Experiencing Teaching
Brookfield essentially asks the reader, the teacher, to look at teaching, to examine what they love about teaching, perhaps why they got into teaching, and use that knowledge as a foundation for the process. Brookfield offers suggestions, but seems to primarily rely on the intelligence and passion of the reader for the development of their own unique vision as it involves teaching. Learning is not a predictable and stable reality. There are rhythms to learning and students, as well as teachers, will often find themselves at a point where they are essentially stagnating as they have reached a level of burn out to some degree. Brookfield does not ignore these realities but presents the reader with ways in which to provide new motivation for learning, new motivation that helps students, and teachers, out of established patterns. Brookfield’s method of a textbook in a narrative form is a novel idea for future teachers who can gain more from a “story” than a theory book. I found the section on "muddling through" to be enlightening.  As teachers we never know what is going to happen in a classroom on any given day so the best we can do sometimes is muddle through and hope that we make the right decisions. As a teacher I find myself doing this sometimes but I thought it was because I haven't been teaching very long.  I had no idea that there were actually teacher's out there that have the same. Brookfield states that “this is going to be an opinionated, some would say polemical, book” (p. 3). I believe at this point in our career, when we are either teaching or getting ready to teach the opinions of those who have experience are more helpful to us than the theory that we learn. Real live experiences tend to stick in our mind better than a theory or formula that we might be able to incorporate into the classroom. 

Brookfield points out how important it is to gain the trust of the students. The teacher is, after all, the teacher, not the student. The teacher’s position, in this respect, can be very fragile if the students do not trust the teacher to do their job well, but also maintain an intelligence that is above the students to some degree. If a student does not trust that the teacher knows what they are doing, they will not listen to what the teacher presents. The example that Brookfield used (p. 4, 5) regarding how to get students to open up and actually take part in a discussion is a breaking point for all teachers. This information will be helpful to me in “ALL” future classes. As an instructor at the college level, the only way that I know if my students understand the material that I have given them is an open discussion of the material. Unfortunately at times the silence is deafening.  While I understand that Brookfield’s work primarily addresses adult students, college students many of the things that he mentioned can apply to students of any age. Again, this is an important aspect of teaching and learning for a student who feels motivated to become involved in...
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